Welcome to Hartwell, a quiet seaside escape where uncovering old secrets could lead one woman to discover the meaning of a love that lasts…
While Doctor Jessica Huntington engages with the inmates at the women’s correctional facility where she works, she’s always careful to avoid emotional attachments in her personal life. Loss and betrayal taught her that lesson long ago. But when she comes across a set of old love letters in the prison’s library and visits the picturesque town of Hartwell to deliver them to their intended recipient, she finds herself unable to resist the town’s charm—and her attraction to the sexy owner of a local bar proves equally hard to deny.
Since his divorce from his unfaithful ex-wife, Cooper Lawson has focused on what really matters: his family and the boardwalk pub they’ve owned for generations. But the first time Jessica steps into his bar, Cooper is beyond tempted to risk his heart on her.
Yet as their attraction grows hotter and Jessica remains stubbornly closed off, he begins to realize it will take more than just passion to convince her there’s only one real thing in life worth fighting for….
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Read an Excerpt
One of my favorite feelings in the whole world is that moment I step inside a hot shower after having been caught outside in cold, lashing rain. The transformation from clothes-soaked-to-the-skin misery to soothing warmth is unlike any other. I love the resultant goose bumps and the way my whole body relaxes under the stream of warm water. In that pure, simple moment all accumulated worries just wash away with the rain.
The moment I met Cooper Lawson felt exactly like that hot shower after a very long, cold storm.
The day hadn't started out all sunshine and clear skies. It was a little gray outside and there were definite clouds, but I still hadn't been prepared for the sudden deluge of rain that flooded from the heavens as I was walking along the boardwalk in the seaside city of Hartwell.
My eyes darted for the closest available shelter and I dashed toward it-a closed bar that had an awning. Soaked within seconds, blinded by rain, and irritated by the icky feeling of my clothes sticking to my skin, I wasn't really paying much attention to anything else but getting to the awning. That was why I ran smack into a hard, masculine body.
If the man's arms hadn't reached out to catch me I would have bounced right onto my ass.
I pushed my soaked hair out of my eyes and looked up in apology at the person I had so rudely collided with.
Warm blue eyes met mine. Blue, blue eyes. Like the Aegean Sea that surrounded Santorini. I'd vacationed there a few years back and the water there was the bluest I'd ever seen.
Once I was able to drag my gaze from the startling color of those eyes, I took in the face they were set upon. Rugged, masculine.
My eyes drifted over his broad shoulders and my head tipped back to take in his face because the guy was well over six feet tall. The hands that were still on my biceps, steadying me, were big, long fingered, and callused against my bare skin.
Despite the cold, I felt my body flush with the heat of awareness and I stepped out of the stranger's hold.
"Sorry," I said, slicking my wet hair back, grinning apologetically. "That rain came out of nowhere."
He gave a brief nod as he pushed his wet dark hair back from his forehead. The blue flannel shirt he wore over a white T-shirt was soaked through, too, and I suddenly found myself staring at the way the T-shirt clung to his torso.
There wasn't an ounce of fat on him.
I thought I heard a chortle of laughter and my eyes flew to his face, startled-and horrified at the thought of being caught ogling. There was no smirk or smile on his lips, however, although there was definitely amusement in those magnificent eyes of his. Without saying a word he reached out for the door to the quaint building and pushed. The door swung open and he stepped inside what was an empty and decidedly closed bar.
Okay for some, I thought, staring glumly out at the way the rain pounded the boardwalk, turning the boards slick and slippery. I wondered how long I'd be stuck there.
"You can wait out there if you want. Or not."
The deep voice brought my head back around. The blue-eyed, rugged, flannel guy was staring at me.
I peered past him at the empty bar, unsure if he was allowed to be in there. "Are you sure it's alright?"
He merely nodded, not giving me the explanation I sought for why it was alright.
I stared back at the rain and then back into the dry bar.
Stay out here shivering in the rain or step inside an empty bar with a strange man?
The stranger noted my indecision and somehow he managed to laugh at me without moving his mouth.
