The best journeys take us home….
When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.
Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?
Fall in love with Close to Home by Lily Everett!
About the Author
Lily Everett grew up in a small town in Virginia reading Misty of Chincoteague and Black Beauty, taking riding lessons, and longing for a horse of her own. Sadly, her parents gave her a college education instead—but she never forgot what the world looked like from the back of a horse. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, where she writes full-time.
Read an Excerpt
Close to Home
A Sanctuary Island Novel
By Lily Everett
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Lily Everett
All rights reserved.
"Here he is, the man of the hour. Johnny Alexander, everyone!"
He blinked, thrown for a bizarre, stomach-tightening instant by the sound of his real name, as all around him the agents and support staff of the Washington Bureau ATF office stood up from their desks and clapped.
Alex — no, damn it, Johnny — consciously relaxed his sore shoulders and forced his mouth into the easy smile that had gotten him out of uglier situations than this. A tense shootout followed by an all-night debriefing was nothing compared to living for eighteen endless months as someone else, surrounded at all times by violent criminals who would cheerfully slit his throat if they knew he was a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Today was supposed to be his victory lap, for God's sake. Not a test of endurance already strained to the breaking point by a year and a half of deep undercover work.
But as he moved through the smiling throng of coworkers he barely recognized, shaking hands and accepting slaps on the back, Johnny wished he could be someplace else.
With every beat of his heart, every breath of his body, he wanted to be walking into the tidy little town house he shared with Terri.
The thought of his wife's shy half smile and downcast eyes warmed something deep in Johnny's chest — a place that had been frozen solid for months. Months he'd survived by locking away the memory of Terri's long, light brown braid curving over her shoulder, or the shine of tears in her green eyes when she'd seen him off on this assignment to stop a ring of gun runners.
Maybe most people wouldn't understand the Alexanders' marriage. It hadn't started as the love match of the century — in fact, you could argue it wasn't a marriage at all, more of a marriage in name only. But it was everything to Johnny.
For eight long years, since the night he found a terrified seventeen-year-old girl sobbing and shivering in his family's barn, Johnny had wanted nothing more than to protect Terri. From her parents, from the harsh, cold world — from himself.
Terri was sweet. Clean. Pure. Everything Johnny wasn't, after six years of heavy deployment with the army and two years in the ATF.
He needed that now more than ever. When he'd been posing as Alex Santiago, he'd kept his memories of Terri on total lockdown along with his worries about her safety. It was the only way to fully immerse himself in the role. Any slipup could've meant his life — and would've blown an op that was years in the making and responsible for the ATF's best hope of getting a huge number of illegal guns off the streets.
"Johnny!" A tall man with a receding hairline and eyes that crinkled at the corners came forward, hand outstretched, and Johnny felt his smile turn real for the first time in a long time.
"Brad. How are you, man?"
They exchanged a brief, back-thumping hug before Brad pulled back with a grin. "Not as good as you, Mr. Hero. It's great to see you in person. And all in one piece."
"More or less." Johnny shrugged, exhaustion weighing him down as if his bones were made of lead. At the same time, though, he felt twitchy, like he was about to jump out of his skin. Johnny scraped a palm over the short bristles of beard he'd grown to rough up Alex Santiago's look. He couldn't wait to take a hot shower and shave it all off. Now that the danger was past, his skin itched with the need to shed every bit of Alex Santiago he could.
Of course, Alex's memories wouldn't be as easy to wash away.
Ignoring the sharp scrutiny Brad swept over him, Johnny rolled his neck and gave him a grin. If there was one thing Johnny was sure of, it was his ability to deflect suspicion. "I'm glad there's at least one guy from the old days still kicking around this office. It's been less than two years, but I swear to God, I don't recognize anybody else. And when did the ATF start hiring high school kids?"
"I know, they're infants." Brad slung an arm around his neck and started leading him toward the glassed-in office at the rear of the floor. When they got close enough to make out the name on the placard beside the door, Johnny turned to his handler with genuine happiness.
"Bradley Garner. ASAC. What the hell, man? Why didn't you ever say anything?"
Brad shrugged modestly, but there was a well-deserved light of pride in his eyes. "Oh, sure. I guess I should have mentioned my promotion to assistant special agent in charge during one of your calls, in between making sure your cover wasn't blown and you weren't about to get shipped home in a body bag."
"There wasn't a lot of time for small talk," Johnny agreed. "I didn't get much news from home."
The deeper Alex Santiago had gotten embedded into the gang, the harder and more perilous it had been for Johnny Alexander to get word out about their activities. Phone calls on burner phones and coded e-mails sent from library computers — and getting any info back from the home office had been even harder. Johnny could count the messages he'd received from Brad on his fingers, and most of those had come during the final days of breakneck preparation for the big takedown.
"Listen, you know I haven't been home yet. How's Terri doing?" Johnny paused, a nameless emotion gripping his insides. He'd had even fewer messages from home, and not a single one in the past year, but he knew Brad would've been looking out for Terri.
