Barefoot Season - A Blackberry Island Novel, Book 1

Author: Susan Mallery

Publisher: Mira

Release Date: April 2012

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4


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A wounded war vet, Michelle Sanderson, returns to her beloved home at Blackberry Island Inn.  She expects it to be the same, needs it to be the same, as it was when she left three deployments ago.  Of course, it's not.  Her mother had changed it with the help of her once best friend, Carly Williams — the woman her mother thought of as her true daughter instead of Michelle.  Now that Michelle's mother has passed away, Michelle can blame Carly for everything since she's alive and a viable target.

Michelle and Carly have an unpleasant history, which is part of the reason that Michelle ran off to join the army in the first place.  Ten years later, she has to face her former best friend who helped her mother with the inn that Michelle inherited.  Financial problems, as a result of her mother's choices, and her banker's insistence that Michelle retain Carly to assist her, forces the two women to work together whether they like it or not, or lose the inn.  Carly has put in too many years and was promised too much for her future at the inn to give up now.  Michelle has to admit she needs Carly.  She is her only choice even if Michelle doesn't like it.

Michelle has issues as a result of her time in Afghanistan — both physical and emotional.  She hates Carly with a passion that only she can understand.  Truthfully, she seems to hate and distrust almost everyone.  Can she work through everything, or does she even want to?  Carly has a daughter, which is the only good thing that came out of her marriage to the man who cheated on her before they even took their vows.  She needs her job at the inn in order to continue to provide the only home her daughter has known.  She respects what Michelle did for her country, but can she learn to respect Michelle?  She loves her job at the inn enough to try.

Michelle is definitely an intriguing character.  Delving into what has created such a hard façade kept me turning the pages.  Carly seems weak or beaten down by the treatment received within her lifetime, but it's evident that everyone depends on her, which means she must be strong even though she doesn't seem to believe it.  Carly focused on her job and succeeded after her personal life went downhill.  Even Michelle realizes she has no choice but to depend on Carly's experience at the inn.  It's entertaining to watch Carly blossom and to not take Michelle's attitude without fighting back.  They behave just like smart-mouthed best friends should, which makes them relatable if you have one just like them, or are one yourself.

Can they work together to hold onto the Blackberry Island Inn without losing a part of themselves in the process?

BAREFOOT SEASON is the first book in Susan Mallery's new BLACKBERRY ISLAND series, and I can't wait to find out whose story is next.  The Blackberry Island residents are fun to get to know, and the guests of the inn keep the staff creatively busy.  With such a varied cast of characters, there has to be so much more we'll find out as the series continues.  This isn't just a feel good place where everyone's attitude matches the daisies that adorn the walls, gardens, dishes, souvenirs, etc…  The daisies might perk up a bad day, but there are plenty of problems to be resolved before the daisies are fully appreciated.  Not that Michelle will ever like them, but she doesn't tolerate much at first, which leads to some heartrending as well as very funny moments.

BAREFOOT SEASON by Susan Mallery is women's fiction at its best—filled with engrossing characters you'll need to love, love to hate and root for wholeheartedly until the very end.  There are elements of romance in this novel, but it's not the main focus of the story.  That said, the book isn't without some delicious men, and they're fully capable of taking care of their women from head to toe when needed.  BAREFOOT SEASON is about strong women, forgiveness and second chances.  I really enjoyed this novel because it wasn't all happiness and light.  There are some school-of-hard-knocks struggles to get through before either woman gets a happy ending, which makes their journey uplifting as well as dramatically appealing.  Their friendship is realistic and oftentimes hilariously so before and after a poignant moment.  And the best part?  The ending is just as it should be; contented and hopeful.  Isn't that what we all want?

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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