As a teenager, Luke Harris fell madly in love with Sydney Donovan who came to Gansett Island with her wealthy parents every summer. They spent four magical summers with each other, and Luke thought they'd be together forever. But then Sydney went off to college without a word and he hasn't seen her for the past seventeen years. He'd heard that she'd married another man and had two children, while he stayed on the island, working at McCarthy's Gansett Island Marina. Now co-owner of the marina, Luke is content with his life, though he's never forgotten Sydney, nor found another woman who makes him feel the way she did. When Luke hears that a terrible tragedy has befallen Sydney and that she's back on the island, trying to recover, he can't resist sneaking over to her house like he did as a teenager just to see if she's alright. When she catches him and they reconnect, Luke is ready to risk his heart once more for the only woman he's ever loved, but will it end with him being hurt all over again?
Sydney Donovan was just as crazy for Luke when they were teens, but her wealthy parents always disapproved of the match, thinking that she could do better. Unable to truly say goodbye, she simply left the island without a backward glance after their final summer together. After college she met and married another man and had two beautiful children, but they were all cruelly taken from her in a tragic car accident caused by a drunk driver, which also left Sydney injured in body, mind, and soul. A year later, she returns to the island that holds happy memories for her to pick up the pieces and figure out where to go from here. When she catches Luke lurking in the trees outside her house, she's touched that he still cares after what she did to him all those years before. Sydney never forgot Luke either and although she loved her husband, it was never quite the same as what she'd felt for her first love. As she and Luke reconnect, the seventeen year absence melts away and it's almost like no time has passed at all. But is Sydney really ready for a second chance at love?
Ready for Love is the third book in Marie Force's Gansett Island series, and it's Luke and Sydney's story. This couple were teenage sweethearts who were madly in love, but at nineteen, Sydney left the island for college without ever saying goodbye to Luke. She completely moved on with her life, marrying another man and having two great kids, but an unthinkable tragedy brings her back to Gansett to heal both her body and mind. About a year later, Sydney and Luke finally reconnect and quickly discover that the old spark is still there. Luke has never stopped loving Sydney, so he's all in pretty much from the start. However, Sydney is a little more gun-shy, loving their time together, but wanting to take things slow when it comes to making major decisions about their future. She also feels some guilt about having such strong feelings for Luke with her husband only gone a year. Then there's the possibility of her parents, who've always disapproved of Luke, getting in the way of their budding reunion romance, while Luke is playing a few things close to the vest for fear of getting hurt again, which stirs up a little trouble in paradise, too.
Sydney came to Gansett Island with her parents every year as a teenager, and it was during one of those visits that she met and fell in love with Luke. Each summer, they reconnected and were inseparable, but Syd's wealthy parents, who always looked down on Luke's humble upbringing, frequently told her she could do much better. Eventually their influence won out, and when she left the island at the end of the summer when she was nineteen, she went off to college and eventually married someone else. She loved her husband, though not in the same intense way she'd loved Luke, and was content with her wonderful family until that life was ripped away by a drunk driver. In an instant, she'd lost her husband and both kids and was badly injured herself, spending weeks in the hospital. Three months later, her parents brought her back to Gansett to recuperate and she spent the next year just learning how to put one foot in front of the other again. Now back for another summer on the island, Syd finally reconnects with Luke and it's like the past seventeen years apart simply melts away. Although she's a little reluctant to make any plans or promises, Syd is happier than she's been since losing her family and quickly realizes that she's never truly stopped loving Luke, but she isn't entirely sure what she's going to do when the summer comes to an end. Sydney is a wonderful heroine and although she did Luke wrong all those years ago, she's extremely apologetic about how much she hurt him. She has some regrets, but at the same time, she knows that she'd have never had her kids without making this big mistake. I admired her for being a stronger person now, willing to stand up to her parents' snobbishness for another shot at happiness. I also like that although she initially gets upset at Luke for keeping a fairly significant piece of information about himself from her, she almost immediately realizes why he did it and doesn't let it stand in the way of them being together.
