Jenni Beth Beaumont left her broken heart behind when she took her dream job in Savannah. But after her brother’s death, Jenni Beth returns home to help mend her parents’ hearts as well as restore their beautiful but crumbling antebellum mansion. New dreams take shape as Jenni Beth sets to work replacing floors and fixing pipes to convert the family homestead into the perfect wedding destination. However, some folks in their small Southern town are determined to see her fail.
Cole Bryson was once the love of Jenni Beth’s life, but the charming architectural salvager has plans of his own for the Beaumont family home. As the two butt heads, old turmoil is brought to the surface and Cole and Jenni Beth will have to work through some painful memories and tough realities before they can set their pasts aside and have a second chance at their own happily ever after.
Full Name: Luanna Grace Connors
Occupation: Waitress at Dee-Ann’s Diner
Physical description: Five-feet-four, maroon ponytail (hiding my dishwater blond hair), pale blue eyes, and ten pounds overweight.
Describe yourself in 100 words or less:
This will probably come as a shock, but I love my life. I know, I know. I’m workin’ at Dee-Ann’s Diner slinging hash all day. Not exactly what a little girl dreams of doing for the rest of her life. But tired feet and all, when I go home to Les and my three kids and hear “Mama’s home,” my heart swells.
Les has trouble keeping a job, no gettin’ around that. But the man’s got a heart of gold and, well, he’s still pretty darned sexy! That’s what got us in trouble in high school. When he’s not workin’, though, I come home to a clean house, happy kids, and dinner waiting on the table. What more could I want?
What is your favorite thing about living in Misty Bottoms? Where in Misty Bottoms can you most often be found?
Misty Bottoms has heart. If one of its own needs help, the town’s there to give it. Working at the diner, I hear it all! Nothing goes on that I don’t know about, believe me. I hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, and, truthfully, the good far outweighs the bad. I like the small-town feel, the closeness. For some, it’s probably claustrophobic. For me, it’s comforting.
Where will you be most likely to find me? At work, at home, at the grocery story, or on the soccer field. The boys love that game…and they’re good at it.
When not working, how do you spend your time?
With a seven, a five, and a three-year old? Seriously?
If money was no object and you had 3 weeks of vacation, what would you do with your time?
Rent a room and sleep. No, seriously, we’d take the kids to Disneyland and do it up big. Although I have to admit there’s a selfish part of me that would like to dump the kids on my mom and run away with Les on a Caribbean cruise. No cooking, no cleaning, no wiping kids’ noses for three weeks? Yeah, that would be nice.
Describe your dream wedding:
I’ve actually talked to Les about this. When the kids are a little older, I’d like us to renew our vows in church. The two boys can walk me down the aisle to their daddy, and my baby girl can be my maid of honor. I get kind of weepy thinking about it, actually.
I want to do it in the spring, when everything is new again, with lots of tulips and some pink and white dogwood blossoms. With three kids, I think a white gown is out, but I’d like something soft and feminine in ivory. Then I’d invite everybody over to our house for a big Southern barbecue and, since we didn’t have one the first time around, I really want a cake this time. Since this is my dream wedding we’re talking about, I’d like a three-tiered cake with real flowers on top…and music and dancing.
In the back of my closet, I have a pretty little box, and I’m putting part of my tips in it every week. This is one dream I intend to make come true.
Her experienced gaze scrutinized the scene, took in both the setting and the people, alert for any problems. The arbor, with its draping of wisteria, had turned out beautifully and smelled like heaven itself. The bride’s family, the groom’s family—both wore expressions of happiness mixed with a touch of relief.
Jenni Beth’s eyes drifted to the flower girl. Daniella was antsy, her little fingers busily plucking the lace from the basket that held rose petals. And what in the world was Ricky, the ring bearer, doing to his shoelaces? Her eyes narrowed. Had he tied them together? Oh, boy.
As the sun set, the minister announced the newly joined Mr. and Mrs. Talbot, and Jenni Beth clapped with the rest of the guests while checking to make sure the walkway remained clear. The music began on cue, and the happy couple started down the aisle, hands laced, smiles bright.
When the ring bearer tripped, the best man scooped him onto one shoulder, diverting a minor catastrophe. She’d have to remember to thank him for the quick thinking.
If the reception went as smoothly, she could congratulate herself on a job well done.
While the bride and groom funneled their guests through the receiving line, Jenni Beth bolted to a separate section of the garden to make sure the cake, the bubbly, and the band were in place. She did a last-minute check on table settings, place cards, candles—the list was never ending.
The music started, the bridal party wended their way to the area, and the celebration began.
As the evening wore on, Jenni Beth relaxed.
A familiar voice whispered in her ear. “Dance with me.”
Cole Bryson. She hadn’t seen his name on the guest list.
Shivers raced down her spine, and her heart stuttered. It had been too long, not long enough. “No.”
She wouldn’t turn around, wouldn’t meet those mesmerizing eyes.
His hands settled on her bare arms, and she nearly jumped. As the work-roughened hands moved over her skin, her stomach started a little dance of its own.
“I’m working, Cole.”
“Nothin’ needs doin’ right now. Come on, sugar.”
Knowing she shouldn’t, she turned to face him. Mistake. She always had found him irresistible, and that hadn’t changed. He’d perfected that slow Southern drawl, had the sound of a true gentleman. But the twinkle in his eyes gave him away. Revealed the bad boy tucked not far below the surface.
Right now, dressed in a dark suit and tie, the man looked like every woman’s dream. He appeared smooth and debonair, but beneath lay the wild.
He took her hand, and, God forgive her, she followed him, weak-kneed onto the portable dance floor, telling herself she didn’t want to, that she only did it to keep peace. Knowing she lied.
A full moon shone overhead and candlelight flickered. When he drew her into his arms and pulled her close, she sighed. One hand held hers, the other settled south of her waist.
“You smell good, Jenni Beth. You always do.”
His voice, low and husky, sent goosebumps racing up and down her arms. Despite herself, she rested her head against his chest, seduced by the strong, steady beat of his heart, the illusion he could make everything and anything all right.
I love second chance romance books and this one fits the bill perfectly. This was my first book to read by this author and I will definitely be adding more of her books to my TBR list.
Jenni Beth is moving back home to help out her parents who are still reeling from the death of her brother who died while in the military. Trying everything she can to save the family home, help her parents and put their small town back on the map. What she never expected was the help of her brother’s best friend Cole Bryson. As much as she tries to keep Cole at bay, she ends up accepting his help reluctantly.
This was a sweet, southern, full of fun read. Can’t wait to read more from this author.
* I was given an ARC of this book for an honest review.
The luxury of staying home when the weather turns nasty, of working in PJs and bare feet, and the fact that daydreaming is not only permissible but encouraged, are a few of the reasons middle school teacher Lynnette Austin gave up the classroom to write full-time. Lynnette grew up in Pennsylvania’s Alleghany Mountains, moved to Upstate New York, then to the Rockies in Wyoming. Presently she and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. A finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, PASIC’s Book of Your Heart Contest, and Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Contest, she’s published five books as Lynnette Hallberg. She’s currently writing as Lynnette Austin. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse.