Barefoot Season (Blackberry Island Series #1)

Barefoot Season (Blackberry Island Series #1)

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Barefoot Season (Blackberry Island Series #1) by Susan Mallery, Sarah Grace

Michelle Sanderson may appear to be a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she's still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner's suite occupied by the last person she wants to see.

Carly Williams and Michelle were once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn's cheerful veneer.

Single mother Carly has weathered rumors, lies and secrets for a lifetime, and is finally starting to move forward with love and life. But if the Blackberry Island Inn goes under, Carly and her daughter will go with it.

To save their livelihoods, Carly and Michelle will undertake a turbulent truce. It'll take more than a successful season to move beyond their devastating past, but with a little luck and a beautiful summer, they may just rediscover the friendship of a lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781441842565
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 03/27/2012
Series: Blackberry Island Series , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.37(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She's known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

"I'm going off to war tomorrow. I might not make it back."

Michelle Sanderson slowly pulled her attention from the five-year-old truck she was thinking of buying and focused it on the guy standing next to her.

He was a kid—maybe eighteen or nineteen, with red hair and freckles. Cute enough but way too young. Still stuck with too-long arms and legs and a chest that had yet to fill out. More man than boy, she supposed, but not yet done with the transition.

"I'm sorry," she said, sure she must have misunderstood. "What did you say?"

He gave her a wide grin and a wink. "I may not have long in this life. After you buy the truck, we could go get a drink or something. Celebrate me going into the army."

"It's two in the afternoon."

"Then we could head back to my place."

Michelle didn't know whether she should start laughing or tell him he was an idiot in terms that would make him cry like a little girl. The latter would be easy enough. She'd served ten years in the army, nearly half of them in either Iraq or Afghanistan. She'd had to deal with more than her share of horny young guys who assumed they were irresistible. She'd gotten really good at showing them they were wrong.

Laughing would be a bit tougher. Mostly because every part of her hurt. Not just her hip, which had the excuse of a recent run-in with a couple of bullets from armed insurgents, followed by a partial joint replacement, but the rest of her. She'd spent more time than she even wanted to think about in the hospital. Healing happened in its own time, her physical therapist had told her. She'd tried to beat the odds, which had netted her nothing more than an extra three nights in the hospital before she'd finally been released.

"Aren't I a little old for you?" she asked.

He gave her a wink. "Experienced."

Despite the pain, she managed a chuckle. "Yeah, right. Looking to have your fantasies fulfilled?"

"You know it."

He was so eager, she thought, feeling more weary by the second. And obviously he hadn't passed the vision test yet. She knew she wasn't at her best. Her pale, too-thin body gave away the length of time she'd been in a hospital bed. Her eyes were hollow, her color too gray to be considered normal. She had a cane to help her walk. Which just went to show how powerful a young man's hormones could be.

Before she could figure out how to pass on his invitation, a yellow Lab came bounding around the side of the house. The animal raced up to her and jumped. Michelle took a quick step back to avoid being knocked over. The movement put pressure on her hip and fiery pain shot through her.

For a second, the world spun. She felt herself starting to black out. Nausea threatened. One or the other, she thought desperately, fighting to stay present. Not both. A surprisingly strong arm wrapped around her body, holding her in place. "Buster, get down."

She blinked and the cool, damp afternoon returned to focus. The fire in her hip banked enough to allow her to breathe. The kid stood so close she could see the freckles across his nose and a small scar on his right cheek.

"You okay?" he asked.

She nodded.

He stepped back and studied her. The dog stayed back, his eyes dark with worry, a low whine indicating his concern.

She held out her hand to the dog. "It's okay, Buster. I'm fine."

The dog stepped forward and sniffed her fingers before giving them a quick lick.

"Hey, I wanted to do that," the kid said, managing a shaky laugh.

Michelle smiled. "Sorry. He's more my type."

"You're hurt."

She raised the cane slightly. "Did you think this was a fashion accessory?"

"I didn't notice it, really."

Which proved her theory about his poor vision. "Just a flesh wound." Actually flesh, bone and a few tendons, but why get into the details?

He looked from her to the army-issue duffels on the sidewalk, to the cane and then back into her eyes. "Were you there?" he asked.

"There" could have been a hundred places, but she knew what he meant. She nodded.

"Sweet. What was it like? Were you scared? Do you think…?" He swallowed, then flushed. "Can I make it, you think?"

She wanted to tell him no. That staying home, being with his friends, going to college, would be so much easier. Safer. More comfortable. But the easy way often wasn't the best way, and for some, being a part of something meaningful was worth any price.

Her reasons for joining had been far less altruistic, but over time she'd been molded into a soldier. The trick was going to be figuring out how to find her way back.

"You'll be fine," she said, hoping she was telling the truth.

