The "What If" Guy by Brooke Moss
What would you do if your "what if" guy showed up at the lowest point of your life?
(Autumn Cole clocked hers with an encyclopedia.)
After losing her job at a swanky Seattle art gallery and finding out her father has been hospitalized, single mother Autumn Cole reluctantly returns to her tiny hometown of Fairfield, Washington, to put the pieces of her life back together.
Her disgruntled twelve-year-old son isn't thrilled about going from hip to hick, but Autumn's got it worse. She resumes her role as the daughter of the town drunk, promptly facing a crisis with her father that's been decades in the making.
Running into Henry Tobler—and nearly breaking his nose in front of a classroom full of twelve-year-olds—is almost more than she can handle, but can rediscovering love–and herself–with her "what if" guy teach Autumn to forgive before it's too late?
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The "What If" Guy
By Brooke Moss, Tracy March, Caroline Phipps
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Brooke Moss
All rights reserved.
Thirteen years later
"Well, if it isn't Little Miss Big City herself. You got yourself a flat tire, dontcha?"
I cringed. I hated when people pointed out the obvious. Unfortunately, on this particular road, in this particular county, blatant observations tended to be even more antagonizing.
At least they were to me.
My bitter thoughts matched my mood as I stood on the side of the road. Looking up from my cell phone, which didn't have coverage clear out here in rural eastern Washington, I almost smiled. Despite my predicament, I appreciated the striking contrast between the sharp, azure sky and the rolling, golden wheat fields.
"Well, do ya?" Ray Fisk leaned his head out the window of his dented Chevy truck to get a better look at my flat. Never one to miss a spectacle, his wife, Ramona, slid across the seat toward Ray and craned her neck.
I nodded and forced myself to smile, sweat drizzling down my back. My slacks and sweater had been appropriate for the cool, blustery, October morning in Seattle. Not so appropriate for standing in the unseasonably warm breeze on the side of the two-lane highway that led into Fairfield, Washington.
"It's flat, alright," I said.
Ray squinted at me in the late afternoon sun. "Seems you blew a tire."
Again, with the obvious.
"I thought I could limp all the way to town, but apparently not." I frowned at my deflated tire. "I tried calling my dad, but ..."
I stared at Ray meaningfully. No doubt, the Fisks were still the town's gossips and knew why I couldn't reach my dad.
Ray nodded and smiled, his teeth tobacco-stain yellow. "It's five o'clock. Cheese fries and dollar beers at Smartie's."
I grimaced. "Right."
Why would the return of his daughter after fourteen years keep Billy Cole home when there were flat beer and frozen Ore Ida fries covered in Velveeta waiting? Forget the fact that he'd just been released from the hospital this morning. He should have been at home, resting. But my father wasn't known for his good judgment.
I looked in my open car window and asked my son, "You all right in there?"
Elliott's horn-rimmed glasses had slid down his nose, and his expertly tousled hair drooped in the heat. "How long are we going to sit here?"
Twelve-year-olds had no patience. Elliott was no exception. Especially when the batteries in his Nintendo DS had long since died, and he could no longer text his friends because we were out in the hinterlands.
"Working on it." I faced the Fisks. "Do you mind helping me change the tire? I can't even lift my spare."
Ray raised his baseball cap and smoothed his salt-and-pepper hair. "Well, I hurt my back at the grain elevators a few years ago, remember?"
"She doesn't remember, dear." Ramona touched his arm. "She left town, and not many folks have heard from her since."
Ramona was right. I'd left my hometown of Fairfield, Washington, two months after graduating from high school, where my class had consisted of a whopping forty-six students. I'd gone off to art school in Seattle — three-hundred-and-thirty-three-point-six miles away from Fairfield, not that I'd ever counted.
And no, I hadn't kept in touch. Not until recently, when I'd answered my phone and heard Smartie Guire's raspy voice on the line. Smartie had found my cell number in my dad's wallet. He said that my father had taken a spill in the garage behind the house where I'd grown up. Apparently, he'd lain on the floor for twenty-two hours before his neighbor had come over to see why her cats wouldn't stop scratching at the garage door. My father had spent a couple of days in the hospital and been discharged today.
Smartie had figured it was finally time I knew about my dad's declining health. And since I was the only child of my parents' dysfunctional union, taking care of him was my responsibility.
I admit that I'd put off my reunion with my father for far too long. During the fourteen years since I'd left Fairfield, Elliott and I had come back once, for Christmas. After that, I'd sent the occasional holiday card, and made a brief phone call each year around Father's Day. It had been a long time, yet here I was, almost back in Fairfield, Washington. Population: five hundred. Yes, I said five hundred.
"People always wondered where you'd gotten off to — why you didn't stick around," Ramona said.
My initial instinct was to remind her that living under the small-town microscope as the daughter of the town drunk hadn't enticed me to stay, but that was a moot point. I gave her a tight-lipped, fake smile. "I'm back, now."
"Ya know," Ramona said, leaning across her husband, "Ray was pinned by Jensen's rig and hasn't been able to lift a box in years. And don't you think for a second that lug nut mechanic, Tom Jensen, gave two hoots about it. No siree, he couldn't have cared less. In fact, he told people he thought Ray was milkin' it for sympathy's sake. Anybody who knows Ray knows what a pile of hooey that is. So I stopped sellin' Tom smokes at the store, on accounta he ran his mouth so much. Plus, he shouldn't be smokin', anyway. His dad died of lung cancer, and for Pete's sake, his mother is on oxygen now, too."
"Good lord, woman." Ray pulled a crumpled package of Camel non-filters out of the front pocket of his T-shirt. He lit a cigarette, then glanced at me sideways through the smoke plume. "What she's trying to say is, I can't change the tire for you because I'm in traction at night. Plus, my tire iron's been missing since Dwight borrowed it. Damn fool couldn't return something if his life depended on it. But we can give you two a ride into town."
That's just great. I thanked the Fisks and pulled our suitcases out of my car.
"Hey, look alive," I said to Elliott. "We're catching a ride into town. Grab your bag, and we'll come back for the rest tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? Can't Grandpa bring us tonight?"
The familiar shame and embarrassment caused by my father crept in. Well, son, Grandpa can't bring us back tonight because by the time we get to Fairfield, he'll be half-crocked and probably on the verge of getting his butt kicked for vomiting on someone's shoes. Again.
"He's busy," I said. "He'll help us tomorrow. He works better in the mornings, anyway."
Elliott scowled at me. "Whatever."
I returned the scowl and gestured at the back seat.
Elliott dragged his bag to the back of the Fisks' pickup.
"Hello, there," Ramona said to him.
"Hey," he mumbled.
Baggage stowed, we stood next to the truck. "Elliott, this is Ray and Ramona Fisk."
Ray spat through his open window onto the pavement. "Where's your dad, young fella?"
My stomach leapt into my throat. "It's just Elliott and me," I said quickly. The Fisks exchanged a knowing glance. I narrowed my eyes.
"Well, you sure don't look like your mom," Ray said.
I ignored Ray's inappropriate remark, even though he was right. Elliott had his father's eyes and dark, unruly hair. I had fairer skin, with a smattering of freckles, and defiant, red hair that was hovering above my head in the static-electricity-charged air.
My son blinked at me with wide eyes.
"The Fisks own the store." I said.
"Which one?" Elliott asked.
"The only one in town, son." Ramona snorted and jerked her thumb at the back seat. "Get in."
"Your chariot, sir." I opened the squeaky door of the pickup, trying to provoke a smile from Elliott.
"There's only one store?" he whispered, panic-stricken.
"Count your blessings," I muttered, hoisting myself in behind Elliott. "It's not fishing season, so they won't be selling night crawlers in the cheese cooler."
* * *
The Fisks dropped us off at Smartie's, conveniently located directly across the street from Fisk's Fine Foods. No doubt, Ramona would watch the goings-on through the front windows of the store.
I stood on the sidewalk amid our suitcases, pulse racing, my country upbringing coming back to me in flashes. The scraped knees when I'd wrecked my bike outside of the post office. My first kiss outside of the little library. Evening walks to Smartie's to pick up my father because he'd been too drunk to drive home.
The main street looked exactly how I remembered it. A few cars were parked along the road, which was old and patched with mismatched squares of pavement, rolling down a slight hill to railroad tracks that trains hadn't traversed in twenty-plus years. The brick buildings appeared tired and worn beneath layers of dull paint and hastily caulked cracks. Several of them had collected a thick coating of dirt on their windows from the passing grain trucks and now rotted like forgotten dog houses in a back yard. The air was still and silent.
Elliott looked around warily. "Where's Grandpa?"
I gazed at my son. In just a day, he had gone from the energy and excitement of Seattle to a town where every business — except Smartie's — closed at five o'clock. Elliott looked lost standing there, silhouetted by the setting sun.
I ruffled his hair and tipped my head toward the seedy-looking bar we stood in front of, bright neon beer signs shining in the windows. "He's in there, buddy."
Elliott raised an eyebrow. "The bar?"
My son had seen me drink an occasional glass of wine, but I made sure he never saw anyone drunk. I tried hard to protect him from all of the ugliness I'd seen growing up.
I glared across the street at Ramona, who'd made pretty quick time of getting into Fisk's and situating herself near the window to watch the show. "You wait here. I'll go get Grandpa."
"I can't come in?" He looked around and gnawed his lip.
I would never have left him standing alone on the sidewalk outside a bar in downtown Seattle at dusk. But this wasn't Seattle. In the five minutes we'd been standing here, not a single car had passed, and the only sound was the frogs croaking in the creek that trickled through the park nearby.
I pressed a kiss to his head. "Sorry, El."
"I went into bars all the time back home," he grumbled.
"Those were called bar and grills, hon."
He hung his head.
"And this is home for now."
Elliott enunciated his words, slowly and concisely. "This isn't my home."
I winced. This puny little farming community was like no home he'd ever known. Elliott had grown up surrounded by galleries and music halls. But I'd fallen victim to the economy eight months ago, and lost my job at the posh art gallery I'd managed in downtown Seattle. We'd lost almost everything during my unsuccessful search for employment, including our cute loft-style apartment, most of my nicer belongings, and ultimately, Elliott's position in the private fine arts school I'd worked overtime to send him to. For the past three years, he'd played cello in the school orchestra. He wore hats and ties and black Converse tennis shoes. I'd brought him to the land of Wranglers, boots, and flannel.
"This is temporary, honey," I said. "We just need to make the best of it until Grandpa is back on his feet." And we're back on ours.
I ducked inside Smartie's.
I bristled. The crackly voice sounded like a chainsaw on idle, just as it had over the phone. I didn't have to know Stanley "Smartie" Guire to deduce that he'd done some hard living for the past forty years.
I hadn't been referred to as "Auto" in a long time, and the nickname didn't conjure fond memories. I'd been given the name Autumn Ann Cole because I was born on a crisp Halloween night. My father had wanted to name me Martha, after his mother, but he'd missed my birth. He had passed out from over-celebrating Halloween with his friends and hadn't been able to drive my mother to the hospital. Eight years later, my mom had left and never come back. My father had promptly shortened my name to Auto, even though it infuriated me.
"Hello," I said. I had spent many a night walking down the hill in the dark to fetch my father — so often that Smartie had stopped nagging me about minors not being allowed in his fine establishment long before I'd hit fifteen. You acquire certain rights and privileges when you're the town drunk's daughter.
Smartie's was filled with farmers, still dirty from spending their day in the fields, and the men who worked at the grain elevators, equally filthy and tired-looking. They sat, sucking on dark beer bottles, vacantly watching football on the tiny television propped between liquor bottles on the counter behind the bar.
"Good to have you home." Smartie pointed to the corner of the bar, near the wall of small, brightly lit pull-tab gambling machines that distributed small, instant lottery tickets that the patrons at Smartie's enjoyed so much.
My dad sat slumped, his head resting on the bar among a scattered pile of discarded pull-tabs, a half-empty beer mug, and an ashtray containing a lit cigarette burning precariously close to his thinning, reddish-blond hair. I thought he was asleep, but then realized he was mouthing the words to the country song playing on the jukebox. He wore a grayed shirt, untucked, and had at least a couple of days' dirt under his fingernails. His face appeared ashen beneath his whiskers.
The air escaped my lungs. I barely recognized my own father.
