book review

Second Chance in Paradise by Jennifer Peel

This romance novel is exactly what its title advertises it to be–a second chance romance with strong themes of reconciliation both for the couple and the main love interest’s family. Porter Clairbourne falls for Holland one summer while she works for his parents at their resort hotel located on the beaches of the deep south. Porter, being the son of a rich hotel owner, couldn’t be more opposite of Holland, whose parents once to left her to die in a house fire started in their front room meth lab. Their summer romance doesn’t survive Porter’s need to get out of his small town and prove to himself and his father that there is more to him than generational wealth and inherited privilege. However, instead of being honest with Holland about what he needs, Porter cheats on her to bring an end to their relationship. The effect this has on Holland is soul-crushing as her relationship with Porter was literally the only genuine love she’d ever experienced.

The novel picks up seven years after Holland and Porter broke up. He has completed his quest to prove himself and Holland is in her second year of a Ph.D. program in pharmacology. The author forces the two love interests together in believable and amusing ways. The setting of the novel is fantastic and reading the book often made me feel like I was on vacation. This book is perfect for a light, summer read. I feel like this book does a lot of hard work in that I think it tries to please a lot of audiences. It’s not tame enough to be squeaky clean but not steamy enough to please those that want their romance with obligatory sex scenes. In addition, Holland is an extremely intelligent character and Peel took the risk of infusing the book with complex scientific terms and amusing facts in an attempt to capture her voice. She even refers to tears as lacrimal fluid. I loved this! For me, it was one of the best parts of the book. I’d been craving a clean romance with a legitimately intelligent female lead. Too many writers just pay lip service to intelligence and I felt Peel really showed this side of Holland’s character and it made her extremely likable. Many reviewers found Holland’s quirks an impediment to it being an escape read, but I found it fun.

Sometimes, it annoyed me that Porter didn’t take Holland seriously when she tells him that she’s not interested and doesn’t want his help. It ruined the whole strong, intellectual heroine storyline for me. Let Holland figure out with her smart brain that she needs help, then have her freakin’ ask for it instead of having Porter show up outside her apartment and demand to help her like she’s a helpless damsel that’s too stupid to take care of herself. These traditional romance tropes didn’t really work well with Holland’s characterization in my opinion. Again, it’s a strange book that sits in the middle of the spectrum. Peel places a modern, strong, female character in a nostalgic and cliche romance plot in a way that may not please those looking for escapist literature and offend those that want a more feminist plot. But I guess the only way to get a book perfectly tailored to your tastes is to write your own.

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