"A hero?" he asked with a grin, then slapped his hand against the truck. "Okay, you've done your best to confuse me by being sexy and a war vet. But I'm not going to be distracted. I want ten thousand. Not a penny less."

Sexy? That did make her laugh. At this stage in her life she would have trouble qualifying as a trophy girlfriend for a man pushing ninety. But hey, a compliment was always nice to hear.

She turned her attention to the truck. It was in decent shape, with relatively new tires and only a few dents. The mileage was low enough to allow her to get a few years out of the thing before she would have to start replacing parts.

"Ten's crazy high," she said. "I'm paying cash. I'm thinking closer to eight."

"Eight?" He clutched his hands to his chest. "You're killin' me. You really going to do that to a future hero?"

She chuckled. "Come on, kid. We'll take her for a drive and swing by a mechanic friend of mine. If he says the truck is good, I'll give you nine-five and you can call it a win."

"You've got a deal."

Two hours later, Michelle let the guy—Brandon—off at his place. A mechanic she knew on the base had given her the thumbs-up on the truck and she'd handed over an ordered stack of crisp bills. In return she'd collected paperwork and keys.

Now, as she pulled away from Brandon's house, she eyed the gray sky. She was back in western Washington state, where rain was so prevalent that a day of sunshine was the lead story on the local news. Leaving luggage in the open was taking a risk and she'd dropped her two duffels in the back. She decided the clouds looked more lazy than ominous. Her duffels should be safe enough on the drive home.

Home. It was a long way from where she'd spent the past ten years. Blackberry Island, an actual island in Puget Sound, connected to the mainland by a long bridge, might technically be within commuting distance of Seattle, but it was a world away. The single town on the island billed itself as the "New England of the West Coast." A selling point she'd never understood.

Quiet, touristy, with quaint stores and a slower pace of life, the island celebrated all things blackberry. There were silly traditions and a rhythm to the seasons that had always seemed annoyingly out of step. At least before. But what she once hadn't appreciated now seemed appealing to her.

She shifted on her seat, the pain in her hip as constant as ever. The physical therapists had sworn it would get better, that she was healing quicker than they'd expected. She was already bored with the recovery process—it took too damn long. But there was no rushing her body along.

She found her way to the main road, then onto the freeway. She headed north, merging with the traffic. The number of cars surprised her. Their orderly progress. She was used to Hummers and assault vehicles, not SUVs and sports cars. The damp, cool air was also something she'd forgotten. She switched on the heater and wished she'd thought to pull out a jacket. It didn't matter that it was May. Seasons were for sissies.

Summer came late to this part of the country. Fortunately, the tourists came early.

She knew what to expect over the next four months. Starting with Memorial Day and going through Labor Day, the island would be crawling with visitors. They came for the boating, the famous Puget Sound cranes and for the blackberries. Blackberry Island was the you-know-what capital of, well, the West Coast. Vacationers would crowd the restaurants, buying all sorts of knickknacks and handmade items. And they would eat blackberries.

They would put fresh blackberries on their pancakes, in salads, on or in nearly every type of food known to man. They would purchase blackberry ice cream from vendors and blackberry cookies from kiosks. They would buy tea towels and mugs with blackberry motifs and taste the dubious results of the annual blackberry-chili cook-off. Best of all, they would fill every room in a fifty-mile radius. Including the rooms at the Blackberry Island Inn.

Michelle could practically hear the happy hum of the inn's bank balance filling. Like most businesses on the island, the inn made most of its annual income during those precious four months. The days would be long, the hours endless, the work backbreaking, but after being gone for so long, she was eager to dive back in. To return to the one place she could count on never to change.

"Is she here yet?"

Damaris asked the question from the doorway to Carly Williams's office.

Carly looked up from the welcome card she'd been making. Part of what the Blackberry Island Inn offered guests was personalized service. She found out about her guests before they arrived, then put a handmade welcome card in their room.

The Banners, an older couple who had come to bird-watch and do some wine tasting, had mentioned how much they loved the water. Carly had made sure they were in a west-facing room and was creating a card that featured a photo of Blackberry Bay at sunset.

Bits of ribbon and lace were spread across her blotter. A glue stick sat upright, next to her battered tweezers. She absently rubbed at a tiny square of glitter on the back of her hand.

"She's not here," she told Damaris, then gave her a smile. "I said I'd let you know when she arrived."

Damaris sighed. Her glasses had drifted down her nose, giving her an absent air. More than one newly hired server had assumed her slightly scattered appearance meant that she wouldn't notice if an employee was late or didn't offer more coffee the second a sip was taken. All mistakes that were later regretted.

"I thought she'd be here by now," Damaris admitted. "I've missed her so much. It's been too long."

