For the first time in four years, Levi Matthews is returning to the winter wonderland that is Carrigan’s, the inn and Christmas tree farm where he grew up. The oldest child of the inn’s handyman and cook, Levi’s childhood was spent alongside Carrigan’s heir apparent, Hannah Rosenstein. Hannah visited her great-aunt’s inn as often as possible, much to the bemusement of her globe-trotting documentary filmmaker parents. Hannah’s only dream was to permanently live in the place she loved best, stable and settled with Levi, the person she loved most. But one person’s safe haven is another person’s stifling prison: The pansexual Levi was bullied as a child for all the ways he diverged from the small-town norm, whether it was his love of cooking or flamboyant appearance. Hence a painful, messy break ensued when Levi left to find himself and Hannah stayed behind. As For Never & Always begins, Levi, now a successful celebrity chef, returns home for Passover, knowing that he doesn’t want to contemplate a future without Hannah. But before they can find happiness, they’ll have to grapple not just with baggage from the past but also with an age-old question: A bird may love a fish, but where would they build their home?
Anyone familiar with the vibrant cast of characters at Carrigan’s, who were introduced in author Helena Greer’s debut, Season of Love, will know to expect plenty of humor and warmth baked into powerfully sweet relationships. In addition to its central romance, For Never & Always tells many love stories about friendship and family—by choice as well as by birth—all flawlessly illustrated in small, telling gestures. Even more to its credit, it doesn’t shy away from the things that love can’t fix. When Hannah and Levi were younger, they would default to sex to paper over the cracks in their relationship, whether it was Hannah’s anxiety or Levi’s increasing desire to leave Carrigan’s. Growing up means admitting that they need to address their problems openly, talk about what they’re feeling and really listen to each other.
For Never & Always is a wonderful example of what readers love about second-chance romances: a couple that is now ready for happily ever after in a way that they weren’t before. A forever love takes time, commitment and a level of maturity that you may not have when that first rush of love sweeps you away. The fact that Levi and Hannah are willing to wait and work for it is exactly what makes their happy ending feel so joyful and blessed.