"The latest offering in the Darling, Vermont series is an emotionally poignant, can’t-put-it-down, opposites-attract tearjerker. A true treasure from page one to the beautiful, touching ending. Alward’s witty dialogue drives this powerful tale, but it’s her little boy costars and her paradoxical, damaged hero and heroine that make hearts sing and rule every page of this sweet and steamy love story." - RT Bookreviews Top Pick! on Someone to Love
SOME WISHES DO COME TRUE
Ethan Gallagher is a firefighter in Darling, Vermont, who followed tradition and pledged his love on the Kissing Bridge to ensure lifelong happiness. A few years later, he’s a widower with two rambunctious boys who no longer believes in magic. But even he has to admit that free-spirited Willow Dunaway fills him with wonder…and an attraction he cannot deny.
Willow’s come back to Darling a different girl than the one who left after high school. Overcoming her past and owning her own business has made her into a strong, independent woman. Single dad Ethan appeals to her in a way she didn’t expect, even though settling down is the last thing on her mind. But after fire destroys the local food bank, the town rallies, and a fling between Ethan and Willow leads to unintended consequences. Can they find a way out of their heartbreak to make a home in each other’s hearts?
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Someone to Love
By Donna Alward
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Donna Alward
All rights reserved.
Bright July sunshine soaked through Willow Dunaway's bamboo T-shirt as she took a bite of her veggie wrap. The lunch rush at The Purple Pig Café was over, and she'd snuck out for twenty minutes or so just to enjoy a bit of fresh air and a snack. The "Green," as the locals called it, was a park that ran alongside Fisher's Creek. The town kept the grass neatly clipped, flower beds watered and weeded, and had installed several benches both in the sun and in the shade of trees. Willow loved it. Sure, it was more manicured than wild and natural, but it was still calm and restful. Even when, like today, the tourists came to take their turn on the Kissing Bridge that spanned the creek, guaranteeing that their love would last forever. It was a cute, if somewhat silly, concept that played a major part in the town's economy.
Willow had been back in Darling, Vermont, for just over a year. After six years in Florida, she'd come back to northern climes and had to adjust to the change in seasons. She'd stayed through the cold winter, deep snow, frigid temperatures, and the ski season that brought downhillers to the inns and bed- and-breakfasts in town. Through the pale green of early spring, when the snow melted, tiny sprigs of grass poked up through the earth, testing to see if winter was truly over, and crocuses and snowdrops carpeted front yards with the first bursts of color. Through the warm, lazy summer beside the lake and a bright, cozy autumn filled with colors and the scent of fallen leaves in the air.
She'd liked living in Florida. And it had served its purpose. She'd had to get away — from memories, mostly. Someplace neutral where she could sort out her thoughts and feelings and get her feet beneath herself again. Clearwater had done that for her. But in the end, Darling had beckoned her back. And when she'd checked realty listings and noticed the café up for sale, she'd known it was time to come home. Now, a year later, some of the new- business pressure had eased as the café was a resounding success. For the first time in many, many years, Willow felt everything was just as it should be.
She took another bite of her wrap and watched a young couple trot along the path to the stone bridge, the town's number one tourist attraction. Willow had heard at least three versions of how the Kissing Bridge got its name, but there was one consistency in every single story: when a couple kissed on the bridge, it was said that their love would last forever. She thought it was cute, and she smiled a little as the pair reached the top of the arch, looked out over the sparkling creek, and then kissed.
On a less sentimental side, no one could deny the revenue the Kissing Bridge brought to Darling. Whether it was a simple kiss, a proposal, or posing for wedding pictures, the bridge was a huge draw. Heck, her best friend had just been married there a month ago. Laurel and Aiden had surprised everyone with the impromptu ceremony disguised as a publicity photo shoot for the town's new tourism campaign. Now the two of them were cozied up together in Laurel's house, acting like newlyweds. Willow missed seeing her friend, but she wouldn't begrudge Laurel this happiness for the world. She'd earned it.
The bridge kept The Purple Pig busy, too. Willow put the lid back on the container she'd used for the wrap and dropped it into her tote bag. She really should get back. There was supper prep that needed doing.