"It has," Carly murmured, not wanting to think about how her life would be altered when Michelle returned. Reminding herself that she'd been the injured party didn't stop her stomach from churning.

Everything was different now, she told herself. She was capable, and for the past three months she'd been the one running the inn. She was a valued asset to the inn. If only Michelle would see it that way.

Damaris moved into her office and took the chair on the other side of the desk.

"I still remember when she hired me," the fiftysomething cook said with a sigh. "She was what? Sixteen? I had children older than her. She sat right where you are. So scared. I could see she was shaking." Her lined mouth turned up in a smile.

"She'd checked a book on interviewing out of the library. She'd tried to hide it under some papers, but I saw it."

The smile faded as the dark eyes narrowed. "Her mother should have been the one taking care of things, but it was never like that. Michelle loved this place."

Carly drew in a breath. She and Damaris had argued plenty of times about mother and daughter. Carly was willing to admit Brenda had her flaws, but she'd been the one who had rescued Carly. Given her a job and purpose. Carly owed her. As for Michelle…

"I hope she's happy with the changes," Carly said, by way of distraction. The band of tension around her chest was already tight enough that she had to consciously relax in order to draw in a full breath. She didn't need more stress in her life right now. "You've told her what we've done, haven't you?"

"I write her every month," Damaris said with a sniff. "Not that her mother ever did."

So much for diverting anyone, Carly thought. But she wasn't going to give up. "Your blackberry scones are so popular with the guests. I've been wondering about offering packages of them for sale on Sunday morning. So our guests could take some home with them. What do you think? Would it be too much work?"

Damaris relaxed in her chair. "I could bake more. It wouldn't be difficult."

"We could sell them in packages of four and eight. Use some of that decorative plastic wrap we bought."

Damaris already knew the cost of each scone, so calculating a price was easy enough. Carly wanted to include a recipe card with the scones, but knew better than to ask. Damaris protected her recipes the way tiger moms protected their cubs—with teeth, claws and intimidation.

"I'm going to check to see if she's here," Damaris said as she rose.

Carly nodded, then reluctantly followed her out of the office. Little about the inn would stay the same now—there was no way to deny it, although she'd give it her best effort. Brenda was gone and Michelle was back. That was enough to shift the dynamics, but there were also complications. Ten years away would change anyone, so Carly knew Michelle would be different. The question was, how different? People didn't always evolve in a positive way.

