I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Close to Home (Sanctuary Island, #5) by Lily Everett
Also by this author: Sanctuary Island, Shoreline Drive, Heartbreak Cove
Also in this series: Sanctuary Island
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on February 7th 2017
The best journeys take us home….
When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.
Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?
Close To Home is the fifth book in the contemporary series written by Lily Everett and just like the ones before it, it was so easy to get lost in, and just as hard to put away. It has been a while since I’d stepped into the world of Sanctuary Island but once I did it felt like I had never left. For real, it was like from the moment I re-entered the small island town with its beautiful landscape and memorable characters, it was like I was coming home again. And I love when a book and an author has that type of effect on me as a reader.
This time around the magic of Sanctuary Island focuses on estranged husband and wife Johnny and Tessa. Married for eight years, they’ve never had a marriage of love but instead a marriage of convenience. Johnny married Tessa to protect her from her past, and promised himself that he would never be the one to bring her any pain. Yet by closing off his heart to her, he brought her more pain than he could have ever imagined by making her feel like she was unloved and unwanted. So, when Johnny goes deep undercover for two years trying to help the government take down illegal arms dealers, Tessa decides to set them both free by moving out of their house and filing for divorce. When Johnny is finally able to complete his undercover mission and realizes what has happened, he becomes determined to fight for his wife, and for what he had always wanted but was too afraid to have.
One of the things that I always enjoy about this series is the way that Lily Everett writes her characters. They always feel so realistic to me because they’re not perfect. They’ve made mistakes and often times continue making them as the story progresses. Yet each mistake is a learning experience for the character, and even sometimes for me as the reader. In Johnny’s case, he has spent so much time trying to protect Tessa that he never actually got to know her or allow her to be who she is truly is. Luckily, Sanctuary Island is able to do that for her giving her a place with no judgement of her past and no limitations on her future. She is easily adopted into the simply society allowing her to make new friends and discover her love for baking and creating new pastry recipes. When Johnny comes to find her, he realizes that the previously undisclosed love that he has always had for his wife becomes even stronger when he sees her blossoming in this new light. He still can’t help to feel the need to protect her but this causes him to take a good hard look at his “hero complex” and to actually be truthful with himself and with his wife about what is actually going on.
Close To Home hits all the marks for me in terms of what makes the Sanctuary Island series so great. It is a story of second chances for this couple but also in many ways it is also a story of firsts as well. Together, Johnny and Tessa are able to discover things about themselves, and about each other that they never knew before. Their slate isn’t wiped completely clean from the past either as each of them tries to learn from it to figure out if there is a chance that they could move forward together or not. I enjoyed their sweet and sometimes steamy moments of exploration as they worked to discover the truths of each other and their relationship. I also enjoyed the use of the couple’s therapy at Windy Corner Therapeutic Riding Center because it allowed a couple of the characters from past Sanctuary Island books to make an appearance. Plus, it forced Johnny and Tessa to actually talk about their issues and work through them instead of just brushing them under the rug like in the past. The previous use of horses within the Sanctuary Island series is a central part of what made me fall in love with the series and I’m glad to see it continue with the use of the Windy Corner Therapeutic Riding Center.
My other favorite part of Sanctuary Island is the small town setting and the simple magic that seems to be in the air within the town. This is probably why I also enjoyed the secondary storyline which was within Close To Home. It focuses on two characters named Marcus and Quinn who are slowly beginning their own uneasy secret relationship. Of course, nothing stays secret for too long in the small island of Sanctuary, and before you know it, everyone knows what has happened between Marcus and Quinn. The relationships between Johnny and Tessa and Marcus and Quinn each reinforce the connections between all the characters of the Sanctuary Island series, and the interactions within the small community. Everyone is always looking out for each other and has a tendency to offer advice even when you are not necessarily asking for it. For me, there is something kind of special about that, and I truly enjoy coming back to the setting each and every time. Marcus and Quinn’s story is going to be continuing in the next Sanctuary Island novel Home At Last which will be released in March, and I for one cannot wait to delve in, and see what Lily Everett comes up with next!