Dr. Leigh Culver moved to Timberlake to escape the stress of her job in Chicago. The little mountain town draws her in, and she loves being the resident family physician/urgent care provider. She's not really seeking a relationship, but when handsome widower and local pub owner, Rob Shandon, brings in his injured son and later asks her out, she has a hard time resisting. Leigh and Rob find that their sexual chemistry is off the charts, and they're having a great time with one another, while keeping it casual, until Leigh discovers that she's pregnant. Rob has already raised two boys from his first marriage and isn't looking to start a new family, while Leigh, who was previously devastated by being left at the altar, isn't sure whether awesome sex is enough to base a long-term relationship upon. As Rob and Leigh butt heads on the best way to raise their unexpected new addition, can they find enough common ground to make things work?
Meanwhile, Helen Culver, Leigh's beloved aunt and the woman who raised her decides to sell her home and come for a visit. The successful mystery writer isn't sure if she'll be staying long-term, but then Leigh takes her to Sullivan's Crossing, where she meets the owner, Sully. Although Helen and Sully don't seem to have much in common, they form a deep and abiding friendship that turns romantic. But when Helen finds out that Leigh has plans for her to help raise the baby when it's born, she's ready to skip town. Although she wouldn't trade the experience of having raised her orphaned niece for the world, she's finally found her own independence and has no interest in being tied down again. Can she convince Leigh that the best partner for her is the father of her unborn child?
The Best of Us is the latest release in Robyn Carr's Sullivan's Crossing series that's jam-packed wall-to-wall with romance for everyone from the young to the young at heart. In it, we have family-practice/urgent care doctor Leigh, who is relatively new to Timberlake, paired with widower and local pub owner, Rob, who has two teenage sons. In addition, long-time resident Sully, owner of Sullivan's Crossing campground and general store finds love in his golden years with Leigh's aunt, while Rob's oldest son shares a sweet teen romance with his girlfriend as well. It was all very enjoyable and heartwarming, but I have to admit that I went into reading it with a bit of trepidation. Robyn Carr is an author whose books I generally enjoy. I've given nearly all of her books I've read to date four stars or above, but over time, certain quirks of her writing style have started to grate a little, so those that I consider keepers have become fewer and farther between. However, despite my occasional misgivings, her books always tend to rate highly with her fans. There's barely a one that doesn't have above a four-star rating. That's why, when I noticed this one had below four stars on GoodReads, I started to worry a little. If others found something significant enough to criticize, surely I would, too. But I kept reading and reading, and nothing was jumping out at me. It just seemed to be typical Robyn Carr fare that, in my estimation, was a little above the cut. Since I haven't read any other reviews yet, the only thing I can speculate is that readers didn't care for the way the heroine handled certain events later in the story, which I'll address momentarily. But in all honesty, I wasn't overly bothered by it, so The Best of Us has become one of those somewhat rare keepers I mentioned and my favorite book in the series so far.
Rob is a widower whose wife died suddenly and tragically from a heart infection many years ago when his boys were still quite young. He had dreams of being a restaurateur, but after becoming a single father in the blink of an eye, he needed to find something more flexible so that he could raise his boys. So he moved to the little town of Timberlake and bought a run-down pub, which he revitalized and turned into one of the most popular eating establishments in town. He loves his work but his business and being a hands-on father to his sons keep him very busy - too busy for relationships. That's why in all these ensuing years, he's only had a couple of casual dalliances with women. But when Rob meets Leigh, the new town doctor, after his son cuts his hand, that all changes. He's incredibly attracted to her, and after only a couple of dates, they can't seem to keep their hands off each other. Although he loved his wife deeply, Rob can't recall ever feeling this way about anyone before, but because of their respective careers and responsibilities, he's reluctant to progress their relationship beyond the friends with benefits level. However, an unexpected pregnancy changes everything. Rob is one of those rare forty-ish romance heroes, who thought he was nearly done raising a family and didn't want to start a new one, but he's surprised to find that he really wants this baby and refuses to let Leigh go through parenthood alone. He's determined to be an involved father and to find a way to make it all work. Rob is an absolute sweetheart and my dream man. He's even-tempered, an incredible father, and someone who takes all of his responsibilities seriously. Basically he's a superhero in my estimation and exactly the kind of man any woman would want to have around.