The couple on the bridge kissed again and stood with their arms around each other for a while. Willow watched for a few stolen seconds, feeling a wistfulness open up inside her. She hadn't had a real relationship in so long. She'd tried, once, in Clearwater. He'd been in her yoga class. An ex-soldier with a soft spot for animals and meditation. At first he'd seemed perfect. But then Willow had discovered that he carried even more baggage than she did. Instead of healing wounds, they'd ended up bringing each other down. Walking away had been the right, if painful, decision.
Life was good now. She had the business. She had good friends. She was at peace with a lot of things from her past, and those she wasn't, she'd at least accepted. She should feel perfectly happy. Not like there was something missing.
It was past two thirty, so she shouldered her bag and stood up, knowing her assistant manager, Emily, could use the help making sure things were ready for the supper rush. She'd just taken a step when a soccer ball came out of nowhere, bouncing between her feet.
She looked up and saw a boy, maybe five years old, running at her full tilt. "Whoa," she ordered, laughing. "Slow down, buddy."
"Sorry, lady." Brown eyes flashed up at her, full of boyish charm. He looked familiar somehow. Maybe he'd come into the café before or something.
"No worries," she replied, giving it a light kick with the side of her foot. "Here you go." He trapped it — rather expertly for such a small boy, she thought — beneath the toe of his sneaker.
The kid squinted against the sun as he looked at her. "How come your hair is pink?"
She laughed again, enchanted by his honesty. It wasn't the first time she'd been asked that question since she'd added the pink stripe. "Oh, I felt like doing something fun with it." She squatted down in front of him. "Do you like it?"
"It's all right, I guess. 'Cept I like green." He peered at her closer. "And you have a thing in your nose."
God, the little guy was charming. Dark auburn hair with just a hint of curl and eyes that were guaranteed to break a girl's heart someday. She pointed toward her nose. "My stud? It's a real diamond."
The boy's head shot up as a masculine voice called his name. "That's my dad," he said, biting his lip. "Sorry."
"It's okay. Have fun."
He smiled and turned around, only his dad was walking toward them with purposeful steps. Another boy, a little younger, raced behind, trying to keep up.
Willow stood and tried hard not to gawk. He was tall — over six feet for sure, and in jeans and a plain T-shirt she could tell he was in good shape. When he looked at her it was as if she'd suddenly taken a blow to her chest, pushing out all the air so she couldn't breathe. Even with the stern look on his face he was stunning in a rough way. Strong jaw, seriously blue eyes, and auburn hair, a little on the long side, unruly with a bit of natural curl. It wasn't hard to imagine him in shorts and cleats, sweaty from playing soccer. Or in a kilt, like one of those highlanders in the books she'd been reading lately.
She had to get a grip.
"Connor, it's time to go. Next time I tell you, you listen, rather than kicking the ball in the other direction, you hear?"
Alas, Willow thought with disappointment, there wasn't a hint of a Scottish brogue in his terse voice. The boy's face fell at his father's sharp tone ... Had it really been necessary for him to be so snappish? Any lingering romantic notions fizzled completely as she realized he was assessing her. From the look on his face, he didn't like what he saw.
Wait. He seemed familiar. He ... that was it. He was one of Aiden and Hannah's brothers. But which one? She frowned. She and Aiden were the same age. He had a younger brother ... Rory. Hannah was a few years older than Willow. And there were the twins and then ... that meant this was the older brother. Try as she might, she couldn't remember his name. What she did remember, however, was Laurel and Aiden's wedding reception. She'd caught the bouquet. He'd caught the garter. And he'd slipped it onto her calf in one of the most awkward, uncomfortable moments of her life. As soon as the elastic had snapped onto her leg, he'd extricated himself from the embarrassing situation. More like run away, a little voice in her head chided. As fast as he could manage it.
"Connor," he said, only slightly softer, "take the ball and your brother and go put your stuff in the backpack."
"Yes, Dad," Connor said, the earlier ebullience gone from his voice. "Come on, Ronan." He held out his hand and the other boy took it. Willow watched them and couldn't help the little smile that curved her lips. The brothers were cute, and it was clear that the younger one idolized the older. He had similar hair and eyes, but he looked up at his big brother like he ruled the world.
