“Barefoot Season” is another great page-turner from Susan Mallery. This book captured my attention from the very beginning. The two main characters, Michelle and Carly, face their own inner demons along with other obstacles. They go from being friends to stepsisters and end up not even talking to each other. They don’t want to admit that they need each other’s help. When they finally acknowledge that they do need each other, they are able to work through their problems and become ‘sisters’.
Michelle and Carly both have lot of trouble in their personal lives. Carly is angry at Michelle for not telling when she caught Carly’s mom cheating with Michelle’s dad. It got worse when the two parents ran off together and left their kids. Michelle got jealous when Carly became engaged to Allen because Carly could talk about little else. Michelle decided to put Carly in her place and slept with the groom-to-be two days before the wedding. When Carly caught them, Michelle ran away and joined the military. When Michelle is injured in the line of duty ten years later, she finally returns home.
During her years of service, her mom dies, leaving Michelle in charge of running the family inn. When she returns to the inn, she finds that her mom had been very careless with things like paying the bills. Michelle is also not happy to find Carly working at the inn. She is in no shape to deal with her one-time friend. She is trying to recuperate from her gun shot to the hip and from the resulting nightmares. Michelle tries to find solace in alcohol.
In high school, Carly had a reputation as the town slut – and she is still having a hard time living that down. Even though Carly had caught Michelle with her fiancée, she went through with the wedding. Deep down, she knew it wasn’t a good idea because Allen had cheated previously. But she didn’t listen to reason. When Allen left her and took everything they had, Carly finally realized what a big mistake she had made. The only good thing that came from her marriage was her daughter, Gabby. While Michelle was gone, Carly worked with Michelle’s mother in exchange for the promise of a permanent stake in the inn. When Michelle returns, they both learn that the inn is close to foreclosure. Carly also realizes that Michelle’s mother had no intention of giving her part ownership.
In order to keep the inn running, Michelle and Carly must work together. They are not very happy about being around each other. Apparently, the bank had specific instructions for the inn’s loan. One of the requirements is that Michelle must keep Carly as an employee for at least the next two years. This is a huge relief for Carly because she worries about not being able to provide for Gabby. As time goes on, Michelle realizes that Carly is a very valuable asset to the inn. The only one who doesn’t agree with that is the cook, Damaris, who had been friends with Michelle for a long time. Even the bank representative, Ellen, hopes for Carly to fail. It seems as if Carly’s high school moniker still follows her around.
Michelle is slowly coming unglued.The last straw for her is when she finds out that her friend, Damaris, is stealing from the inn. She disappears into her rented room and tries to drink her troubles away. Her landlord, Jared, is used to helping vets, but he can’t get through to Michelle. He encourages her to attend support meetings for vets, but can’t make her understand that this is what she needs. After he presents her with a rescue dog that had been abused, he decides to leave her alone to try to work things out. Luckily, while helping her dog recover, she finally realizes that she also needs to take care of herself. Not only is she able to tolerate herself, she starts becoming close to those around her including Carly and Gabby. She also finds herself starting to care about Jared.
Carly continues to be there for Michelle and helps to keep the inn running smoothly. When Michelle disappears for a few days, Carly is surprised to find herself worried about her friend. Carly tries to distract herself by running the inn and raising her daughter. When Michelle’s friend, Sam, comes to town, she starts having feelings that she thought were long dead. She is scared to become involved with another man. Sam is patient and shows Carly that he isn’t like her ex-husband and that he deserves a chance.
I was so glad to see Carly and Michelle start working together. It seemed to me that they were not able to get through their own turmoil until they start believing in each other. They knew they were stepsisters, but just didn’t think of themselves as family. When they were able to acknowledge that page, everything fell into place for them. I enjoyed the descriptions in the story of their island and inn. It made me want to make a reservation!
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Book Disclosure: An ebook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.