There's No Place Like Home...
Grace Mulcahy thought she'd finally gotten Apple Grove, Ohio, out of her system. Then she's lured back for a family barbecue and spies a broad-shouldered hottie hanging out at the grill. He somehow seems utterly at ease, whether flipping burgers or horsing around with her hellion nephews. Why didn't her brother-in-law tell her he had such gorgeous friends? Suddenly her mouth is watering for more than her best friend's famous pie.
Some fires aren't meant to be fought
When firefighter Pat Garahan sees Grace, it's like a five-alarm bell goes off and he's the one ablaze. She says she wants to leave Apple Grove, but he will do whatever it takes to keep her around. The life of a firefighter isn't an easy one though, and he'll have to prove their immediate spark can have a lasting chance at love..
I loved this book. This author does a lovely job of making these characters feel very real. Grace grew up in Apple Grove, but had moved away a couple years ago, pursuing her dream of working in the city instead of her small town. She visits her family occasionally, but she's happy where she is. Then on one visit home she sees her brother-in-law's friend Pat Garahan again, and suddenly home is looking a whole lot better.
Pat moved to Ohio from New York to try to escape the memories of something that happened to him on the job. He's done pretty well at suppressing them, but has never really dealt with them. He's made some good friends and is pretty content with his life. Seeing Grace again hits him hard, and he's suddenly seeing something entirely different in his future.
I loved seeing the way that Grace's friends and family decided that they were going to play matchmaker between Grace and Pat. They were all certain that they were perfect for each other and it turned out they were right. There were sparks that flew between them from the beginning, and fortunately both were willing to see where it might lead. Grace is a little cautious at first because she finds it hard to believe that Pat is truly attracted to her. She has gained some weight since she moved away and it has caused some issues with her self confidence. Her cheating ex-boyfriend added to those problems. I loved Pat's honest appreciation of her curves and how he had no trouble making sure she knew it.
While their connection started out as attraction, it swiftly deepened into something more. They take the time to get to know each other, with Grace taking vacation time to extend her visit at home. This lets her and Pat spend time together and figure out how to move their relationship forward. I loved the way that Grace had seen so much promise in Pat, with the way that he is so comfortable with her niece and nephews. She also sees that there is something that is wrong, and worries about their chances if he won't open up to her. With the amount of time that Pat has spent around his friends' families, he has come to realize that he wants that for himself. It doesn't take long for him to realize that Grace is exactly what he is looking for. But he was hurt in the past when the woman he loved walked away when he needed her most, and he is afraid that the same thing could happen again.
There were so many wonderful emotional moments in this book. Grace faces the facts that while she loves being in the city, it hasn't really lived up to her expectations. She misses her home and family more than she expected and has to decide if she wants to come back home. There were fun times with her family and friends. She also had some scary moments as a result of helping a friend. I loved seeing her deal with her dad and the family business, and the realization of where she is truly happy. But mostly I loved seeing her fall for Pat and want to be the woman that he needs. Pat has his own ups and downs. I loved his happiness when he's around his friends and their families, and how it brings back memories of happy times with his own family. There are fun moments, such as his assistance to Grace's father, Joe, in hiding some "evidence". But there are also some really heartbreaking times, when Pat's past rears up and causes him problems. He's caught in a vicious circle of wanting to share with Grace, but being afraid she'll leave if he does. I seeing his friends rally around him and finally able to get through to him. Grace's refusal to give up on him makes it the perfect ending.