May Contain Spoilers
All That’s Unspoken is a fast, sweet read, featuring one of my favorite tropes – second chance at love. The main reason I wanted to read it, though, is because it’s set in Caseville, Michigan, and horses play a small part in the plot. Since I’m from Michigan, I like to read books set in my home state.
Hailey is back in her home town because her siblings think it’s time to put her father in a nursing home. Hailey doesn’t agree. She doesn’t think her father is as bad as they say. After a few scary episodes, though, she’s starting to have her doubts. To add to her confusion, she discovers that her high school sweetheart, Nate, still lives in town, running the local diner and providing for his young daughter. Hailey never forgot about Nate, and she deeply regrets leaving him without a word eight years ago. Now Hailey is at a crossroads in her life; she’s lost her job in New York, she can’t help but wonder what her life would be like if she hadn’t left Nate, and she doesn’t want to lose out on time with her father, like she did before her mother’s death earlier in the year. When her father falls and has to be hospitalized, she reaches out to the only life-line she has; Nate. Can she convince him that she deserves a second chance, and that she won’t run away from him again?
I enjoyed this story, though a few things did irk me. The first being that everyone in Hailey’s life think that they know what’s best for her, and that her desire to reconnect with both her father and Nate is the result of depression over the loss of her mother and her job. While I could understand Nate being hesitant to give her another chance to hurt him, Hailey’s brother and her cousin both conspire to get her out of town and back to New York. All I could think was “thanks for the support, guys.” It was demeaning that nobody respected her enough to believe that she knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Nate’s protectiveness of his daughter was also occasionally bothersome. Lori has been having a tough time since her grandparents were forced to move south due to health considerations. She developed a speech impediment, and though her speech therapist has advised against it, Nate and Lori communicate through sign language. It takes him forever to admit that all he’s doing is help keep her isolated from her peers, and when Hailey wants to get to know her better, Nate puts his foot down. They can try to see if they have anything between them, but it stops at involving his daughter. Nate’s overprotectiveness is a little disquieting, and it serves to put a big road block up between Hailey’s attempts to reconcile with him. It makes it painfully obvious that he doesn’t trust Hailey at all, but I was doubtful that his behavior stemmed solely from fears that she would hurt Lori – he was terrified that she would break his heart as well.
These quibbles aside, All That’s Unspoken is a pleasant holiday read. It really embraces that New Year’s is a like a big reset button for your life, and how important it is to trust your instincts. Hailey fled from Nate because she was afraid of putting her dreams aside for him, but as she matured and worked hard to achieve everything she thought she wanted, she discovered how empty it is without someone in your life to share it with. It was frustrated that the people who loved her the most were the also the ones most skeptical of her feelings and motivations, but at least Nate finally came around, though I did want to ask – Hey, dude, what took you so long?
Review copy provided by publisher
All That’s Unspoken by Constance Phillips
A NEXT DOOR category romance, 43k words, sweet contemporary romance, releasing from Turquoise Morning Press on December 15th, 2013
About the book:
After eight years, Hailey is back in Caseville Michigan. Just months after her mother’s death, her siblings want to put their father in a nursing home and rent out the family farm. If that wasn’t enough, the prospective tenant is Nate, the high school crush she left behind the day after they acted on their mutual attraction.
After high school, Nate Jenkins planned to leave small town behind, but life dealt him a different hand of cards to play. He’s now back in Caseville, raising his daughter, and running his family’s diner. His daughter’s speech disorder has been improved by therapeutic horse riding and if he can lease the old Lambert farm, he can get her a horse of her own. The only standing in the way is Hailey, the same woman who left him eight years ago without even saying goodbye.
Can they get over all that’s unspoken between them?
Only when she heard the bell above the door ring out, was she able to unclench her fists and let out the breath that had tightened her chest. She’d seen Nate lingering around the edge of the counter with her plate of pancakes in hand but didn’t want him to approach her now.