"They're very cute," she said, hoping the pleasant tone would ease the stern look on the dad's face.
"They're very energetic. And stubborn."
"Aw, don't be too hard on them." She tried smiling again. "It's a beautiful day on the Green. You can't blame them for wanting to play a little longer."
He was quiet for a moment. She saw his gaze slide over the pink streak in her blond hair, and a tiny lift of his eyebrow telegraphed his disapproval. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. People put color in their hair all the time.
"I'm Willow," she said, holding out her hand, determined to be polite.
"Of course you are," he replied, and he shook her hand. Briefly. "Laurel's ... friend."
Willow bristled at the dismissive way he said "friend." She kind of wished he hadn't opened his mouth. The fantasy of him being ... well, different, was pretty much gone. Instead she got the impression that he didn't know how to smile.
So she made her smile bigger and said, "And you're one of Aiden's brothers, right?"
That's right. Ethan. "I knew you looked familiar. It's the Gallagher hair and eyes."
His stern expression didn't change.
"Come on, it's a compliment. Hannah's gorgeous."
He sighed, then looked over his shoulder to check on the boys. "And she knows it, too. I'd better get back."
Wow. Would it have killed him to say thank you? "Me, too. I'd better get back to work."
"At The Purple Pig," he said.
She frowned. She was sure he hadn't been in before when she'd been working. "How did you know that?"
"It's on your shirt?"
His tone was dry and condescending, and he voiced it as a question so that the word "duh" echoed in her head. She'd forgotten she was wearing the T-shirt that the employees wore in lieu of a uniform. Her shirt today was lilac with a darker purple pig embroidered on the left chest. He could have pointed it out without being so rude. Aiden and Hannah were warm, friendly people. Ethan, it seemed, was cold and pretty unapproachable.
"Oh. Right." She was annoyed to realize that a stranger could make her feel small and a bit stupid, and so she couldn't resist coming back with a bright smile. Just because he was unfriendly didn't mean she had to lower herself to his level. "You should bring the boys in for a treat sometime."
His lips finally curved, but his smile was patronizing and not warm, as if he were saying, "Yeah, right." He wouldn't be the first to roll their eyes at the café's philosophy: local, organic, and fair trade food. Willow felt heat rise in her cheeks. It had been a long, long time since she'd allowed anyone to make her feel inferior, but Ethan Gallagher had managed it in a few short sentences and one down-the-nose look.
"The Pig isn't really my style," he said.
Yep. She was starting to feel sorry for his kids. Hopefully they had a kind and gentle mother who at least smiled once in a while. Something else twigged in her mind, from her conversations with Hannah and Laurel. Something about Ethan's wife. She really needed to start paying better attention.
"You'd better get back to your boys." Willow stepped back, done with trying to be nice. "Enjoy the afternoon."
She turned her back on him and walked away, her sandals crunching on the fine crushed gravel of the pathway. Her brows pulled together as she frowned. Resemblance aside, it was hard to believe that man was Hannah Gallagher's brother. Willow was pretty sure she couldn't have done a single thing to offend Ethan, but there'd been no warmth whatsoever in his manner.
She left the Green and walked the block and a half back to the café along Main Street, shaking off the encounter and taking deep breaths. There was a reason she'd come back here. Darling was, simply, home. The little shops, the small-town vibe of familiarity, the personal touches to the storefronts that showed care and pride. The buildings in the town center were more often than not constructed of reassuring red brick, with lots of white trim and colonial design. Color was added in the form of shutters and doors, and one of Willow's favorites was at the florist's, where the red door boasted a heart-shaped window, and the trim around it was painted with vines and leaves.
The Purple Pig stood out from several other businesses. The building itself was newer, a three-unit row-house constructed in much the same colonial style, but with siding instead of brick, and two large storefront windows. The Pig's siding was a muted shade of pink, with a white awning over the front door and the logo — a fat, curly-tailed, happy purple pig — painted on the bay window in the front.
It added a sense of whimsy to the street, to Willow's mind. As she approached it, thoughts of Ethan Stick-Up-His-Butt Gallagher faded away. Running the café was like her particular talents and philosophies finally all blended together into one perfect job.