It was the laughter-filled eyes that decided me.
I nodded and strode past him. Water dripped onto the hardwood floors, but since there was already a puddle forming around the blue-eyed, rugged, flannel guy's feet I didn't let it bother me too much.
His boots squeaked and squished on the floor as he passed me; the momentary flare of heat from his body as he brushed by caused a delicious shiver to ripple down my spine.
"Tea? Coffee? Hot cocoa?" he called out without looking back.
He was about to disappear through a door that had Staff Only written on it, giving me little time to decide. "Hot cocoa," I blurted out.
I took a seat at a nearby table, grimacing at the squish of my clothes as I sat. I was definitely going to leave a butt-shaped puddle there when I stood up.
The door behind me banged open again and I turned around to see BRF (blue-eyed, rugged, flannel) Guy coming toward me with a white towel in his hand. He handed it to me without a word.
"Thanks," I said, bemused when he just nodded and headed back through the Staff Only door. "A man of few words," I murmured.
His monosyllabic nature was kind of refreshing, actually. I knew a lot of men who loved the sound of their own voice.
I wrapped the towel around the ends of my blond hair and squeezed the water out of it. Once I had rung as much of the water from my hair as I could, I swiped the towel over my cheeks, only to gasp in horror at the black stains left on it.
Fumbling through my purse for my compact, I flushed with embarrassment when I saw my reflection. I had scary black-smeared eyes and mascara streaks down my cheeks.
No wonder BRF Guy had been laughing at me.
I used the towel to scrub off the mascara, then, completely mortified, I slammed my compact shut. I now had no makeup on, I was flushed red like a teenager, and my hair was flat and wet.
The bar guy wasn't exactly my type. Still, he was definitely attractive in his rough-around-the-edges way and, well, it was just never nice to feel like a sloppy mess in front of a man with eyes that piercing.
The door behind me banged open again and BRF Guy strode in with two steaming mugs in his hands.
As soon as he put one into mine, goose bumps rose up my arm at the delicious rush of heat against my chilled skin. "Thank you."
He nodded and slipped into the seat across from me. I studied him as he braced an ankle over his knee and sipped at his coffee. He was casual, completely relaxed, despite the fact that his clothes were wet. And like me he was wearing jeans. Wet denim felt nasty against bare skin-a man-made chafe monster.
"Do you work here?" I said after a really long few minutes of silence passed between us.
He didn't seem bothered by the silence. In fact, he seemed completely at ease in the company of a stranger.
"You're a bartender here?"
"I own the place."
I looked around at the bar. It was traditional dcor with dark walnut everywhere-the long bar, the tables and chairs, even the floor. The lights of three large brass chandeliers broke up the darkness, while wall-mounted green library lamps along the back wall gave the booths there a cozy, almost romantic vibe. There was a small stage near the front door and just across from the booths were three stairs that led up onto a raised dais where two pool tables sat. Two huge flat-screen televisions, one above the bar and one above the pool tables, made me think it was part sports bar.
There was a large jukebox, beside the stage, that was currently silent.
BRF Guy nodded.
"What's the bar called?"
"Are you Cooper?"
His eyes smiled. "Are you a detective?"
"A doctor, actually."
I was pretty sure I saw a flicker of interest. "Really?"
"I'd hope so." I grinned.
Laughter danced in his eyes as he raised his mug for another sip.
Weirdly, I found myself settling into a comfortable silence with him. We sipped at our hot drinks as a lovely easiness fell between us. I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt that kind of calm contentedness with anyone, let alone a stranger.
A little slice of peace.
Finally, as I came to the end of my cocoa, BRF Guy / possibly Cooper spoke. "You're not from Hartwell."
"No, I'm not."
"What brings you to Hart's Boardwalk, Doc?"
I realized then how much I liked the sound of his voice. It was deep with a little huskiness in it.
I thought about his question before responding. What had brought me there was complicated.
"At the moment the rain brought me here," I said coyly. "I'm kind of glad it did."