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Barefoot Season 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed By~Stacey Review Copy Provided By~Arc By Author Best friends; you love each other, you hate each other. It’s all part of life. In Susan Mallery’s soon-to-be released “Barefoot Season” we meet two former best friends who have so much hostility toward one another that it was hard to like them or imagine why anyone would want to be friends with them in the first place! I have to admit, I am a die-hard Susan Mallery romance fan. I’ve read them all – twice! As with last year’s Best of Friends, Susan takes us through the story that does have romantic elements but the main plot deals with the difficult relationships between family and friends. In previous books, she presents realistic struggles between friends, family and lovers and Barefoot Season is no exception. The animosity between Michelle and Carly is palpable on every page and at times I wished that they would just scream it out and move on. Everything in its own time. Not only is Michelle recovery from the horrors of war and an injury, she returns home after her mother’s death to find her beloved inn in financial ruins. Add to that the fact that Carly is running the inn and the two are forced to work together. Carly’s a single mom struggling with a lifetime of lies and just wanting a chance at a normal life but with Michelle back in town, she finds it difficult to look at the future when the past is still hanging over her head. Along the way other relationships form and, as she does so well, we get that taste of romance that Susan Mallery writes so well. If I had one complaint it was that I would have liked to see a little bit more of the development of these relationships; I think it could have been interesting to watch the romantic relationships evolve and how those relationships come to help Carly and Michelle with their own friendship. All in all, Barefoot Season is a wonderful read. Once I started, I could not put it down. While not your typical romance, there’s still enough for even the most devout fan. For those of you looking for a good book to use with your book club, Susan has even included questions for discussion at the end. Being that we all have had best friends, this story has a lot to offer to a group discussion setting. I love an author who is in tune with her readers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy reading, kept my interest throughout the book-finished it in one evening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellant start to a new series ! Can't wait for the next one. I found all the characters interesting, even the dog and cat. This book is more intense than any of the other Susan Mallery books I've read. I loved it.
Ozzy12 More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Great book, great story. I was very entertained.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly loved this book..... It's a great story line, about forgiveness and starting over .... I loved it ... tears and laughter....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michelle is a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she is still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner's suite occupied by the last person she wants to see - her rival enemy, Carly. Once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn's cheerful veneer. A great read! Enjoyed the setting centered around the inn as in the hotel business. Great characters and hope to see a series and would love to see more of Carly and Sam, and Michelle and Jared.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
Review: Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery 4 STARS Barefoot Season is the first Blackberry Island novel. It is a complex storyline with a little romance in it. A couple of love scenes. I like the questions about the book in the back. Michelle has been away from her home on Blackberry Island at the hotel thats been in her family for a couple of years. She has been in the army and deployed over thier 3 times and come back wounded. Her mother has died three months ago and really blamed her for everything. She finds her former bestfriend Carly running the inn and living in her apartment with her daughter at the inn. Michelle and Carly were close until thier senior year when Michelle's father left her mother to runaway with Carly's mother. Carly and Michelle's mother both blamed her for thier running away. Both Michelle and Carly loved the same guy who two days before the wedding slep with Michelle and Carly walked in on them. Carly pregant still married him and Michelle ran away and enlisted. Michelle is suffering physcally and emotionly from the war. She also finds that the hotel has grown and now as two morgages on it. The day she got back she fired Carly when she found her living in her former room. Carly is scared for the future. She found out that Michelle's mother had lied to her for years telling her that she will be earning up to half of the hotel. It was never hers to promise that. She had been working for peanuts because of that promise of a better future for her and her daughter. Her husband Alan had left before the baby came and took all her money with her. she would lose her job and her daughters only home. So she did not leave as Michelle told her too. The bank officer is making Michelle keep Carly on for two years to run the hotel and if Michelle can't bring the morgages current will have to forfit the hotel. Thier has already been an offer for the hotel. The characters were complex at least Michelle and Carly are. They have real problems to work through. The romance of the book seems rushed and could have had a bigger part of the story than it did. I was surprised at some of the developments in the story. Like Gabby and Chance a lot. Wonder if I missed exactly why Michelle really hates daisies. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 03/17/2012 PUB Harlequin Mira
NavyVeteran More than 1 year ago
Being a veteran of VietNam, I can relate to this story, as I'm sure most veterans could. This is the story of a woman who was injured in Irag and returns home to run a family bed and breakfast. She knew the woman who was running the inn in her absence, but did not like her at all, after being best friends through their high school years. The reasons for their now no longer even speaking relationship is well described and how it takes shape is very well told. The whole story is a well written story about relationships, deceit and love and is well worth reading. I know you will enjoy it. As a female veteran, is how I relate to this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anothet wonderful stiry
BooksnKisses More than 1 year ago
For those of you that are fans of Susan Mallery’s and have become obsessed with her Fool’s Gold series (like myself) the first thing you realize is this is not the “Land of Happy Endings”. But Blackberry Island will have you wanting to visit all the same. Michelle left her home 10 years ago after her life fell apart and she lost everyone she cared about including and probably most importantly her best friend Carly. Now Michelle returns from serving her country batter and bruised in more ways then one. She was shot in the hip and what she wants is a little bit of R&R (rest and recovery) at home on Blackberry Island. She needs a place to heal both physically and emotionally. However as the saying goes “you can never go home again”. When she returns to the Inn that was given to her by her father and was in trust until her mother died a few months ago she finds that everything has been changed and none of it for the good. And the worst part is that Carly has had a hand in all of it. Carly has been running the inn under the assumption that she would grow into becoming a partner but when Michelle’s mother passes she learns the 10 years she has spent working her tail off was for nothing. Her biggest fear is losing her job and being homeless with her 9 year old daughter. She would do anything for her daughter. Even work beside Michelle, the woman who betrayed her so many years ago. This book is not about romance but about relationships. The relationship between friends, parents and men and how having them and losing them define who we are. Usually when reading a romance you read both the man and woman point of view but this is about Michelle and Carly. This is their story and while romance is on the horizon it is not the focus of this novel. It is about lifelong friendships and how the decisions we make effect us for the rest of our lives. The book is also a look into the healing of a returning soldier but this time that soldier is a female which is different then so many novels out now. This is an incredible book told about women by a woman and meant to be read by every woman. We have all had that friendship we thought would last a lifetime. But for Carly and Michelle it didn’t.. or did it? Do not miss this book and while you are picking up this book pick up Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series... You will not be disappointed!
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Reading it for book club. Not really my style as I prefer murder or adventure. Good for a lazy summer afternoon.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to give my thoughts of this book in words, just words. But, first I wanted to say that it wasn't what I expected at all. Here are the words: Intense, Selfishness, betrayal, suffering, forgiveness, healing, joy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this after I read "Three Sisters". Fairly predictable but easy reading.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable and an easy read. Since I love New England, I especially enjoyed reading about the beach, town, and the mystery made for a good read. I do like Susan Mallery's books.
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prestoneCH More than 1 year ago
Again another book by Susan that I really enjoyed reading. Her Fool Gold series were out of this world. I could not put my Nook down when I starting reading Fool Gold.