Luke has lived on the island his whole life, growing up with his beloved foster mother and also becoming an honorary member of the McCarthy family. He loved Sydney with every ounce of his being when they were kids, so when she left without even saying goodbye, it devastated him. Several times, he tried to move on, but he never felt for anyone else the way he felt for her and eventually quit trying. He's been content with his job at the marina, and when Big Mac McCarthy retired in the first book, he gave a significant portion of the business to Luke. When Luke heard of the tragedy that befell Syd and that she was back on the island the first time, he covertly went to check on her just to see for himself that she was OK. Now a year later, he's back to sneaking around her parents' place again, and this time, she catches him. From the instant they come face-to-face again, the old feelings come surging back, and Luke knows immediately that he'll risk his heart again for the only woman he's ever truly loved. I wasn't sure I could love another Gansett hero as much as I did Joe in the previous book, but quiet, unassuming Luke definitely has given him a run for his money. Luke is just a simple guy, living a simple life, who knows he has one soul mate, and he pours all his effort into reminding Syd of everything she's been missing. I love how sweet and supportive he is toward her, encouraging her to talk about the husband and family she lost, knowing exactly how much they meant to her. Although a part of him is afraid of getting hurt again when the summer comes to an end, he still doesn't hesitate to wear his heart on his sleeve and let Syd know that she's the only one he wants. Not to mention, he's a passionate and enthusiastic lover.;-) What more could a girl ask for?
With Gansett Island being a very long-running series, there are supporting characters aplenty who have their own books in the series, and some have their own POV scenes in Ready for Love. There's another second-chance romance for the young at heart brewing for old Ned, the local cab driver who secretly owns a large part of the island. Turns out he's an ole softie who also gave his heart to a woman when he was young, but she left him for another man. Luke's reunion with Sydney inspires him to look up his old flame and reconnect with her and I have a feeling we're going to be seeing more of them around town together. Mac and Maddie (Maid for Love) are preparing for the upcoming birth of their first child together. Meanwhile Joe and Janey (Fool for Love) get ready for their upcoming nuptials while Janey deals with her first solo vet emergency. Mac's Oscar-winning, Hollywood screenwriter brother, Grant, returns to Gansett early for Janey and Joe's wedding after hearing that Abby, the woman he'd always believed to be the love of his life, is poised to marry another man. He's prepared to fight for his woman, but upon arriving, he meets Stephanie, a new employee of the marina who intrigues him a little, even though he doesn't think she's his type. This book leaves things a bit up on the air as to which woman he'll finally end up with, and his story will be told in the next book, Falling for Love. Cornerstone characters, Big Mac and Linda McCarthy (Celebration After Dark) experience a frightening medical emergency. We're briefly introduced to Owen, a charming itinerant musician and surfer dude, who becomes the hero of Book #6, Season for Love and Book #11, Gansett After Dark. We also get a quick introduction to Blaine, the local police chief, and learn a bit more about Maddie's sister, Tiffany's marriage troubles. There's a slight spark between these two, so I was interested to see that they become the hero and heroine of Book #7, Longing for Love. And of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Sydney's adorable Golden Retriever, Buddy, who's an awesome character as well.:-)
Ready for Love was an absolute pleasure to read and a great addition to the Gansett Island series. It's a heartwarming, emotional, second-chance romance that really tugged on my heartstrings. Sydney has been through an unimaginable tragedy, but she's managed to pick up the pieces and move on with her life admirably, but in a realistic way that doesn't in any way minimize what she's been through or how much it affected her. Luke is kind and patient, willing risk his heart for another chance at love with her and allows her to go at her own pace. It's obvious that these two belonged together and if not for Syd's meddling parents, they might have been with each other always, yet neither Luke nor Syd dwell too much on the what-ifs, instead simply moving forward from the present fully invested in one another. The other Gansett residents add lots of flavor to the story. I enjoyed catching up with Mac and Maddie and Joe and Janey, while seeing Ned reconnect with his old love was cute. The way the story ended left me eager to find out what happens next for Grant and which lady he ends up with, so I'm very much looking forward to continuing the series soon.
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