Smartie shook his head. "Won't work. You gotta shake him."
I nodded, my face heating with a mixture of shame and gratitude. "Thanks." I pushed on my father's bony shoulder and shouted, "Wake up."
His bloodshot eyes popped open. "Whaught?"
"Hi, Dad." I tried to smile. "We're here. Elliott is waiting outside."
"Auto?" He sat up, a pull-tab stuck to his temple.
I plucked it off. "Did you forget?"
Smartie appeared before us, rubbing the counter with a dirty towel. "He didn't forget. He was in here celebrating your arrival."
I glared at Smartie. "Shouldn't he be at home? What did the doctors say?"
He shrugged, a hint of sympathy in his eyes. "Got no idea. When I got to the hospital this morning, he was waiting out front."
I sighed. "Thanks for picking him up."
I took my dad's arm — tanned deep bronze from working outside every day. Beneath my grip, his skin stretched over his bones, little muscle mass left. "Let's go home, Dad."
"S'Elliott here, tshoo?" My dad slid his stick-figure frame off the bar stool.
Good lord, he's gotten thin. I held on to his arm, steadying him.
When I was a kid, people had feared Billy Cole. He'd been six-foot-three and had cut slits up the sleeves of his shirts to make room for his muscular arms. But forty years of hard drinking had changed him. His chest no longer filled out the front of his shirt, but was concave down to his small, protruding belly. His face and neck had turned red, his nose swollen and lumpy, just like my grandfather's.
An unexpected wave of sadness washed over me. He no longer looked like the father I remembered. I found myself wishing that Elliott and I had come to see him more often, that I had made an effort to reconnect. Or, more accurately, to connect for the first time. I didn't recognize my father, and I didn't know him. And I wasn't sure we had much time left with him.
I gestured to the door. "Elliott's waiting outside."
"Elliott," he crowed, as I led him to the door. "Whereyouat, kid?"
Outside, Elliott stared at us, wide-eyed. "H-hey, Grandpa, what's up?"
My father looked nothing like the picture I'd kept on our mantel for years. In that picture, a robust version of my dad beamed, a fly-fishing rod in one hand, a rainbow trout in the other. The man standing in front of Elliott was haggard, dirty, and swaying back and forth. Even outside of the bar, my father smelled acidic.
"Is thish the kid?" My father's voice echoed between the buildings.
"Elliott, why don't you grab the suitcases? Dad, I need your keys." I cast a dirty look at Ramona, who still watched us from the window of Fisk's, now with a phone pressed to her ear.
I could barely understand his slurred speech. "I need to get you home, Dad. Didn't the doctor tell you to stay in bed?"
He waved his leathery hand. "Damndoctorsareidiots."
I pinched the bridge of my nose, feeling a headache settling in. "Elliott is starving, I'm extremely tired, and you need to go sleep this off." I nudged him toward his worn out Datsun, parked nearby.
"Whadthehelliswrongwishyourcar?" He dug into the pocket of his jeans and retrieved his keys.