She really didn’t have it in her to deal with him.
He came forward anyway, and set the plate in front of her. After a hesitation, he asked, “Can I sit for a minute?”
Her eyes fluttered closed, but she gestured to the chair. She heard it scrape against the old worn tile and could feel him just inches away from her.
“I’m sorry your dad’s health is on the decline. I’ve always really liked him. It stinks, you know.”
She took a deep breath; maybe they could talk as old friends and ignore the complications of the night they’d spent together. “I don’t think he’s that bad. Jake and Kelly are overreacting.”
He twisted his hands on his lap. “I can see how you would think that. Some days when I see him, he’s sharp as nails. Others….”
Her phone vibrated against the table. The habit to check the ID won out against the desire meet Nate’s stare. An eight-hundred number flashed, twisting Hailey’s stomach into knots. Another bill collector wanting to take the money she was trying to stretch just a little further, hoping to get through a few more weeks. She hit the button to ignore the call.
“I overheard what you said about your dad wanting the property to stay the same,” Nate said. “I’ll take real good care of the place and won’t change a thing. I love that farm the way it is.”
That brought her attention back. “What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been talking to Jake about renting the house.”
She took in his deep brown eyes and almost black hair. It was cropped short like he was trying to beat-the-heat, even if the average temperature this week was somewhere around ten degrees. Much shorter than he wore it in high school. The neatly trimmed beard and mustache were new too.
He looked older. More settled.
They’d both thought this small town would smother them back then.
For a fleeting moment it comforted her to picture Nate cooking in her family’s kitchen, and then she realized it wouldn’t be her house anymore. She’d be on the outside looking in. “It feels like everything is being taken away from me.”
His body stiffened as he pulled back. “It’s not like I’m stealing it. I’m going to pay you for it.”
“This isn’t about money!”
“Then what is it about?”
She reached for her purse and fumbled for her wallet with trembling hands. “Everyone seems to think that just because I don’t live here, I don’t have a voice, but you’re all wrong.” She threw a twenty-dollar bill on the table. “I didn’t leave the planet, I moved to New York. I didn’t abandon my family, but it feels like they think so. I’m sick of being treated like an outside in my hometown, in my family home, in my own life.”
She stood and tried to turn, but he grabbed her wrist. Looking back would weaken her resolve—Nate had always had that effect on her—but she did it anyway.
“Please, it would mean a lot to Lori…and me.”
His daughter. The child he’d had with someone else. She couldn’t stand the thought of the two of them in her living room without her.
Why did it hurt so much?
It wasn’t as if he left her. She’d pursued and claimed the future she’d always wanted.
If everything she’d attained had been all she ever wanted, why was it tearing her in two to know Nate had gone on with his life without her? It wasn’t as if she’d expected he wouldn’t. She should be happy he was settled. Instead, it made her long for that place next to him even more.
A lump formed in her throat, making speech impossible. Instead, she headed for the door.
“That’s right, Hailey. Run away. It’s what you do best!”
His words stopped her, and she twisted back. “I what?”
“Run. Away. When the pieces of your life don’t come together like a neat little puzzle, you scatter them all around you and stomp out of the room.”
She bristled at the venom in his voice. “That’s not what happened.”
“Oh, no. You handled it so well, just breezed out of town with no concern for those you left behind.”
They weren’t talking about her father or her house anymore. This was about how she’d reacted eight years ago, when the feelings got too real.
Just as they were now.
“I care, dammit!” She let out a long exhale. “I always have.”
Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, daughter, and four canine kids. Her son, now on his own, is planning a wedding, reconfirming that romance still lives and breathes.
When not writing stories of finding and rediscovering love, Constance and her husband spend the hours planning a cross-country motorcycle trip for the not-so-distant future…if they can find a sidecar big enough for the pups.
Constance Phillips is giving away a $25 Amazon GC and an ebook copy of a title from her backlist, (Fairyproof, Council Courtship, or Resurrecting Harry)