"She's fine." Brad's smile was wide and easy, but tight at the corners. "Hey, come check out my new digs. Swanky, right?"
Johnny glanced around the cramped office of the new special agent in charge, taking in the immaculate desk and the old-fashioned file cabinets while trying to tell himself he was reading too much into the way Brad held his gaze with the steadiness of a man who knew how to lie and make it convincing.
"Nice. How many nights a week do you spend on that couch, and how bad does Donna make you pay for it each time?" Johnny smirked at his old friend to hide how closely he was studying Brad's expression. "Wives. Gotta keep 'em happy."
There it was again, the slight tightening at the corners of Brad's eyes, a tiny twitch of muscle at the back of his jaw.
Johnny's guts clenched. He dropped the grin. "Tell me."
Wincing at the flat command, Brad sighed and flipped the venetian blinds over the glass walls closed. He rounded his desk to pull something out of the top drawer. "This is for you. It'll explain everything."
Johnny watched his hand take the thin white envelope with a strange, detached feeling.
"For what it's worth," Brad was saying as Johnny opened the envelope and pulled out a sheaf of papers, "I told her she was making a huge mistake."
Every ache and pain faded under the cold rush of numbness that crashed through Johnny like an avalanche.
Dear Johnny, he read. I want to start by thanking you for everything. You've been my savior and my guardian angel since I was almost eighteen. But I'm not a teenager anymore, even though I know part of you still sees me that way. I've come to realize that you always will. To you, I'll always be that helpless young girl you rescued. I get it, and I get why you'll never see me as someone you could want to be with for real. I don't blame you — it's just how things are between us. But I want more. I deserve more.
Whew. Even writing that down was hard for me. I'm still working on believing it. But I know for sure that the first step for me is to release both of us from this marriage.
I'm sorry for putting this in a letter, but I don't want you to feel like you have to argue with me about it or make promises you can't keep. I want a new life, a life I can be proud of, on my own terms and without relying on anyone else to save me. I hope you can understand that.
I'll always be grateful that I met you when I did. I don't regret the years we spent together, and I hope you don't,either. I know you'll finish this mission and come home safely, because you're the strongest, smartest, best man I've ever known. I won't ever forget you, and I sincerely hope you find someone who makes you happy the way I never could.
With all my heart,
The sound of paper tearing startled Johnny out of the cold, gray fog the letter created. He looked down at the rip in the paper where his clenched fist had crumpled it. Behind the top page, behind the letter, was a stack of official-looking documents. He didn't need to read through them to know they were divorce papers.
"When," he growled, clamping down on the urge to rip the pages to shreds.
"She left the package with me almost a year ago." Brad's reply was prompt but his tone was cautious, as if he were aware how close Johnny was to melting down. "I wanted to call you, but it was right after Valdez put you on his personal security detail, and I couldn't have you distracted. Plus ..."
Brad grimaced and broke off, but Johnny had to know. "Plus what?"
"She begged me not to tell you. I think she was worried you'd endanger yourself rushing home to talk her out of it."
Anger flashed red-hot through Johnny's chest, burning away the numb ache. "Maybe I would have. Damn it, Brad."
"That would have been a bad call," his handler said firmly.
Johnny slammed his hands down on Brad's fancy new desk, everything inside him burning for Terri, desperate to get to her. "It should've been my bad call to make."
Brad's eyes flicked to the door of his office, and Johnny realized how loud his voice had gotten. Breathing hard around the constriction in his chest, he stood upright and backed off a step or two. He needed information. As much as part of him wanted to beat it out of Brad, the rest of Johnny knew he'd get further by controlling himself and the situation.
"Listen, I know you're pissed," Brad said quickly, holding up his hands in surrender. "I get why. If I came home and found Donna had up and moved out, left town —"
"She moved away?" Johnny's head spun. He couldn't imagine the quiet woman he'd left behind having the guts to pack up and start a new life, the way she'd written in the letter. Not that Terri was weak, exactly. She'd lived through hell as a kid, and Johnny was of the opinion that surviving her childhood meant Terri was stronger than she even knew. But the fact remained that when he was home on leave, he'd have to coax her into going out to dinner. And when he was gone, he knew she barely went farther than the grocery store or library.
Brad was nodding, a complex expression darkening his friendly eyes. "A new start, she said. For both of you."
Feeling trapped, Johnny prowled the perimeter of the office. "A new start. Was she really that unhappy? I mean, I know I was gone for a long time, but after the navy, that was nothing new. We've spent most of our marriage apart, but I thought we were solid. That we understood each other."
Except they hadn't, obviously. Johnny hadn't understood anything.
Unless it was the opposite ... that Terri understood more than he knew. His blood went icy cold. Oh, God. Had she figured out his secret? Was that why she left?
"This is a shock." Brad was all sympathy and gentleness. Johnny wanted to punch him in the mouth to get him to stop sounding like the shrink they wanted to make him talk to about the aftermath of the undercover assignment.