Leigh's mother died when she was very young, so she was raised by an aunt who never married. It was always the two of them against the world, and they've always lived together, rarely spending any time apart, until Leigh moved from Chicago to Timberlake to run the family clinic and urgent care center in town. Now her aunt is planning on selling their house in Chicago, then stopping over in Colorado while deciding where she wants to hang her hat more permanently, which has Leigh excited. Then she discovers Rob, who excites her in more ways than one. Their relationship is like a whirlwind, but their chemistry is undeniable. However, in part because of how she grew up, she's a very independent woman who's as content with the status quo as Rob is until she realizes she's carrying a little bundle of joy. She never really thought she'd have kids. After all, her aunt never had any of her own and has lived a happy life. But from the moment she realizes she's pregnant, she can't conceive of not having the baby. Despite that, though, she's reluctant to marry Rob, partly because of her independent streak and party because of a past bad experience with an ex-fiancé who basically left her heart-broken at the altar. She thinks that she and Aunt Helen can raise the baby just fine on their own, and Rob can be involved or not, depending on what he wants, never really taking anyone else's feelings into account. This is where I'll bet some readers had issues with Leigh, and I'll admit that she came close to tweaking my buttons, too, especially since she had such an incredible guy on the hook. But I felt that the author explained her motivations well enough that I was able to forgive her lapse in judgment. Leigh also realizes just how selfish she's been and makes appropriate apologies to both Rob and Helen, leaving me feeling that she'd learned from the experience and wouldn't repeat it. So although Leigh wasn't perfect, I did come away feeling that I understood her.
The second romance in the book revolves around Sully and Helen. From the beginning, Sully and the Sullivan's Crossing campground has been the focal point around which the series revolves. Everyone - both locals and those passing through - love Sully, but he's a little set in his ways. He's been single since divorcing Maggie's mother decades ago, and generally seems to like it that way. He has tons of people coming and going from Sullivan's Crossing, so he's never lonely. Then Helen shows up, and he lights up like a firefly. I've never seen Sully so excited about someone, and it's really cute to read about this older man finding new love late in life. Helen is a successful mystery author, who takes up residence on Sully's porch to write her next novel, surrounded by the beauty of the Colorado Rockies. Although they seemingly have little in common, they find plenty to talk about, developing a comfortable companionship that soon blossoms into love. The only downside is that Helen hates winters, which is why she decided to leave Chicago, so they have to see if it's all enough to keep her there more permanently.
The last romance involves Rob's oldest son, Finn, a high-school senior. It took him a while to work up the courage to ask out Maia, one of his classmates, because she's a pretty popular girl. But now that they've been together for a few months, they're making plans for their futures and feeling sad that they might not see each other much once they go off to college. Then their relationship takes an unexpected turn when Maia experiences a major health crisis. However, through it all, Finn is right there by her side, keeping vigil. Maia is a very brave girl, while Finn is a sweet, sensitive boy who's very much like his father. He's a strong rock for Maia to lean on, but also very kind and considerate in every way. If the way Finn treats Maia is any indication, Rob did a fabulous job raising this kid.
Overall, The Best of Us was a very enjoyable read. There are lots of sighting of past Sullivan's Crossing characters as well, Maggie (What We Find) is involved in Maia's care, while Cal helps Sully come into the 21st century to keep in better touch with Helen while she's traveling. Connie and Sierra (Any Day Now) welcome a new addition, and Sid and Dakota (The Family Gathering) make life moves while helping to look out for Rob's boys and his business when he can't be around. Having multiple romances this time around made for three times the fun. I was so wrapped up in everything that was going on, that I barely even noticed those writing quirks I mentioned earlier that usually irritate me. I adored Rob, who's a prince among men, I understood Leigh's issues, I loved the other two romances for the young ‘uns and the older ones, and what Rob's boys did toward the end to make Leigh feel more at home was so utterly endearing, I got a little misty-eyed. There just wasn't anything that I disliked this time around, so I can say without a doubt that this is my favorite in the series so far even if it wasn't for other readers. I have no idea who the next book might be about - although that's nothing new for this series - but I look forward to finding out around this time next year.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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