STARRED REVIEW
January 05, 2015

Love for show

By Tracy Solheim
Tracy Solheim begins her Second Chances series with Back to Before, a multi-layered romance set in the aptly named town of Chances Inlet, North Carolina. A coastal community with charm to spare and the kind of small-town dynamics that mean gossip is a simple fact of life, Chances Inlet is home to the McAllister clan and the historic house that Gavin McAllister is renovating for a reality show.
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Tracy Solheim begins her Second Chances series with Back to Before, a multi-layered romance set in the aptly named town of Chances Inlet, North Carolina. A coastal community with charm to spare and the kind of small-town dynamics that mean gossip is a simple fact of life, Chances Inlet is home to the McAllister clan and the historic house that Gavin McAllister is renovating for a reality show.

The house itself is ripe for another shot at a source of happiness. Built in 1820 for an Englishman’s bride who died en route to America, its magnificence has suffered from years of neglect. Its restoration is the center around which all of the characters revolve, in one way or another, and those characters create a richly detailed, intergenerational cast.

First is Gavin, an architect whose dreams of a big-city career in New York have been put on hold while he salvages the family construction business from disaster after his father’s death. Then there’s Ginger Walsh, a dancer whose dreams of a life as a ballerina were derailed by an accident, and whose part in a popular soap opera has townspeople convinced she’s just as conniving and bratty as her soap character. She’s in Chances Inlet strictly to earn some cash as a production assistant on the renovation reality show, and she’s counting down the days till she can leave.

The way Gavin and Ginger fall for each other—and what happens after they do—makes Back to Before as refreshing as the North Carolina surf.

Gavin and Ginger make a truly unlikely couple, but from the day they first meet, the attraction between them sizzles. Gavin’s not looking for love—his fiancée dumped him days before their wedding earlier in the year—and Ginger’s unsure about tangling with the “star” of the show, but as circumstances force them together again and again, the heat crackling between them is hard to deny. But could it be more? Solheim does a great job creating characters with realistic goals as well as obstacles, and Gavin and Ginger’s status as a couple is never a foregone conclusion. 

The same realism gives great texture to the supporting characters. Gavin’s mother, Patricia, is enjoying running an inn, but she feels guilty about her romance with the new sheriff after so many years as her husband’s wife. A born mother, she also takes in “strays” like Cassidy Burroughs, a goth teen from a trailer park with attitude to spare who needs a chance to make friends. Lori Hunt, one of Patricia’s employees at the inn, is clearly hiding from something or someone in her past. Even Diesel Gold, the reality show’s inexperienced producer, is licking his wounds and hoping to finally make his father proud. 

Gavin and Ginger are the funny and flirty focus of the book. The way they fall for each other—and what happens after they do—makes Back to Before as refreshing as the North Carolina surf, and just as rewarding.  

Amy Garvey is a freelance editor and the author of several romances and two novels for young adults. 

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Back to Before

Back to Before

By Tracy Solheim
Berkley
ISBN 9780425275801

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