"She thinks I don't want to be with her." For some reason, the words grated at Johnny's throat on the way out. "That's what she said, in the letter. How messed up is that? Why would I have stayed married to her if I didn't want to be with her?"
The problem had nothing to do with whether Johnny wanted Terri. He'd never wanted anything in his life more than he wanted his wife. The problem was that he couldn't let himself take advantage of her. He couldn't touch her. No matter how much he lay awake at night, his palms aching to trace the lines of her slim body.
"I can't speak to why you married Terri," Brad said, clearly choosing his words carefully. "People get married for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it's about companionship. Security."
"So I married her to keep her safe. To take care of her. Is that so awful?" "It's not awful." Brad paused. "But it's not exactly true love, either."
Johnny cursed, low and filthy, and dragged his hands over his face. "True love. Please. Love is for puppies and kids' movies. You sound like that moron shrink."
"Dr. Reeves isn't a moron. She's a valued member of the department and she's here to help you transition back to your real life."
"You have to say crap like that now that you're ASAC."
Brad shrugged. "Doesn't mean it's not true. Deep-cover missions tend to scramble people's brains. Whatever we have to do to unscramble you, we want to do it."
"My brain is fine. It's my life that's a mess." Johnny leaned over the desk, spearing his handler with a glare. "And you're going to help me clean it up."
"Maybe you should sit with this for a few days, try to process. Take some time off, do your mandatory talk therapy with Dr. Reeves ..."
The rage that had propelled Alex Santiago through countless challenges of his loyalty to the gang filled Johnny's gut and tightened his hands into fists. "I'm not talking to a damn shrink. I'm going after Terri and I'm going to get my wife back."
Alarm widened Brad's eyes and he shifted in his seat. The hot, furious part of Johnny took a grim satisfaction in the knowledge that he was making his friend nervous. To Brad's credit, though, his voice stayed steady and low, like he was talking a jumper off a ledge.
"Johnny. Think about what you're saying. Terri left you. She doesn't need you to take care of her anymore — maybe you should think about taking care of yourself right now, instead."
"Where is she? I know you kept tabs on her, Brad. Tell me where she is."
"You're not even listening to me. Johnny, man, you've got to calm down."
Johnny slammed his hands down on the desk, the sound like a gunshot impacting muscle. His brain flashed white-hot, his focus narrowing to the man in front of him — the information Johnny needed. Before he knew what he was doing, he'd shoved the desk aside to wrap his hand around the man's throat.
"Tell me where my wife is," Johnny snarled. "Right now."
He didn't even recognize his own voice, guttural and wrecked, and the shock of that was enough to loosen his grip. Brad never flinched and never broke his gaze. All he said was, "You need to let me help you, Johnny."
Johnny froze, heart pounding. What the hell was he doing? He backed up a step, raising his shaking hands to show he wasn't a threat. His vision was swimming, the back of his throat coated with the peculiar metallic tang of adrenaline, and he wasn't so sure he wasn't a threat. But Brad didn't call in security, or one of his baby agents out there in the bullpen. Instead, Brad regarded him with eyes that saw and understood way too much.
"Okay. Maybe I do need some help," Johnny admitted, reluctance drying his mouth out. "But I need this more. Please, Brad."
His handler — the man who had been a reassuring voice in Johnny's ear for the past eighteen months — studied him for a long moment while Johnny tried not to look like a basket case. He didn't even know why he was pushing this so hard. It was Terri's choice to leave, and maybe it was time to stop torturing himself with wanting what he couldn't let himself have.
But first, Johnny had to see her for himself. To know for sure that she was okay. And if she wasn't, he'd convince her to come home where he could keep her safe and close.
Close enough to touch. Not that he ever would.
With a sigh that seemed to come from the soles of his feet, Brad reached into his desk drawer and withdrew a file folder. Setting it on his desk, he tapped his blunt fingers on it and regarded Johnny thoughtfully.
"I had a feeling you were going to want to follow your wife, so I put together this file. It contains Terri's new address and some intel about her new life."
Johnny reached for it immediately. He had to suppress a growl when Brad flattened his palm and anchored the file to the desk. Forcing himself to stand down, Johnny crossed his arms over his chest in resignation. He knew the score. You can't get something for nothing.
"What do I have to do to get that file?"
"Make me a promise." Brad eyed him like an appraiser pricing out a shipment of semiautomatics. "Go to Terri. Talk to her, set your mind at ease, work out your marriage or don't, but I'm putting you on administrative leave. And you're going to complete the program I'm assigning you — ah, ah, just wait. You can do both things simultaneously because the program is based on Sanctuary Island."
Excerpted from Close to Home by Lily Everett. Copyright © 2017 Lily Everett. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A lovely story of second chances, commitment and forgiveness 3.5 Stars, Rounded Tessa made the difficult decision to leave a marriage that was unfulfilling and secretive, even though the love was there. See, Johnny was everything she wanted in a husband: faithful, loving and protective, but he always kept her out of his deepest thoughts and dreams – and she just wanted (and deserved) more. So she set him free, and went to Sanctuary Island to set up her new life, and has been finding her footing and comfort in becoming the person she felt she was meant to be: making friends, decisions for herself, and most importantly, making choices that make her happy. Johnny never expected Tessa would go: he loved her, he cherished her, but he couldn’t share all of his life with her: it was too dangerous. But, now she’s gone and he’s not willing to lose her. He knows that he loves her, and that she loves him, or at least he hopes she still does. So he tracks her down to Sanctuary Island, only to find that the meek and rather quiescent woman he married is all grown up, making choices and decisions with alacrity, and is even more desirable than he thought possible. A lovely story of second chances, commitment and forgiveness, as both characters grow from their old version of a marriage and relationship into the new one. Tessa has learned that she can’t, and won’t, accept a man who is closing off large portions of his life to her, even with the best of intentions. And Johnny has to learn that you can’t truly love someone if you are hiding major parts of your life. Together they discover a balance between his need to protect and her needs to feel valued and trusted. And most of all, Johnny has hidden just HOW much he needs and wants Tessa in his life: he’s got to find a way to share these feelings, no matter how scary or unsettling, to prove that he is worth her taking another chance on him. Wonderfully developed and written, this story shows the transformative power in honest communication of true feelings, fears and desires, as Tessa found her courage to move on for what she truly wanted, even if that meant giving up the man she loved. As Johnny realized that the love was still within his grasp, he had to learn to reach for it and face his fears to reach for the one person that makes him feel safe. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
"Close to Home" follows Johnny after 18 months undercover with the ATF and his wife, Terri/Tessa. When he comes out of deep cover, he learns that his wife has left him, started a new life, and wants a divorce. They got married when she was 17 (almost 18) and he was 22, because he was in the military and it would give her health insurance. She grew up on a commune which didn't believe in modern medicine, and so she would have suffered if she didn't leave- and luckily, the first person she found was Johnny who wanted to help her. Since then, their relationship has been one of roommates rather than a married couple. He gives her occasional pecks on the forehead but no more. Unbeknownst to the other, they both want more. However, Johnny is blindsided by the request for divorce and travels to where she is to see if they can salvage their marriage. The ATF wants him to do therapy before going back to work (due to deep cover plus the things he had to do while under cover), so they find a place for him to go where Tessa is on Sanctuary Island. Somehow, they turn the therapy into couples therapy (I'm not sure how his work is OK with that, when he clearly needs assistance- being deep cover is not mentally easy). However, Tessa views Johnny as part of her old life/identity, and she has left that in the rearview mirror. They slowly begin to heal together. This book moves soooo slowly in my opinion and there are so many misunderstandings. I actually might have liked it better if Tessa moved on and found someone else. I understand that they both need to change, but it seems like the context was a little awkward to begin with (especially considering the age difference)- I get that nothing happened for a long time, but it seems there would be some deeper issues there (and there are). That's added on top of the issues Johnny has from the military and his job with the ATF. Mostly, I just wish things moved faster (even though I know that's not how they would happen in real life). Please note that I received a copy through a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
Close to Home to me is the perfect mix of romance, and suspense and heart. Johnny is a hero in so many ways from his stint in the arm forces to the AFT agent he has become to the man who saved a little lost girl, to the man who made Terri his wife. Johnny made sure Terri had everything she could possibly want, or so he thought. Terri aka Tessa left her life and her husband to see if she could find the happiness she always longed for. Tessa felt after everything Johnny has done for her over the years, leaving would be the only way to give back to Johnny. To let him find someone to love. Johnny and Tessa feelings for each other are all over the place from the need to protect, to being comfortable with each other, to feelings being left unsaid. All in all, this is what makes Johnny and Tessa such a “real” couple in my book. Lily Everett delivered their story with such brilliance, that I read Close to Home in one setting. Supporting characters gave Close to Home a nice edge as well as a start of another budding romance between supporting characters Marcus and Quinn. It was almost like a two for one romance. *grin* My absolute favorite character had to be Miss. Patty, she is all sass and heart. The plot was well delivered. I have not read a romance with this type of plot-line. I am happy to have discovered Lily Everett’s talent as an author. Sanctuary Island is full of some interesting character’s. One thing is true, they look after their own. I can’t wait read more of this series. Rated 5 Stilettos and a Recommended Read by Deb !
Tessa had spent years waiting for her husband, Johnny, to return the love she so freely gave to him. After wait so long with no results, she has given up hope and found the strength to walk away. She loves him just that much. She left to give him the freedom to choose the one he did want. Johnny had been keeping more than his love away from his wife. He had been living a completely, separate life. Now that he was free of the obligation that tied his hands and his words he was ready to make things work out with his wife. It was just a bit too late to do so. I found this installment of Sanctuary Island to be beautiful. A man that wanted the idea of a life with that one woman but had not the foresight to see that what he had was not going to wait forever. A woman that gave up the idea of having that forever. Opting to live again and not wait on the sidelines. I found a rich compelling romance of taking that second chance and making it more than a lifetime with that someone. Johnny and Tessa had much to overcome. The needed to get to know each other all over again. Everett had me turning pages and consuming the read like it was all that I could think of. The connection and passion Johnny and Tessa shared was lovely. The words on the pages made you want to sit up and take notice.
I love the idea of Tessa finding herself while Johnny’s undercover for the ATF and away from home for almost two years. Granted, I think it is a horrible thing to have just left him but I totally get why that was the only way she could do it. She loves her husband but because of the way they got together, and what she thinks is a lack of romantic interested on his part, she can’t stay. Being face to face with him as the woman she used to be, with her feelings and insecurities, she would never have been able to leave. But Sanctuary Island works its magic and in the year she’s been there she has totally come into her own. She’s a strong woman who is able to stand on her own two feet, support herself, make friends and be confident in what she wants. Then he walks back into her life, looking all sexy and protective … and hurt and wanting her back. He’s going to be hard to resist :) Johnny’s only thought after finishing his latest assignment is to get home to his wife, the one person who can help him center himself in real life. Unfortunately she’s left and he knows he’ll be lost until he gets her back. Luckily he’s got time as his job has mandated some therapy in the same town she’s moved to and he takes the opportunity to convince Tessa to give them a chance to save their marriage. And he’s nothing if not dedicated to his cause. He’s going to take that time to win over the new woman his wife has become. The growth that both of these people undergo thanks to their time on Sanctuary Island, both individually and, luckily, back to each other is awesome. Tessa’s had already happened but thru Johnny getting to know his wife better we get to see what that transformation actually meant. And while Johnny’s journey isn’t quite over, by the end he’s found himself on a path that works for him. It takes a strong man to open up and expose himself to someone else and Johnny does it beautifully and even more so for acknowledging that it’s a process that needs to continue. Close to Home is a heartwarming second chance romance full of the hope for new beginnings. (While this is a good place to start (no real ties to previous books) and Tessa and Johnny’s story is complete (and fabulous), the story doesn’t technically stand on its own. There are whole bits of it that set up the next story, Home at Last. So, you have to ask yourself – am I prepared to read the next book or am I OK with that bit of unfinished business … since Everett is such a fantastic writer I’m pretty sure I know which it is going to be!) *** I voluntarily read a Review Copy of this book. All opinions stated are solely my own and no one else’s. ***
What a great plot with some wonderful twists. It must be really hard for anyone living a dangerous live to be married and keep that marriage together even harder when it is in a name only. Tessa has always loved Johnny he was always her hero but in her eyes he never really truly loved her. Ten years of marriage with him either in the military or being undercover hardly seeing him is enough. His heart was never hers and he never was really was a part of their marriage and a marriage for one just won’t do. She has decided to more on and start over. Johnny is on his way home after being gone for two years. Looking forward to being in his own bed and seeing his wife is something he is looking forward to. What he finds has him devastated with no wife to be found and divorce papers there waiting on him. It seems he has spent most of his life protecting her being there for her but that is about to change he isn’t ready to let her go. He is on the hunt again but this time it is for his run away wife. Johnny is in for the surprise of his life. He left a timid mouse scared of her own shadow but what he finds is a self-confidence independent woman who can stand on her own doing what she feels is best. He faces her realizing he does really love her but it might be too late. He isn’t ready to throw in the towel he plans on putting up a fight for the women he needs, loves and wants. Things do not feel right something is off he knows in his gut that something bad is going to happen. Johnny feels Tessa might be in danger he keeps his eyes open looking over his shoulders and around each corner as he does his best to show is love and ask for another chance at making their marriage work. What an emotional read full of tenderness, love and chemistry. Each of Johnny and Tessa story is heartbreaking as the author takes you back when it all began giving you details that fills in the blanks. I really liked both of them but would have liked to have known more about Johnny. He was missing something and didn’t really pull me in. There is suspense and danger along with a sup plot that leads in to the next book in the series. I thought this was a great story at times pulling me and making me hold my breath. I loved the emotion and spice and can’t wait for the next on in the series.
I was so excited to return to Sanctuary Island, and my visit did not disappoint. A marriage of convenience between Johnny and Tessa has lasted many years. Johnny comes home from assignment to divorce papers, he sets out to find his wife. Tessa is now living on Sanctuary Island, she is willing to give Johnny four weeks to find out it is true love or just a pity marriage. They soon find out their is much love to their marriage. Soon their love is threatened by a mystery man on the island, but once again Johnny steps up to protect Tessa. Loved this story of Tessa and Johnny, follow your heart and it will lead you home. Great characters, along with secondary characters. Can't wait to read Quinn and Marcus's story. Love the town of Sanctuary Island, such fun residents. I was always hoping for more Sanctuary stories!! Thank you Lily Evertt!! I highly recommend this book, it is part of series but can be read as stand alone.