Excerpted from The "What If" Guy by Brooke Moss, Tracy March, Caroline Phipps. Copyright © 2013 Brooke Moss. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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
This book was so amazingly good that I don't even want to write a review. Because there is no way I can fully capture the awesomeness that is The "What If" Guy with my lousy words. This fantastic book is all up in my relationship lovin' grill and I ATE! IT! UP! I cried people, I cried like four separate and distinct times. CRIED! The last time I cried while reading a book was 1987! Seriously, it was when I read Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead. I just.just.*squee* I don't have much more than that. Brooke Moss rocked the relationships. Autumn + her son, Elliot = WIN! A wonderful relationship that shows how a single parent can succeed, underscoring the sacrifices a woman on her own has to make. It made me proud of my single mom friends and made me even more thankful for my amazing husband who is my dream come true. Autumn + her father, Billy = WIN! This was a heart-wrenching, honest look at a tough relationship. Moss tackled the consequences of alcoholism head on, both the physical and emotional. It really was heartbreaking and touching. Autumn + her best friend, Holly = WIN! There is really nothing, nothing, that can compare to a best friend. Autumn burned quite a few bridges when she left her small town for college in the big city. Then shame and embarrassment cut the rest of the ties she might have had with Holly. But Holly embodies the heart of what friendship is. I have a friend like that and I treasure her - the sister of my heart. I wish a friendship like this for all women everywhere. Autumn + Henry = WIN! First I have to say that Henry Tobler is the MOST unlikely hero name I have ever read. And I was prepared to judge. Silly, stupid me! This man was was flawed, gentle, strong, smart, and totally, completely squee worthy. This entire relationship was filled with so many wild ups and downs I had some head spinning going on but with a date and a night 13-years in the making was drool worthy. The book was also scattered with small relationships that at first didn't necessarily mean too much but in the end, when Moss pulls the camera back and shows us the whole picture.every single, last one added to the whole. There was some sex stuff but I honestly can't remember it enough to squee or drool because I was so involved in the actual relationship between Henry and Autumn it was not a stand out scene. Like an honest relationship it was a part of the whole. This book pushed every single relationship button I have and ones I didn't even know where there. Once I actually started reading it I could not put it down. Brooke Moss, you've made a life time fan and have been added to my auto-buy list. You made me laugh, cry, and sigh. My heart fluttered, I gasped, I got mad and confused. You pulled emotion out of me with a surgical precision that I found stunningly beautiful. Thank you.
I LOVED IT!!!!! My husband sure did give me a lot of funny looks while I was reading it though! I was laughing out loud, crying...getting mad! LOL Can't wait for more books by Brooke Moss ;)
I don't do summaries - if you want the summary, you can check out the book or see below. But I will review this sucker! To preface this, I met the author at a local RWA chapter meeting and found her quite delightful. She told me about her book but didn't push anything on me. When I Kindled it (yes, I love that thing), I started reading, unsure of what to expect. I mean, let's face it, that cover is UNREAL! Absolutely gorgeous. I was worried that the story inside wouldn't hold up to it. But hold the phone! I was so enraptured by the characters, I didn't get off the treadmill for a lot longer than I had planned (most reading is on the treadmill). My butt thanks this book! But seriously, the conflicting emotions this book created had me talking about it to people I haven't discussed books with in a while. At one point, I was literally laughing through sad tears. Seriously? What the heck? Yes, it is great characterization, plot reinforcement and mushy love stuff all rolled into one! And I LOVE mushy love wrapped around the word romance. Brooke Moss did a great job threading a simple, engaging plot with a large variety of subplots which enriched her characters without a lot of baggage and gave them a multi-faceted gleam - like a diamond! Great job, Ms. Moss. I can't wait for more.
I was hooked from the first page, to the last! I was sad when it ended! I laughed, cried, got butterflies, & got frustrated! I felt like I was right there in that little town with them!!
Reviewed by KateReview copy provided by Entangled Publishing as part of "The What If Guy" blog tourI wanted to read this story because of one of the first lines in the blurb ¿ `Autumn Cole clocked hers with an encyclopedia.¿ After accidentally hitting my husband with a 2x4 (among other things¿and all totally accidental, I swear), I could relate! The opening language had me completely hooked (see Favorite Quote), but I didn¿t have my hopes up for the language and style to continue. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Brooke Moss¿ The ¿What If¿ Guy was not all humorous, but also very poignant and managed to capture various emotions so perfectly, you felt like you were talking with your best friend and seeing her heartache. Autumn Cole is a single mom who just lost her job in Seattle and is heading back to her small hometown, the place she vowed never to return. I could identify with her character and the need to not return to a small town upbringing, once you have been to the `outside¿ world. The author did a wonderful job of capturing that small-town mentality, where everyone knows everybody else¿s business, whether you want them to or not. Autumn¿s character ran away, and now has to go home and face the music of her actions; such as, when she didn¿t want her best friend to know she had become pregnant and had to drop out of school. Because of her `shame,¿ Autumn never spoke to her childhood best friend, Holly, since then. All of the characters in this story are perfectly drawn. The forgiving best friend, who opens her heart and welcomes an old friend back home, as if nothing had happened. The couple who own the local store and know everything that is happening in the small town of Fairfield. The town