A little bell dinged overhead as she stepped inside to the aromas she loved: cinnamon, chocolate, tea, bread. There were two kinds of soup on special today, and a variety of sandwiches, all handmade to order from fresh, organic ingredients. She planned the menus on a simple principle: nourishing the mind, body, and soul.
She stowed her tote in the office and put her apron on, returning to the front to help her part-time employee, Steven. Willow and her assistant manager, Emily, both agreed he was doing great, so she was going to increase his hours to full time in August. He could use the money for college and he was a fast learner. Plus he was a fantastic up-seller. If someone came in for a scone, he'd sell a bowl of soup with it. A sandwich? Have a tea and cookie to round it out. She wasn't sure how he did it, but customers had a hard time saying no to him. It showed in his tips, too.
He was currently making a turkey and cranberry sandwich for a customer, so Willow went to the next person waiting and took her order. It was Shelley Burke, a former nurse who spent a good deal of her time volunteering around town. Willow slid a blueberry scone into a bag and handed it over the counter along with a cup of licorice mint tea. "Here you go, Mrs. Burke. What are you up to today?"
"I just finished at the food bank." She smiled widely. "And tomorrow's book club."
"That sounds like fun."
"It is. We even talk about the book sometimes."
Shelley took the food and drink and frowned a little. "I wish you could join us, Willow. Maybe for next month's meeting?"
"We're right in the middle of tourist season. It's hard to get away." She genuinely felt disappointment at having to say no. The café kept her so busy that she didn't have much time for anything purely social, and a book club sounded like fun. The kind of thing you did when living in a small town. Then she had an idea. "But if you want to hold it here, I can set up a little area for you in the corner, and you can have tea and treats. Then maybe I can sneak in for some of the discussion. Just let me know what the new book is." Maybe that was something they could look into. Shouldn't a café be a gathering place too? And for more than the occasional Chamber of Commerce meeting.
"I'll ask the girls." Shelley smiled. "Thanks for the offer."
"See you soon," Willow replied, and she slipped the change Shelley had left on the counter into the tip jar.
Emily came through the swinging doors of the kitchen to the front of the café, two trays of baked goods in her hands. "Brownies and cookies coming through."
"Those smell delicious," Willow said, sliding open the display case.
"Black-bean brownies and honey-oat trail-mix cookies. The apple muffins are coming out shortly." Emily stood and brushed her hands down her apron.
Willow looked at Emily, and wondered yet again what it might be like if she joined the business as more of a partner rather than assistant manager. "Are you happy here, Em?"
"Are you kidding? I love it."
"I know the pay isn't great."
"It's the food service industry. I wasn't expecting to get rich." She laughed. "Good thing. Not that I'm asking for a raise or anything ..." Her eyes widened and a blush crept into her cheeks.
Willow laughed. "That's not what I was getting at. After the fall rush, we should sit down and talk. Think about expansion. Think about whether or not you want to join the business in a more permanent way."
Emily's face broke into a smile. "Oh my gosh. I'd love that. And I'm flattered. I have a bunch of ideas for the menu, and if we had more space ..."
"Slow down," Willow said, laughing again. "Let's get through the next few months first. We work really well together, you know? I'm sure we can come up with some great plans."
Excerpted from Someone to Love by Donna Alward. Copyright © 2017 Donna Alward. 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
Loved, loved this book of small town romance with plenty of emotions. An unlikely match between Ethan, a widower with two small boys and Willow, a free spirited person, who has her own secrets. Willow has returned home to open up her own little cafe, she is now very independent. Soon Willow and Ethan have a mutual attraction but want to take it slow, but can it be slow without broken hearts. This is the second book in the the Darling VT series but can be read as a stand alone. Love the family of the Gallaghers, very close knit. Willow brings out so much in Ethan and the boys, I just fell in love with. This story is packed full of emotions that will keep you turning the pages.