A captivating read about a woman trying to take control of her life and the man who is fighting to remain part of it. I’m a big fan of second chance romances and enjoyed the twist of these two already being married – albeit a marriage of convenience – and finding their way to each other’s hearts. Both Johnny and Tessa are trying to escape the patterns of their past. Tessa has spent her life shying away from everything and when she finally decides to take control of things that also means letting go of everything from her past – including her husband, a man who married her to protect and care for her, but has never treated her like a real wife. Even though she has very deep and real feelings for Johnny, she knows she needs to let him go so they both can move on with their lives. What Tessa doesn’t know is that she has always been Johnny’s anchor, and when he finds she has set him free he is set adrift and he knows he’s not ready to give up on Tessa or their marriage so easily. I really enjoyed watching Johnny take a step back and acknowledge that his take control personality is not what is needed to save his marriage. And even though he’s never acted on his very deep and real feelings for Tessa, he needs to now figure out how to show Tessa just what she means to him without steamrolling over her – a tough job for someone who is always used to being in total control of everything. I did like Tessa, but at times she could be a bit annoying to me – she is trying to keep control of her new found life, which I get, but sometimes I felt she was a bit quick in assuming someone was trying to take control and I do wish she was a bit more upfront to Johnny about her feelings and her fears. I did like the fact that she broke out and was able to create a new life for herself and created a home for herself on the island, and I loved watching her find her sexy side when it came to Johnny. There were a few mysteries that were intertwined within Johnny and Tessa’s story, and I really enjoyed meeting Marcus and Quinn and look forward to learning more about them in the next book. The couple of twists at the end were only slightly predictable and didn’t disappoint at all. All in all, I think I’ve decided that I need to find this island and take up residence! This was a cute and quirky small town “in your face” kind of place that allows for some great fun (small town gossip and characters just can’t be beat!) and also some heartwarming moments between friends who are more like family. This was my first book in the series and I don’t think I lost anything starting here although I would like to go back and read the previous books. Definitely a book worth checking out. I received an advance reader copy from the publisher via NetGalley which I voluntarily reviewed.
I was thrilled to see that Lily Everett had returned to Sanctuary Island with her latest book, Close to Home. Ms. Everett has taken the second chance romance to a new level with Tessa and Johnny Alexander. I wasn’t expecting their story to be so dramatic when I started reading the book. However, I was swept up in this couple’s journey. I admired how Tessa had grown into such a strong, determined woman. Then I just shook my head at how shortsighted Johnny had been until it seemed too late. Close to Home is beautifully written with endearing characters. I was glad I didn’t have to take sides, not even in the beginning. That would have just been too difficult. Still their relationship problems are not easily solved, but worth the work. It is a refreshing look at love, marriage and the need to cultivate the relationship by supporting growth and positive change. An ARC of the book was given to me by the publisher through Net Galley.
Close to Home by Lily Everett is a sucker punch to the emotions. A woman who loves her husband with all she has, leaves when it’s clear he doesn’t the love her the same. Oh man, everything about this screamed “Kleenex alert” and I couldn’t read it fast enough. Johnny wants his wife back and he’s not backing down. He was deep undercover during their marriage and that was part of the problem. It’s been two years and it’s clear that Tessa has carved a new life for herself, but he’s out to show her that she is his home. Their second chance romance is everything!! Overall, I loved this unique spin the author put on the story and highly recommend it to those who enjoy contemporary romance.