drunk, who learns before it¿s too late that family is important. The local school teacher who comes from San Francisco with big ideas that help those students who don¿t quite fit in. The student who is a little bit `odd¿ but learns to fit in as well as stand up to the local bullies. The woman who comes home, in more ways than one. The characters are all a little different, which is so refreshing to see. There is nothing worse than reading a book where everyone has the same speech pattern, and you get no sense of who they are as an individual. That is definitely not the case here. This being said, it is more of a character-driven storyline, than one based on a prescribed plot. It is the story of a woman going home and what she finds there. Having been conditioned by so many plot-driven contemporary romances, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were. There were a few shoes placed lightly on the floor, but nothing too shocking or that throws the story completely off-kilter, making you wonder if they will ever get together. I actually enjoyed the change quite a bit! It wasn¿t cliche, it was a story of people. The `What If¿ Guy by Brooke Moss is now one of my favorites, and one that I would heartily recommend. The language was wonderful and the story flowed at a perfect pace. It¿s rare to come across a book were the ending didn¿t seem rushed. The word that comes to mind (again) is poignant. This reader felt a part of Autumn¿s world and her story, feeling her pain and her wonderment. I wanted to sit down and share a plate of Haystacks with Holly and Autumn, have them as my best friends. Quote: "The desperate, sad look in Henry¿s eyes made my heart ache. His brown hair fell across his forehead in rain-soaked waves, and his eyelashes gathered in dampened clumps. Henry¿s eyes, the same shade of gray as the weeping clouds above us, searched my face for answers I was too ashamed to give." (opening of the story)
"Get in the truck." Edward fell onto the bed of the truck as his guard's foot kicked his back. He looked around, seeing the person-sized boxes stacked neatly. The guard grabbed Edward's braid as tossed the blonde into a box. Edward fought back, pushing as hard as he could against the top, but it was nailed down. Three holes appeared in the top, giving Edward a place he could breathe. The gag over his mouth was unhelpful, as was the chains encircling his arms. The guard scowled and walked to the front of the truck, wearing civilian clothes to blend in. His real name was Donovan, and he hated his job as a terrorist, but it payed well. He had to say his job was to make coffins, and this was a load with corpses. Donovan thought it was cruel to kill a State Alchemist, whether he deserved it or not. Most of the others lost everything in the war, back when this boy was a small child. Donovan sighed, then revved up the engine and drove off. •••••••••••••••••••••• Alphonse trudged through the woods, fuming, when he heard an engine. A guy in a truck was driving on the main road, and Alphonse waved him down. "I'm sorry to bother you, but can I get a ride?" Alphonse asked politely, and the man nodded. Alphonse climbed in next to him, and they rode in silence. "Aren't you the missing State Alchemist's brother?" The man asked. Alphonse nodded a silent reply. "I'm sorry. He's so young, and he didn't deserve any of what's happening. I'm Donovan, by the way." "Alphonse. And Brother can be a bit of a hot-head, but he always finds a way out of things like this..." Alphonse trailed off. "Kid, I'm sure your brother is fine. He probably already broke free and is running around looking for you." Donovan said reassuringly, smiling at Alphonse. "Now, where to?" ••••••••••••••••••••• Edward lay in the box, dead silent as the blood rushed to his head. The guard had told him in the hallway that this was going against his orders, so he should be quiet. Edward was confused. A terrorist, one of the people who KIDNAPPED him, saving his life? Edward felt woozy, but heard a familiar voice. "-hot-head, but he usually finds a way out of things like this..." Al. Edward tried kneeing the box, but something heavy was on top of it. Instead, Edward was listening to his younger brother talk to his captor. Apparently Alphonse was going to Resembool, and his guard, who introduced himself as Donovan, was going to another place in the Eastern sector. Edward saw spots dancing in front of his eyes, and he couldn't stop himself from falling into unconciousness. •Authors note: Thanks for reading! I introduced you to a new OC of mine, and I answered the questions that were unansweted in the third chapter! But what plans does Donovan have for our young alchemist? Will Alphonse realize that his older brother is with him? Is Donovan really a good guy? These answers may be found in the next chapter! Found at the next res! Thanks! Tschus! ~TheFullmetalHomunculus~•
Autumn returns home to Fairfield with her son Elliot to nurse her father back to health and get her life back on track. The last thing she expected was to run into her ex-boyfriend, Henry, the only man she ever loved. Although this is mainly a Romance, it encompassed so much more. Brooke Moss brought to the page a heart warming story about friendship, family and second chances. From the start, I was drawn into the story and its characters. A funny and strong-willed single mother, Autumn felt like a friend to me and reading her story was both entertaining and painful. I found myself laughing at her antics and inner musings, but also crying with her and for her. She truly was an incredible character to get to know. Henry was adorable and infuriating. Although at times I wanted to get inside his head, I don't think that I missed much, since Brooke Moss did a great job of letting me see Henry's personality and emotions through Autumn's eyes. He was thoughtful, funny and completely adorable. Brooke Moss introduced a wonderful cast of secondary characters that added to the story in their own right. I enjoyed the camaraderie between the townsfolk, the gossip mill and how they all pulled together for a common cause. I especially liked Holly and how she and Autumn renewed her friendship. All in all, The "What-If" Guy was a great romantic story about letting go, taking chances and accepting new beginnings. Add a pair of complex, interesting main characters, a cast of quirky neighbors, humor and range in emotions and you've got yourself a wonderful read.
