Fourteen years ago, when they were just teenagers, Carly Braddock and Luke Donovan had a passionate summer fling. Luke was only in town visiting a friend, but when the summer was over, he promised to come back for Carly. Unfortunately, he was never able to keep that promise, and Carly ended up with a broken heart. Eventually she moved on to become a successful pastry chef, and now owns her own bakery and café in her small hometown of Corrigan. Her last relationship was with a man who had a young son to whom Carly became a mother-figure. When it ended, Carly was devastated because she had to leave the boy behind. Now Carly has just one rule about relationships: Never date a man who has kids.
Luke Donovan regrets that he never kept his promise to Carly, but his life took an unexpected turn after he left her that summer, making him a different person than he was before. Since then, he briefly married and has a twelve-year-old daughter whom he adores, as well as a successful career as a wood restorer. His work takes him all over the country, and his latest job sends him back to Corrigan. When he walks into Carly's bakery, he isn't surprised to find her there, but he is taken aback when the feelings for her he thought he'd put to rest resurface. It seems that Carly has never forgotten him either. But can she ever forgive him for walking out on her fourteen years ago, and will she bend her one dating rule when she finds out he has a child?
Carly's Rule is a sweet, contemporary romance with a reunion theme. The hero and heroine had a summer fling when they were teenagers, while he was visiting friends in her small hometown of Corrigan, West Virginia. Even though he promised to return, he never did, and now, fourteen long years have gone by. Despite that, neither one has ever quite forgotten the other, so when he finally does return to Corrigan for his work and they happen to meet up again, their feelings for one another reignite. Normally, I'm a huge fan of the reunion romance, and this one was nice, but in a mundane sort of way. The first half of the book was really slow-paced. I kind of felt like the characters were going through the motions but very little was actually happening. In my opinion, there needed to be more action, not the action movie type of action, but simply more for the characters to do. As is, it felt like they were going through their busy, ordinary days much like most people do, but their lives didn't really spark off the pages for me. At least, I liked the characters for as well as I got to know them.
After Luke didn't return for her, Carly eventually got on with her life. She created a niche for herself, running her own bakery and café, but before that, she spent several years in Atlanta, working as a pastry chef. She had a relationship with her employer who had a two-year-old son. Carly fell more in love with the little boy than she did his father, so much so that the child had started calling her mommy. Then things fell apart, leaving her devastated to have to leave the boy who had become a son to her. Now her first rule of dating is that she won't go out with anyone who has children. When Luke shows up in town, it's obvious that Carly is still hurt by what she perceived as his betrayal in not keeping his promise. A part of her wants to know why he never came back, but another part of her reasons that she put him behind her and that's where he should stay. It also becomes equally obvious that she's still very attracted to him. Carly has had quite a bit of heartbreak in her life, which she had to be strong to overcome, but what I really wanted to know was how she felt about these things and how they affected her life on a deeper level. I felt like the author was barely scratching the surface, and as a result, I didn't get a good sense of who Carly was as a person.
Luke is a talented woodworker who travels around the country restoring the wood in historic homes and furniture and such. He has a twelve-year-old daughter from a brief failed marriage. Unfortunately, I had similar feelings about Luke as I did Carly. In my opinion, Ms. King took a little too long to reveal why he didn't come back for Carly. About forty or fifty pages into the story, it finally comes out, but up to that point, I was getting very antsy for something to happen or for one of them to say something. Even after the reveal finally occurred, I still didn't fully understand why Luke never contacted Carly again if he really loved her, especially after he got his life back together. I can understand how losing someone close would be a traumatic event in a person's life and might even change them in unexpected ways, but there was still a disconnect there. I think this was owing to the author not really explaining very well just how losing his father affected Luke's life. He offers a cursory explanation with little emotion behind it, and that's it...end of story. I do, however, have to commend Luke for being a good father, and for stepping up to the plate to take care of his daughter when his wife bailed on them.
As I've already alluded, I really would have liked to see the author dig a little deeper with her characterizations. Luke and Carly were obviously good people and there wasn't anything wrong with them per se. I just didn't feel like I got to know them very well. I think a lot of this was owing to a little too much passive narration. The author has a tendency to simply tell about things that happened in the past or even things that are happening in the present rather than writing them out with more detail (showing), which would have lent much more vibrancy to both the characters and the narrative. There were some really good ingredients here. The story just needed a little more seasoning to make it truly great.
Carly's Rule is the first in Vickie King's new Braddocks series about Carly and her siblings. She introduces some characters who I suspect will get books in the future. Carly's best friend, Roxie, is going through a tough time, but it looks like Carly's brother, Landon, may be interested in helping her pick up the pieces. Next up though, is another brother, Dusty, who seems like an intriguing character. He lost his wife and unborn child in a tragic car accident and ever since, has been keeping his distance from everyone. I certainly think he has potential, so I might be interested in reading his story, Dusty's Fall, which appears to have just been released (May 2014).
Overall, Carly's Rule was one of those gentle stories that makes a good rainy day read. It had a good message about not letting our fears get in the way of us trying again when life hands us lemons. This would be a good story for sensitive readers too. Aside from Dusty showing up with a black eye from his work as a private investigator, there's no violence and no bad language. Sex is implied, but the door stays closed with no details. A little less telling and a little deeper POV would have gone a long way toward me making a stronger connection to the characters and story, but overall, it wasn't bad for Ms. King's first foray into full-length novel writing. The story kind of reminded me of Debbie Macomber's old Harlequin titles, so if you're a fan of hers, then you might enjoy Vickie King as well.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author's publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
You May Also Enjoy
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook