Series: Dove Pond #0.5
Setting: Dove Pond, NC
Source: ARC, NetGalley
A woman with a legendary green thumb, a man living in an emotional desert, and a small boy unable to connect with others. Can the three of them, with a little help from the charmed town of Dove Pond (and a pesky ghost), turn a nightmare into a fairytale and forge their own happily ever after?
Young widow Sofia Rodriquez has just accepted the position of greenhouse manager for Ava Dove’s booming herbal tea business. Sofia is delighted to have found a job that will make use of her gardening skills and allow her to spend time with her son, Noah, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Adding to her joy is the charming farmhouse she’s renting on the edge of Dove Pond.
The only cloud on Sofia’s horizon is her next door neighbor, Jake, whose yard is a thorny jungle worthy of Sleeping Beauty. Soon enough, Sofia discovers that Jake himself is just as thorny and unpleasant as his yard.
After his fiancé left him, work-from-home IT whiz and game developer Jake Klaine has gone from Prince Charming to complete hermit. But Jake isn’t really alone; he’s living with a ghost: a (formerly) hairy man named Doyle who’s a fan of bad puns and who refuses to leave Jake’s bathtub. This is nothing new for Jake, as he’s been talking to ghosts since he was a boy. He finds real people harder to deal with, like the kid next door who won’t stop bugging him about the new game he’s developing.
Sofia and Jake know all too well that life isn’t a game. They’ve both lost the person they loved most. But under the watchful eye of the ghostly Doyle and Sofia’s new friend Ava, who has abilities of her own, Jake and Sofia decide to take a chance and let in an outsider. Soon they discover that, with a little magic, even the thorniest walls are no match for the innocent trust of a lonely child and the fierce determination of a woman wielding a razor-sharp pruner and a heart big enough to make even the most stubborn flower bloom.
Love in the afternoon is a sweet romance with bits of magic sprinkled in. Jilted man becomes grumpy curmudgeon meets widow with son on the spectrum. Oh, and the grumpy curmudgeon also talks to ghosts; specifically the ghost of his dead neighbor.
Sofia is a wonderful heroine! She has realistic views on her previous marriage. She realizes she jumped for a guy who was all about the BIG show, but not about the daily grind. He loved the grand gesture, but couldn’t handle the day to day of having a child and a wife. Jake realizes that he wanted to not be alone more than he actually loved his former fiancee. These two had real life happen and it was such a refreshing read. Noah, her son, was portrayed realistically as a child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). He has his tantrums, he has his hyper focused attention, he has the struggle with physical contact.
Jake and Sofia were so perfect for each other I wish this wasn’t a novella. I must admit, I am curious about the Dove family and their special skills. I don’t know that I would have picked up this series independently, but I am so glad Gallery Books approached me about this series. The touches of magical realism were delightful! Overall, Love in the Afternoon is a book I didn’t expect but am so glad to have read.
- POV: 3rd
- Tears: no
- Trope: widow, magical realism
- Triggers: View Spoiler »none « Hide Spoiler
- Series/Standalone: stand alone
- Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »no « Hide Spoiler
- HEA: View Spoiler »yes, with sweet epilogue « Hide Spoiler
Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne, Return to Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux, What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon…then you will probably like Love in the Afternoon!
And no one could say Ava didn’t know her plants. The greenhouses were filled with fat, happy, leafy plants. And when she walked down the aisles, it seemed as if the plants reached for her, wanting her attention.
It was weird, and yet so satisfyingly wonderful that Sofia found herself just accepting the fact that Ava loved her plants and they loved her back. If only all facets of life were that perfect and simple. In the meantime, Sofia was happy to learn what she could from her new boss and her wonderful greenhouses. The fresh scents made Sofia want to fill her lungs over and over, and the calmness of the space gave her the peace she’d been searching for since The Very Bad Day, while the flexible hours let her spend time with her son, Noah, whenever she wanted. This really is the perfect job.
When her cousin Juana had first suggested Sofia and Noah move from hot and crowded Orlando to quiet and peaceful Dove Pond, Sofia had been hesitant. At the time, she’d been in the middle of a messy, unresolved, painful divorce, and moving would have only complicated things. But Juana had persisted, which wasn’t surprising. Juana’s husband, Tony, said she didn’t know the word no, didn’t want to, and refused to hear it. So when Juana had repeatedly explained why Dove Pond was so perfect for Sofia, how the special education program at the elementary school Noah would be attending was amazing, the community welcoming and friendly, and the town itself “magical,” Sofia had found herself listening. And when the time had come, Sofia hadn’t thought twice—she’d packed up her and Noah’s things and moved here.
Of course she didn’t believe in magic, but she had to admit that so far, despite its slightly worn-out air, Dove Pond was casting a spell over her. She’d desperately needed peace and a place to get away, where she and Noah could heal and start fresh, and Dove Pond had delivered that and more. In fact, the second she’d put her foot outside her car and onto the pavement of Dove Pond’s historic downtown area, she’d felt as if she’d come home.
At first glance, the little town had seemed like every other small town in North Carolina, with two-story redbrick buildings lining an awning-festooned main street, charming tree-lined avenues with an impressive collection of large Queen Anne–style houses, and people more interested in the corn crop than in the sorry state of affairs in DC. But Dove Pond held surprises around every corner—treasures, really—each one a blessing for Sofia and Noah. And the first treasure had been Ava.