Johnny Alexander married Terri when she was 18 years old and he found her hiding out in the family barn, obviously on the run and scared. He had the "need" to protect her based on events from his past. Johnny never had an intimate relationship with her because he felt she was so fragile. Johnny left for the Army for 6 years then spent 2 years in the ATF so Terri was pretty much alone for her first 8 years of marriage. Terri decided she was not happy and that Johnny only stayed married to her out of obligation, so she was going to release him from his "duty". She filed for divorce, packed up and moved to Sanctuary Island and started going by the name Tessa. A year later Johnny is back from being undercover and ready to spend some time with his wife. Surprise...she's gone. He decides to follow her to Sanctuary Island to get his wife back. While Johnny is there, he is required to deal with his emotions from being undercover for so long. He also realizes that his Terri, no Tessa is no longer the timid, afraid little girl she used to be. Instead he sees a strong, determined woman that he really wants to know. Slowly the two of them get to know each other all over again and realizes that they both still want to be together. It was fun watching these two getting to know each other. Johnny was a little too protective at times and Tessa was a little to stubborn at times but it was fun how they found a common ground. Throughout their story a little suspense was also thrown into the mix, which was very enjoyable. I also loved the character of Marcus and can't wait to see what his story is! Overall this was an enjoyable story with really great characters.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book. Close to Home by Lily Everett was a sweet read that focused on the broken relationship between Tessa and Johnny. Lack of communication, especially with feelings, is the common problem that the characters need to overcome. “You’re a good man, Johnny, but you can’t save everyone.” I really did not know what to think of Johnny. He seemed a little too overprotective of Tessa. To the point of not even consummating his marriage with her. It was a weird relationship, but once it was explained it made sense..sort of. Because he is an undercover cop, he tended to be a little paranoid of his surroundings and that side of his personality became apparent when he followed Tessa to Sanctuary Island. It took me awhile to get used to him and overall he was just a man who was unsure of himself. I liked Tessa because she decided to do something positive for herself. Her marriage to Johnny seemed like an empty one and she felt like she was a burden to him. So I wouldn’t say she ran away from her problems, but she decided to resolve them. Lot’s of family themes in this story. It plays a huge role in the way the plot unfolds and I actually liked that the two main characters decided to get therapy. Each had their own pasts and problems. Their is a slight sense of suspense due to certain scenes and backstories. It wasn’t a lot, but it did tie up the story at the end. There were alternating POVs between Tessa and Johnny, but the added point of view of Marcus kind of threw me off. He was another character that plays a role in this story, but to add part of his story in this one kind of made it muddled. His story wasn’t resolved, so I’m guessing the next book will be his. It would have been fine if his point of view wasn’t there. All in all, I loved the sweet romance and family themes. Oh, and there is some sexiness included that does NOT disappoint! A little note... -This was the first book in the series that I read and I had no problem with that. Even with the added view point of Marcus, this can be read as a standalone.
My first time reading this author. This is a clean romance story about second chances.Tessa ran away from her home at the age of seventeen. Her family lived in a commune and never ventured out into town. But Tessa gets sick and her mother takes her to the doctor and she is diagnosed with seizures, that can b treated with meds. Her father refuses, she runs away and ends up in a barn on Johnny's farm. He is a couple of years older and takes her in and marries her at eighteen. Johnny was in the Army and the joined ATF. He was undercover for twenty seven months, when he comes out, Tessa has left and left him divorce papers to sign. Johnny isn't giving her up without a fight. So he locates her on a tiny island working in a bakery. Happier than he's ever seen her. They both agree to couples counseling. Tessa has loved Johnny from the moment she meet him and eight years later hasn't changed that. But she needs his love in return and he doesn't believe in love. He believes in his promise to protect her. Can they work past their problems to find their way back to each other? Secrets. Secondary characters interesting. Not exactly a cliffhanger but you know there will have to be a book about them. Better than I expected. *Voluntarily reviewed from Netgalley *
This is actually my first read by Lily Everett and I loved it, so much that I'm looking forward to more from her and I will be going back to read the previous titles. CLOSE TO HOME is heartwarming, sweet and romantic, with a powerful message about commitment in relationships. Necessity brought Tessa and Johnny Alexander together, but something more powerful kept them together. Tessa fell in love with her husband but she knows that while he cares for her, he only sees her as someone to protect and his code of honor will not let him walk away from her, so she makes the choice to set him free. Johnny has successfully kept the intensity of his feelings for Tessa under wrap but thoughts of her sustained him for the two years he's been undercover and the last thing he expected was to find that she has left him. Much to his surprise when he finds her, the scared young girl he left behind is gone; replaced by a confident, independent, capable woman, taking charge of her life on her own terms. Johnny has got few options available to him: he can admit his feelings for his wife and fight to win her back, or he can deny them and lose her forever. Not much wiggle room for him. This was such an enjoyable story for me. Both Tessa and Johnny have baggage from their past that they did not let get in the way of fighting for their relationship. Watching Tessa spread her wings was just as entertaining as it was watching Johnny rein in his protective tendencies and get to know the woman his wife had blossomed into. This story clearly illustrates that there are no shortcuts to a successful relationship or marriage and there was something endearing about the effort both Tessa and Johnny put into making it work, opening themselves to each other and building the relationship they both wanted one piece at a time. I am looking forward to the next book in the series and if the sneak peek the author gave us is anything, it promises to be just and enjoyable as this one. Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book. All opinions stated are solely mine.
He was always her hero and she loved him with all her heart, but the marriage between Johnny and Tessa wasn’t based on their mutual love. Johnny needed to protect her from her past. Tessa had dreams of being Johnny’s wife in every sense of the word, but that was never to be. After he had been undercover and gone for almost two years, Tessa knew it was time to set both of them free. No longer a scared and timid little mouse, Tessa has blossomed, grown into her self-confidence and taken life by the horns on her own terms. Far from where they made their home and as much as she missed him, she knew she had done the right thing. Johnny wasn’t expecting a Dear John letter after two years undercover with the scum of the earth all that kept him going was the thought of coming home to Tessa. The only thing he could do was hunt her down, talk to her face to face and stand tall as her verdict is announced. Had he realized he truly loved her a little too late? Should he have told her? Can he win back her heart? Should he even try? What if she no longer needs him to protect her? Lily Everett’s CLOSE TO HOME is a wonderful romantic tale complete with the meddling old lady who knows far more than she even lets on. Tessa has remade herself, become a person capable of standing on their own two feet and she feels the pride of accomplishment deep in her soul. She would gladly take Johnny back on HER terms, but she is terrified that spelling them out would send him packing. Johnny has a hero complex, but his feelings for Tessa go far beyond being her caped crusader, he would do anything to get her back, but will she believe him? Sweet love, growing pains and a chance to fix the wrongs of the past, all bundled up neatly in Lily Everett’s own words that almost sing about love on each page! A second chance romance that proves that marriage takes love, commitment and nurturing to survive life’s little flies in the ointment. I received an ARC edition from St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest review.