To say that Ethan Gallagher has his hands full is an complete understatement, between being a single father to two rambunctious little boys and putting in long hours at the fire station he has little time for himself or much of anything else for that matter. Losing his wife unexpectedly has certainly taken it's toll on the three of them, but little by little they are finding a way to meander through life and adjust to their new situation with the help of his family. The loss of his wife has left Ethan a hardened man, one who has completely lost his faith in love, and he has no desire to ever travel down that path again... but fate has other plans for him, now he just has to find the courage to embrace the one thing that scares him the most...love! After her world was turned upside down Williow Dunaway decided it was time to make a change, so she moved back home to Darling in hopes of having the life she has dreamed of for some time now, and to hopefully put a little peace back into her life. She had no intentions of looking for love, but it unexpectedly finds her, in the form of a brooding handsome man with demons of his own, and little by little these two rediscover themselves and find love in the process. Now they just have to find a way to keep their demons at bay, and let their love for one another prevail... This touching love story stirred my emotions, warmed my heart and renewed my faith in happily ever afters. From the moment I started it I found myself being pulled right back into lives of the folks from Darling, it feltas if I had never left them, and I have to say it turned out to be quite an enjoyable reunion. With each page I turned the more I became completely enraptured with Willow and Ethan's story, their path to finding one another was certainly a bumpy one, but I think that is what made it have such a realistic quality, one that was easy to connect to and believe in. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this one, it's been a while since I have read something that gave me the feels the way this one did, it definitely had me feeling the words!! I highly recommend you give this one a try, Ms. Alward's endearing characters are sure to pull you into their world and make you feel right at home... and score a special place in your heart! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this title.
I loved this one!! It has everything I love in a romance. Small town, close friends and family, lots of emotion, interesting H/h with a slow build romance between the two. Ethan and Willow seem to be the most unlikely people to find love in each other but they turn out to be just what the other needs. Ethan is grumpy and gruff, dealing with the loss of his wife and struggling with raising his two young sons he feels he has little to be happy about. Willow has dealt with her own sorrows in life but has chosen to find a way to bring peace, serenity and happiness to her life. Their story is full of bumps and twists and turns but in the end the road to their HEA seems clear. Definitely a recommended read.
Someone to Love by Donna Alward Darling VT #2 Grieving widower meets Zen yogini – or – the tale of opposites. Willow Dunaway and Ethan Gallagher strike sparks from the get-go. He finds her too different, too happy and too much when he meets her. She finds him a grouchy, mean, rude individual – even though his sons are charming. They meet a few times, talk a few times, spent a bit of time together and eventually the sparks of dislike turn a different kind of conflagration. A mistake was made and consequences occurred that the two had to face, find a solution to and then move forward from. The ending was a HFN and not a HEA but I have a feeling there could be a HEA for the two before the end of the series. Ethan was curmudgeonly and unkind in the beginning but did improve over time. His lot as a single parent was not easy but his family was there to help out when needed. I had the feeling that he was a good man changed by grief and that if allowed his true nature would eventually surface. He had loved deeply, he was a great father, he was a great brother and son SO the potential for him with a future partner is possible. Willow was, on the surface, always calm and in control with nothing phasing her. In reality that is not quite true. She has a past that pushed her into choosing a way to cope and yoga, meditation and going with the flow (to the best of her ability) was her coping mechanism. She is caring, empathetic and wonderful MOST of the time but when the sh*t hits the fan she loses her Zen abilities and ducks back into herself in a way that I understood but wished could have been avoided – but in reality we all have times in our lives when we lose it, don’t we? I felt much in this book. I found family to be central to the story – good and bad families, both. Friendship, communication and trust were also important. I did enjoy this book and look forward to reading more in this series. I am now wondering which Gallagher will have his or her story told next ;) Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC. This is my honest review. 5 Stars
Someone to Love is book 2 of Ms Alward’s series titled Darling, VT. I loved it. It is the story of widower Ethan Gallagher, a firefighter,and father of two young boys , who has still not recovered from the death of the love of his life. The other main character is Willow Dunaway, a seemingly free spirit, owner of the local bakery and some would say totally opposite of Ethan. But was she really? It’s a story about heartaches, heart wrenching moments, about what has happened in our youth and our past DOES mold us, and that sometimes the fears of what ifs might keep us from finding love. Truly a wonderful book and one that will touch your heart. Displaying how talented Ms Alward is. I was gifted this book by Netgalley. The opinions expressed are solely my own.