Once and Again
Book 1, Return to Briarwood - A Return to Briarwood Novel
This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.
For readers of Shannon Stacey and Susan Mallery, the heartfelt Briarwood series begins with a tale of forbidden love, broken promises, and second chances.
Growing up in Eastbridge, Connecticut, Carolyn Rivington was a young debutante who did whatever her parents asked. So when her father demanded that she break things off with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks or else, she did. Now Carolyn’s family is deep in debt. She’s no longer a member of the Briarwood Golf and Yacht Club, she’s an employee. And the tanned, tattooed, dangerously handsome stranger who saunters into her lobby isn’t just her new boss . . . he’s also her first love.
The last time he saw Carolyn, Jake Gaffney was in the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed and humiliated. But seeing her again stirs other memories: a blanket on the beach, the moon above their heads, and the most expensive bottle of wine he could afford. Now the tables have turned. As a real-estate magnate and Briarwood’s new owner, Jake doesn’t have to answer to anyone. But now that he’s back home, he’s finding it hard to live down his old reputation.
Before they can move forward, Jake and Carolyn must face their pasts. But it’ll take more than sizzling chemistry for them to heal old wounds and return to the love they once shared.
Praise for Once and Again
“Elisabeth Barrett’s Once and Again is a beautiful second-chance love story. A great summer read!”—New York Times bestselling author Claudia Connor
“Engaging, sexy, and immensely touching, Once and Again is a wonderful start to a new series.”—Marina Adair, #1 bestselling author of Summer in Napa
“Elisabeth Barrett weaves true-to-life characters, sizzling sexual tension, and gripping emotional intensity into a heartwarming story of forgiveness, family, and second chances.”—Lia Riley, author of the Brightwater series
“A sexy reunion romance overflowing with second chances to make friends, reconcile with family, and rekindle lost love.”—Tracy March, author of Should’ve Said No
“Once and Again is a fantastic read with a set of equally fantastic characters. It’s also a fast-paced, smooth-reading tale that is deeply rooted in honest emotion and filled with intriguing characters and crisp, rich setting details that so easily allow readers to picture the story, people, places, and events. I loved this book!”—Okie Dreams Book Reviews
“Barrett has won me over with her great writing style and I cannot wait to read more from this author. I definitely would recommend adding Once and Again to your To-Be-Read Shelf!”—Underneath the Covers
“Once and Again is the first book I have read by Elisabeth Barrett, but it certainly won’t be my last.”—Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews
“A sprawling story with well-written characters. An engaging read.”—MM Jaye Presents
“If you are looking for a pleasant romance novel . . . give this one a read.”—Books Movies Fandoms
“A heartwarming story about second chances, new beginnings, youthful romance rekindled, and life at the Briarwood country club.”—Books and Spoons
Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
I’d hoped for fun and light, I got light and unfocused
Combining a reunited couple with a reversal in circumstance is the set up for this story. In high school Carolyn was the rich ‘good’ girl with Jake the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Family interference is excessive: Jake is arrested after being caught with Carolyn, and this sets up the story as we enter it now.
Carolyn’s father made some bad choices, and the family is destitute. Unused to living without the finer things, Carolyn has a job at the Briarwood country club, she is struggling with the changes in circumstance and another twist is ready to drop. Jake is now successful, and is the owner of the club. He’s still justifiably angry with Carolyn for family’s actions, but she’s still intrigued.
I was missing some integral elements in this story: firstly the secondary characters are all too prominent, without real purpose beyond further installments. Carolyn was an “all tell no show’ character, with little emotional depth. Jake’s lack of depth was all too prevalent until about midway through the story, but his growth and depth was all present in his interactions with his partners, and none with Carolyn. We are told, repeatedly, about their connection in high school, but the lack of flashbacks or real emotional draw TO those times leave the story rather bland and the connection questionable.
In short, far too much tell, focused on characters and relationships NOT relevant to the couple left me unsatisfied and uninspired. I’d hoped for fun and light, I got light and unfocused, leaning to boredom without a plausible connection to the characters, or them to one another.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
A fun second-chance romance
Once upon a time, Carolyn was the beautiful debutante who fell in love with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, but their Romeo and Juliet romance came to an end when her father had him arrested. But times have changed, and all the money that placed Carolyn's family on a golden pedestal has been squandered, leaving her in a mountain of her father's debt and working her fingers to the bone to keep them fed and clothed. Her father's recent heart attack hasn't made things any easier, but she's excelling in her work at the country club where she once danced the night away. But the past has come back to haunt her in the worst way now that the boy she once loved has returned as the club's new owner, intent on making big changes to keep things profitable.
But... Overall, the story was great and not nearly as predictable as one might expect. However, there was an additional point of view thrown in, presumably to introduce us more fully to a character who will be focused on in a subsequent book, and from a reader's perspective, it just didn't fit. The chapters that told things from Jane's point of view had little to do with rekindling things between Carolyn and Jake, and rather than add to the story, they detracted from it. While I liked Jane's character, her story should have been held aside for another book, and any important pieces could easily have been revealed in her interactions with Carolyn rather than detouring readers from the main plot for entire chapters. I have no idea what took place during editing, but it seems saving these chapters for later would have been a no-brainer.
The Verdict: It's been fifteen years since Carolyn and Jake last saw each other, and what a difference those years have made. Carolyn's mother has passed away, and her father's health is in jeopardy, while she works long hours at the only job that will have her. Once a member of the exclusive country club, she now referees employee spats and plans parties and events there, a far cry from the privileged life she once enjoyed. Her family's wealth disappeared with her father's financial advisor, and Carolyn is for the most part completely on her own with no one else on whom to lean when things go wrong — which they've been doing for years now.
Jake's arrest back in the day didn't ruin his life, but it certainly gave him a new perspective. Realizing he would never be good enough for the upper crust, he spent the years getting an education and working his way up in the business world. Now a success, he's returned to Briarwood to prove his worth, and while he may never truly fit into the old money world, he's no one to be looked down upon anymore.
I loved the initial reunion between Carolyn and Jake, proof that the years had changed them both and a reminder of the different worlds that pulled them apart. But what surprised me most was Jake's reaction to Carolyn. While he certainly still harbored some anger over the way things went down, he didn't hold it all against her, and he was quick to realize the financial predicament she was in. He could have lorded his success over her and made her feel like a lesser person now that she was struggling just to keep the refrigerator filled, but instead he saw how hard she worked and didn't do anything to make things more difficult for her.
Their relationship, once it was rekindled, was piping hot and filled with uncertainties, mostly because neither really seemed to know how to bridge the past and move fully into the present. Carolyn had too much on her plate to become involved with her new boss, and Jake had plenty of resentment to overcome. But rather than play completely into the romance novel cliches one might expect, Jake and Carolyn handled things a bit differently on their way to a new happily ever after, and that's what made it such an interesting read. While the additional chapters from another character's point of view got it the way too often, the root of the story was a great one. Second chance romances are always fun, given the established history between characters, and Once and Again did that well. I suspect that the next book in the series will be all about Jane, and I'm definitely interested in finding out what's next in her story.
***FicCentral received this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley) for free in exchange for an honest review.
This is the first book that I have read by this author. It was a breezy light read with a happy ending. Just didn't keep my interest as-well-as other reads; however, it was still enjoyable.
- Category: Contemporary
- Published: Jul 14, 2015
- Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
- Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
- Print Length: 302 Pages
- Language: English
- Series: Book 1, Return to Briarwood