Lucy Marinn is a talented glass artist who has known since childhood that she harbors the magic to literally bring the glass to life. Throughout her whole life, Lucy has always felt she took a backseat to her younger, prettier sister, Alice. After a childhood illness, Lucy's parents pampered and coddled Alice who became spoiled and selfish. Now, Lucy's long-time, live-in boyfriend has confessed to having an affair with Alice and is breaking off his relationship with Lucy, leaving her devastated. He wants her to move out immediately, so that Alice can move in. Having nowhere else to go, Lucy moves into her best friends' bed and breakfast, but when she is hit by a car while riding her bike, her friends are unable to provide the care that she needs. Instead, one of them arranges for Lucy to be taken care of by a handsome man she barely knows, but would like to get to know better.
Sam Nolan is a winemaker who has lived in Friday Harbor all his life and has a special affinity with plants. The couple of times he met Lucy in passing, he was quite taken with her. When Kevin, an old acquaintance and Lucy's ex, asks Sam to romance her to help her get over him so that he and Alice can smooth things over with the family in light of their upcoming nuptials, Sam agrees, but not to help Kevin. Unfortunately, Lucy doesn't initially respond well to his overtures, but when a mutual friend asks Sam to care for Lucy after she's injured, he can't say no. Being in such close proximity fuels an undeniable attraction between them, but Sam fights it. After being raised by alcoholic parents, he isn't a relationship kind of guy and doesn't want to hurt Lucy when their romance inevitably ends. Lucy hasn't had much luck with guys, so she figures a casual friends with benefits arrangement might be just the sort of different relationship she needs right now. But when Lucy receives a once in a lifetime offer of an art grant in New York City, will Sam actually be able to let her go?
Rainshadow Road is a light, easy read that picks up where Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor left off, and Lisa Kleypas continues her experiment with writing in a slightly different style than she has in the past. I thought that the early part of the story had something of a chick-lit feel to it. I definitely wouldn't categorize the book in that genre though, because it doesn't really have the typical breezy, humorous quality that is common to chick-lit. However, it does move along at a fairly brisk pace, the dialog is snappy and more modern with plenty of interactions between Lucy and her two best girlfriends, and it has a little less sentimentality than most romance I read. During the first ½ or so of the book, the author doesn't go into as much depth with feelings and expressions that can often help set the tone for a romance. Much like it's predecessor in the series, Rainshadow Road has only one moderately descriptive love scene. Ms. Kleypas also introduces an element of magical realism with our hero and heroine each possessing a little magic. Lucy is very connected to her glass art to the point that she can literally bring it to life, and Sam has a special connection to plants. This bit of light fantasy takes the book slightly outside the realm of traditional contemporary romance, but it is woven seamlessly into the story so that it doesn't permeate the entire thing or seem all that strange. I admit I haven't read Sarah Addison Allen's books, but based on what I know of them, I think fans of her work would probably enjoy this series. Rainshadow Road may be a little outside the ordinary for longtime fans of Lisa Kleypas, but I think it showcases her versatility as an author.
When the story opens, Lucy is being dumped by her longtime, live-in boyfriend who is now demanding that she move out so his new girlfriend who happens to be Lucy's younger sister can move in. He also reveals that he has been cheating on Lucy for months, trying to have his cake and eat it too. At this point, I felt really bad for Lucy, because it seems that, due to a childhood illness, her sister has always gotten whatever she wanted. She was spoiled and pampered while Lucy kind of faded into the background. Right now, what her spoiled sister wants is Lucy's boyfriend. Of course, she gets him, but Lucy is far better off without him. She finds a great catch in Sam, and after being hit by a car, she ends up recuperating at his house where they get to know each other intimately.
Sam is still the charming nice guy. I admired him for his commitment to fixing up his old, broken-down Victorian house, his love of the land and making wine, and his love for and commitment to his niece, Holly. I was a little worried when I read in the cover blurb that Lucy's ex asks him to romance her, thinking that it might end in the dreaded big misunderstanding, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I ended up loving Sam's honesty. He has no sympathy for guys who cheat and is completely up front with Lucy about her ex's request. I adored Sam's geeky side. The way he's always wearing fun, nerdy t-shirts and throwing out little scientific tidbits is delightful. I don't think anyone has ever made the periodic table so sexy. I like that Sam has a conscience and tries to warn Lucy off from getting involved with a commitment-phobe like him. I thought it was very sweet that he not only nursed Lucy after she was injured but wanted to protect her heart as well.
I did wonder how a girl who was insecure and still getting over a breakup with a boyfriend who cheated on her and a guy with commitment issues were going to create a forever bond and get their HEA. The romance moved a little slowly at first because there wasn't a great deal of interaction between Lucy and Sam until she's injured and he agrees to take care of her. Once she moves in, things get going between them fairly quickly, at least from a physical standpoint. Initially, I wasn't thrilled with the casual, sex-only nature of their relationship and the way that Sam refused to ever sleep in the same bed with Lucy. I thought it left a lot of distance between them, like they were together, but not really together. A more genuine emotional connection doesn't happen until the last ¼ of the book, but as their relationship progressed, I began to feel it more and more. The moment when they share their magic with each other was a particularly lovely one. Sam and Lucy's habit of saying, "I don't love you; I don't love you too," at first felt kind of cold while at the same time being rather amusing. Each time they say it again though, it seems to take on more meaning until it essentially becomes a safe way of saying the exact opposite. The ending was sweet and heartwarming, and I enjoyed how the "magic" of Lucy's love for Sam was what ultimately changed everything for him, and them as a couple.
The secondary characters were great too. I loved seeing Mark and Maggie (Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor) get married and ride off into the sunset, so to speak, with little Holly and Renfield, the dog, in tow. We also get to meet Lucy's two best friends, Justine and Zoe who run their own bed and breakfast. Justine appears to be the more solid, practical one while Zoe seems a little more on the whimsical side. Since there isn't a synopsis posted yet for Cystal Cove, the third book of the series due for release in Feb. 2013, it took a little research, but I finally found an interview with Lisa Kleypas where she says that Justine will be the heroine of that book. Zoe will be paired with Sam's brother, Alex, in the next book, Dream Lake, which will be released next month (Aug. 2012). In the one short scene Alex and Zoe shared in Rainshadow Road, they really drew me in and had me feeling a connection between them that I hadn't even felt between Sam and Lucy at that point. Alex is an incredibly talented craftsman, but he's not dealing well with his divorce and appears to be heading down the road to alcoholism like his parents. Zoe is a divorcée who was hurt by a husband who cheated on her with another man. She is a very sweet, gentle person who loves cooking, and her food seems to be nourishing to Alex's soul as much as his body.
Although I would have liked to see a stronger emotional bond between Sam and Lucy and a little more romance earlier in the book, Rainshadow Road was still a solid, satisfying story. It can be fun to see favorite authors branch out and and try something new. I think it can help to keep the creative juices flowing, and in this case, I'd say that, so far, Lisa Kleypas' experiment with the Friday Harbor series is a success. I'm very much looking forward to continuing the series and reading about Alex and Zoe when their story comes out.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via GoodReads FirstReads in exchange for an honest review.
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