4 - "Give us a month." Stars! Close to Home takes me back to one of my most favorite places; Sanctuary Island, this is the fifth book in Lily Everett’s captivating series. I absolutely adored Johnny and Tessa Alexander’s story, a couple who have been man and wife for years, but have never really lived as man & wife so much so that Tessa decides it’s time to up-sticks and make a fresh start for herself on Sanctuary while Johnny is deep undercover and knows nothing about it. "I’m not the meek, mousy weakling you married." This isn’t your standard romance in the respect that this is a married couple. But I liked that the author took their situation and ran with it. Tessa’s early life plays a huge part in the reasonings as to why they were married in the first place, and Johnny with the ghosts in his past and a massive hero complex, just cannot accept that she has moved on and no longer needs his protection, as such it takes him the length of the journey to arrive on the Island to decide he is going to win her back, but she’s not the girl he left behind, she’s a woman, and one who has been managing on her own very well, thank you very much. "I want to live. I want to love, and be loved." Their reconnection was sweet and poignant, both of them have secretly been lusting after the other the whole time they have been married, but it takes the threat of divorce for Johnny to step up and admit to his feelings. "You’re every fantasy I’ve had for years. Give me a chance to prove what kind of husband I can be…" There is a little suspense running through the plot as well as great inclusion from Marcus and Quinn, this is the couple who the next book in the series focuses on, and from what you see of their coming together in Close to Home and subsequent separation, I am expecting great things from their story Home at Last, which is due for release early March. "Sanctuary Island is pretty wonderful. I can’t imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else." I love this series, the Island, it’s inhabitants, it’s like taking a holiday in your mind while sitting on the periphery and watching a really good love story unfold. **This is a voluntary review of an advanced copy of the book.
This book is book 5 of Ms Everett’s series titled , Sanctuary Island. Whether you have read all , some , or none of the previous books, this book is for you. It’s a touching , heartbreaking and heartwarming story not only about Terri/Tessa and Johnny, but also about the quaint island and it’s inhabitants. Terri/Tessa and Johnny have been married for 8 years, but it was a marriage to rescue Tessa, so the marriage was never consummated. Johnny, an undercover agent, has kept himself busy because after a few years, he is sexually attracted to Tessa and doesn’t want to scare her. While Tessa, has developed the same feelings and loves him, but believes he considers her a charity case. She leaves town , goes to Sanctuary Island, re-invents herself and seeks a divorce, in order to set Johnny free. A rude awakening for him, when after an 18 month undercover stint he comes home and finds the house empty and is given the divorce papers. He goes to the island . Will both ever overcome their sadness, guilt, lack of trust and thus allow love to enter their lives? A reminder that whatever happens in our childhood and youth really does mold us as adults. A wonderful story and one that shows the shows us what a talented author Ms Everett is. I was gifted this book by Netgalley. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Loved this and loved returning to Sanctuary Island! This is a wonderful story of Tessa, a woman who loves her husband with her whole heart. She loves him enough to let him go so he can find a woman who will fill his heart. Johnny is a man who loves deeply but doesn't quite know how to show it. He thinks he's giving his wife what she needs but when he returns from an undercover assignment to find her gone, he has to face the fact that he needs to fight for her and show her exactly what she means to him. Their marriage may have started out unconventionally but anything worth having is worth fighting for. I highly recommend this one.
Johnny and Teri/Tessa – I have mixed feelings. The story is sweet and flows but I have trouble believing it could really happen. That said, it is fiction so it may not have to be believable? What I liked: * Tessa’s strength whether as Teri or as she has emerged as Tessa * Johnny’s kindness and caring * The supporting characters * The lead into Quinn and Johnny’s story (hope it is next) What I didn’t like: * The lack of true communication between Johnny & Teri during their eight years of marriage – had trouble believing their relationship could have been as it was for so long * The fact that Johnny was not willing to see that his time undercover impacted his behavior and he had things to work through – he did sort of figure it out, though * The easy resolution to many issues: marriage, where they would live, etc. * The twist that brought danger to Teri All in all this was a sweet second chance at love love story with likable characters and a HEA with a great lead into the next book. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC. This is my honest review. 3.5 Stars