He put his mug down on the table and stared at me for a long beat. I returned his perusal, my cheeks warming under the heat of his regard. Suddenly he reached across the table, offering me his hand. "Cooper Lawson."
I smiled and placed my small hand in his. "Jessica Huntington."
"Nice to meet you, Doc."
Two Weeks Earlier Women's Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility Wilmington, Delaware
"You know, if you go running into any more doors I'm giving you a vision test," I said dryly as I applied antiseptic to Mary Jo's cut lip.
She glowered at me but didn't respond, which was unusual. If only she'd use that kind of restraint with the other inmates she might stop running into so many "doors."
I dropped my cotton swab and took off my latex gloves. "Nothing more I can do here. You can sit in the ward for a half hour with ice on your eye. It should take some of the swelling down." I strode over to the small freezer in my clinic and took out an ice pack.
When I turned back to Mary Jo she was squinting at me with her good eye.
"How come you don't talk to us like we're trash? That older bitch speaks to us like we're trash."
I ignored her reference to my colleague, Dr. Whitaker, who worked part-time at the prison infirmary. She didn't peer down her nose at just the inmates; she considered everyone beneath her. And despite the fact that I was the primary physician and worked the most hours, she still consistently tried to tell me how to do my job. "Maybe because I don't think you're trash," I said, slapping the ice pack into Mary Jo's hand. I guided her hand over her eye.
I heard the suspicion in her voice.
Working as a prison doctor for the last two years had taught me a few things. One of those things was that most of the female inmates were suspicious of absolutely everyone and their motives.
"How come I don't think you're trash?"
I turned away to put the cotton swabs I'd used in the medical trash. The answer to that question was like the deepest root of a solid twenty-one-year-old tree-buried too far down to unearth it now without toppling the entire tree. "Mistakes don't make you trash." I pasted a bright smile on my face as I turned back to her. "You're good to go." I knocked on the glass pane of my door and the guard on duty, Pamela, nodded and strode over. She opened the door. "Doc?"
"Let Mary Jo sit in the ward for about a half hour with this ice on her eye, and then she's good to go."
"Sure thing. Come on, Mary Jo." Pamela ushered her out.
Once I was alone in my office again I sat down at my computer to update Mary Jo's record. I was just finishing up when there was a knock at my door.
Fatima marched in. Six foot one, proud, and physically fit, Fatima was like a warrior queen in a prison guard uniform. She was also a riot. I grinned. "What brings you here?"
She pulled a face and waved a dusty leather-bound book at me. "These girls have been watching too many movies." She sat down on my desk and flipped the book open.
Well, look at that.
The middle of the pages had been carved into, and sitting hidden in the hole was a makeshift shank. "That's a new way to hide a weapon."
"In Jane Austen," Fatima huffed. "They defiled Mr. Darcy for this shit. Don't they know that man is fine? No shank hole should be defiling such a gentleman."
I chuckled. "I don't think they care about how much of a gentleman Mr. Darcy is."
"See, that there is the problem. Instead of using library books to hide weapons, they should be educating themselves. No wonder they cut the freaking library budget."
"I heard they did that." I knew how much getting the women into the library, for reading groups and to teach them computer skills, meant to Fatima. "I'm sorry."
She sighed heavily. "Shit, I knew it was coming. I'll just make do with what I got. Anyhow, how was your date last night?"
"I told you it wasn't a date." Andrew and I didn't date.
She shook her head in disappointment. "You need your head checked. So does this idiot you're hooking up with. Nothing sweeter than coming home to your man after a long day at work."
I looked at the gold wedding band she was subconsciously touching. "That's not what you said last week when you were complaining about Derek forgetting to do the laundry, or the week before, when his idea of doing food shopping consisted of buying a year's supply of beer and Cheetos."
Fatima scowled at me. "Do you remember absolutely everything?"
"Noted." I laughed.
"Okay, so I want to kill Derek as much as I want to make sweet love to the man, but it's nice living with my best friend. You should get yourself one and kick that Dr. Commitment-Phobe to the curb."
"I told you, I like not being in a relationship."
She grunted at me like she didn't believe me, but the truth was I did like keeping things casual. I'd never had a serious relationship in my life. I came and went as I pleased. I made all the decisions in my life and got to live each day my way.
And on the days I got a little "fris-frisky" I had Andrew on speed dial.
"I'm setting you up." Fatima got up from the desk with determination. "How do you feel about chocolate?" She winked at me.
Laughing, I shook my head. "Chocolate is very nice, but right now I am happy with my casual dose of vanilla."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 stars-- THE ONE REAL THING is the first installment is Samantha Young’s contemporary, adult HART’S BOARDWALK romance series focusing on the people and places of Hartwell, Delaware. This is thirty-something surgeon Dr. Jessica Huntington, and bar owner Cooper Lawson’s story line. Told from first person (Jessica) and third person points of view (Cooper) THE ONE REAL THING is a small-town romance that follows our heroine Dr. Jessica Huntington as she embarks on a personal journey and a three week vacation to the seaside town of Hartwell, Delaware. As a physician working in a women’s prison, Jessica feels a connection to the ladies and sympathizes with many of their plights. When a vintage but destroyed copy of Pride and Prejudice crosses our heroine’s path she discovers four handwritten letters from a former inmate to a lover on the outside. What ensues is Jessica’s trip back to Hartwell, Delaware where she tries to reconnect the present with the past. Enter Cooper Lawson, the man who will steal our heroine’s heart, along with the town and people of Hart’s Boardwalk. But Jessica has a secret that if exposed could mean the end of her relationship with Cooper, and the friends that she has grown to love. The relationship between Jessica and Cooper is one of immediate attraction. Cooper has struggled since his divorce from his cheating ex-wife, and in this Jessica is something new and exciting in his life. Jessica is a woman who has stagnated and is unable to move forward; lost in both her personal and professional life. Meeting Cooper Lawson, and the people of Hart’s Boardwalk, finds our heroine falling in love with both the man and his town. The $ex scenes are intimate and romantic. We are introduced to a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including Jessica’s co-worker at the prison Fatima, and her current friends with benefits Dr. Andrew Livingston. We are introduced to a number of Hartwell’s small business entrepreneurs, family and friends including Cooper’s sister Cat and her son Joey, Hart’s Inn owner and town descendent Bailey Hartwell, Paradise Sands Hotel owner Vaughn Tremaine-who may or may not have a thing for Miss Bailey Hartwell; Iris and Ira who own the local Italian eatery, Emery Saunders book store owner, and Cooper’s ex-wife Dana who wants a second chance with our story line hero. There are several developing stories involving the businesses and owners along Hart’s Boardwalk, and the animosity and tension with the Devlin family who are in the process of trying to buy up all of the properties- a family with very close connections to Cooper and his ex wife. I did have some difficulty with the story line as well as the conflict as it pertained to Jessica’s secret. There was something missing in the presentation; the emotional depth and investment were lacking. Throughout the story our heroine refuses to divulge the truth about her past creating plenty of drama between Cooper and herself, so much so that Jessica is willing to walk away to protect the man with whom she is falling in love. Once the information is revealed I felt it lacked any sort of emotional impact. What I expected was heartbreak and tears but I felt distanced and a lack of enthusiasm when all was said and done. I think it was the toned down reactions of the other characters and the less than explosive disclosure that tempered my own emotions. THE ONE REAL THING is a slow building story line that introduces the people and p
Recommended . ..
I loved Jessica and Cooper’s story but I'm even more excited about what's to come in the Hart’s Boardwalk series because this was just so full of all these awesome details making me want more and more. I'm excited to see where it all will go. I am in love with this amazing cast of characters and this wonderful town. :-) Right off the bat I knew I was in for an emotional ride and I was right. This story had such a wonderful build as all of these incredible details and layers were introduced. I loved all the characters, they’re were all so intriguing. Everyone seems to have secrets and how it was presented just makes me want to know about all of them. So I am super excited for what’s to come. Cooper and Jessica had quite a courtship. She held things so very close to her chest, so closed off and scarred from things in her past. Watching her open up to Cooper and let her guard down was phenomenal. I thought the build to that moment was incredible. Coop was so wonderfully sweet and sexy. I loved how caring he was, how well he could read Jessica and how he was really there for her. They have some ups and downs but getting to that HEA was awesome. Cooper and Jessica had such an easy connection with fantastic chemistry and heat. It made me root for them right from the very beginning. I thought the writing was excellent, I loved the storyline, loved the imagery of Hartwell and the boardwalk. I love the details and descriptions. The characters seem so real, genuine and caring with flaws and imperfections. I also love the bad guy element that was happening and how it was incorporated. I love a good bad guy so I thought the conflict that was added was really great. I love what brought Jessica to Hartwell in the first place and how that comes around again. By the end I was doing my best not to cry. I honestly love how it all played out and it was presented. I thought this was a smart, emotional romance full of so much heart. Loved it! Complimentary copy received for honest review.
This review was written by Marie for a guest review post on Ever After Book Reviews blog: 5 Stars Samantha Young is a tremendous writer. Everything she writes is beautiful, real and emotionally charged. Every one of her books has drawn me in and hooked me. So when I found out she had a new series, I jumped on the opportunity…quickly. In The One Real Thing, Jessica, a quiet, introverted doctor, is working in a women’s correctional facility, where she finds a collection of unsent letters written by a previous inmate 40 years ago. Moved, Jessica seeks to find the rightful recipient of the letters and travels to a quaint little town of Hartwell. Here, she feels a sense of comfort and very quickly finds herself falling in love with the small community. She also finds a man that catches her attention – Cooper. From here, the book really picks up. Cooper and Jessica have tremendous chemistry and their friendship develops beautifully. Over a few back and forths, their relationship blossoms and it’s wonderful. They have a very tender and sweet relationship that very quickly becomes quite steamy! This is a very emotionally charged book that tests the strength of love and proves that laying it all out on the table is always very much worth the effort. ***I read and reviewed a paperback copy of the book gifted to the blog, from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
I thought the reason why Jessica ends up in Hartwell was unique and had me crying right from the first letter. While on vacation she becomes close to several store owners on the boardwalk, including Cooper. Jessica reevaluates her life after seeing how close knit the community is. Samantha Young’s writing is beautiful and brilliant. Jessica is strong and resilient. Cooper is successful, hot and has some mouth. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
I absolutely loved this book! The story and characters were engaging. The romance hot. I cannot wait to read more about Hart's Boardwalk.
I was lucky enough to win this book from Goodreads and really enjoyed it. There are quite a few loveable characters, a beautiful setting and of course a shady underhanded villain. The story centers on Jessica who is hiding a dark secret under her charming lovable exterior and it keeps coming between her and a happily ever after- will she ever be able to truly become one of the residents of Heartwell without truly letting them in?
★★★½ The One Real Thing is the first installment in Samantha Young's adult contemporary romance series titled Hart's Boardwalk. This story features likable characters with tortured pasts, the beauty of giving ourselves permission to start over, and a sensitive perspective of caring for other human beings who have made mistakes. The One Real Thing was pleasantly enjoyable but I was hopeful there would be more attention and substance given to the "found letters" component of the story. Overall though, I liked this book and will plan to continue the series. My favorite quote: "Sometimes life just doesn't work out the way you hoped and no matter what age you are there comes a time to change it."
I have so many conflicted feelings right now because I love Samantha Young’s books a whole lot, Before Jamaica Lane will forever be in my heart as one of the best books of all time, her writing always takes me to the places she describes and my heart fall for the people in that world but this time I was not swept away like I have been in the past and I feel so sad about it. Okay so I would like to start with the things that I liked, I liked the setting of the book a lot, I liked several characters if not most of them and the main male character was so well written. What I did not like was the main female character and I think that caused me to not enjoy the book fully, she kept getting on my nerves and sometimes that’s good because it helps me connect with a character but in her case it was just so annoying. There was a particular part of the plot that felt out of place for me, I’m not going to be specific here because of spoilers but I felt very uncomfortable by it because the characters that this particular twist involved never gave any inkling as to have that kind of behavior in them, I don’t understand where that was coming from, like I can understand their feelings but not their actions. The fact that I didn’t absolutely loved this book doesn’t mean I’m not going to continue on with the series, on the contrary, I’m very much looking forward to next one I think is going to be so so good.
I enjoyed book one in a stand alone new series I'm going to enjoy this.
The One Real Thing by Samantha Young is the first book in her brand new Hart's Boardwalk series. Told in dual POV with a happy ending, it is a beautiful story of love overcoming a dark past and troubling insecurities and a town coming together to best the bad guys. This story focuses on Cooper, the local bar owner, and a visitor in town, Jessica, who is looking to reconnect some old letters to their intended recipient. What Jessica finds is a small town that feels like home and friends she never knew she needed and learns she can't live without. Cooper has been burned before but he is pretty down to earth and doesn't let one persons mistakes taint his view (too much) of other people in his life. Jessica has been through hell and it doesn't show. She has had so many years to bury her past that it's only on the anniversary of her sister's passing that she can't keep it all blocked away. Unfortunately that coincides with her time at Hart's Boardwalk and Coopers arms and she starts to shut down again. This was such an engaging and beautiful story. A great introduction to Hartwell and all of it's inhabitants and I'm so excited to see that Bailey and Vaughn's story is next in the series.
Welcome to Hartwell, a quiet seaside escape where uncovering old secrets could lead one woman to discover the meaning of a love that lasts… While Doctor Jessica Huntington engages with the inmates at the women’s correctional facility where she works, she’s always careful to avoid emotional attachments in her personal life. Loss and betrayal taught her that lesson long ago. But when she comes across a set of old love letters in the prison’s library and visits the picturesque town of Hartwell to deliver them to their intended recipient, she finds herself unable to resist the town’s charm—and her attraction to the sexy owner of a local bar proves equally hard to deny. Since his divorce from his unfaithful ex-wife, Cooper Lawson has focused on what really matters: his family and the boardwalk pub they’ve owned for generations. But the first time Jessica steps into his bar, Cooper is beyond tempted to risk his heart on her. Yet as their attraction grows hotter and Jessica remains stubbornly closed off, he begins to realize it will take more than just passion to convince her there’s only one real thing in life worth fighting for…. Review: I have to say I love Samantha Young's books. I always lose myself in her books, I get hooked on the characters and what is happening with them. I could not put this book down once I started reading it. I was so entranced with everyone, but mostly Jess. I wanted to know her whole story from the beginning and once I found out the whole tragic past. That Jess would go out of her way to find a person from a letter 40 years later shows what a caring person she is. Speaking of the letters, I bawled like a baby reading Sara's letters to George. Actually, I cried a few times during this book, but I also felt a wide range of emotions reading the book so I know I emotional attached to the characters and story. I could go on about the story and relay every part, but I won't. What I will say that it is a well-rounded, complete and beautifully written story. Ms. Young did a good job of setting up future stories with the cast of side characters in this book. I really want to know Emery's story!! I see she is not next, but Bailey and Vaughn are that should be full of sexual tension if this book is any indication. 4Stars *I Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
✦Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: THE ONE REAL THING by Samantha Young http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-6nd Publication Date: September 6, 2016 Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated: 4 Stars REVIEW: The One Real Thing was a great start to Samantha Young's new romance series, The Hart's Boardwalk Series. I'm hooked and will be grabbing each book as they come out. Each book in this series will be standalones about different couples in this little seaside town Smanatha Young has created. The details and descriptions made me feel like I was in Hartwell and interacting with all the people who lived there. I loved Jessica and Cooper together. The romance was slow building, but steamy and the storyline drew me into the characters lives. I love this new town with unique and interesting characters. The One Real Thing was a beautifully written love story. I can't wait to visit Hartwell again when the next book comes out. *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.
This book was boring!