Rating 4.5 Stars Well, I got a chance to read The "What If" Guy by Brooke Moss. This delightful read is about to be re-release this coming week. I'm seriously really enjoyed the book. Have you ever wonder if the guy you left behind was the "one"? Well, Autumn Cole has always thought of Henry Tobler after leaving him. She never thought she would see him again, funny how fate intervenes in her life. Yes, I did enjoyed this story. The "What If" Guy has a lot of emotional tension. The tension tends to circle around Autumn and her dynamics between her son, her father, and Henry. Coming back to her hometown hasn't been an easy transition. I loved the dynamics between each of her relationship with the men her life. So, you watch Autumn deal with rebuilding a relationship with her son. Which happens to be a rocky relationship since leaving Seattle. She slowly rebuilds what they had before. Then you have a damage father-daughter relationship that is in desperate repairs before her father dies. I think that was one of the most emotional parts of the story. Finally, Henry. Now this is a complicated relationship with all the "I want you, but I can't right now." Overall, an emotional read. With a lot of dynamics between the important characters in the story. I adore the story, because it was written in such a fantastic way. I mean Ms. Moss was able to keep me captivated with the whole story. I really didn't want to put the story down. So, if you are looking for an emotional good read, I would suggest The "What If" Guy. Copy provided by the publisher
My Review: I really liked this book, but it's not one of those books that I can necessarily pinpoint the "why" for that. This is a contemporary novel with a lot going on with the heroine, Autumn. The story starts with a prologue that takes place 13 years prior to when the book actually takes place. She is breaking up with the love of her life, Henry, whom she has only been dating for two months, but it has been a magical two months. They are in love, but she has just discovered that she's pregnant by the guy that she hooked up with before meeting Henry. The break-up breaks both of their hearts, but to her mind, there is no alternative. She's pregnant with someone else's baby so she needs to make a go at that relationship. Now it's 13 years later, and she has come home eight month's after losing her job running an art gallery after the economic downturn. She is coming home with her 12 yo son who is not happy about moving. The relationship with his father never worked out so she has always been a single mother. Her father, whom she has only seen once in the last 10 years, is an alcoholic and very sick so she is home to take care of him and to get back on her feet. When Autumn dated Henry, they were living in Seattle, so you can imagine her surprise when she walks into her sons new classroom and discovers that his teacher (in this town of 500 people) is Henry, her true love that she destroyed. There is so much going on with Autumn, but it's a great story. There is a lot of depth to it and a lot of aspects of the story which I really loved. I adored Henry although his signal were so confusing that it became a bit frustrating. My one issue with this story was that the characters, even at the very end, did not know how to communicate which had already kept them apart for 13 years. I just felt like there should have been more growth in that aspect of their relationship over the years. I loved Elliott, Autumn's son. I can just imagine how hard it would be for an artistic pre-teen to settle into a small town. I thought that Brooke Moss wrote his character really incredibly well. I also really loved the arc of the relationship between Autumn, Elliott, and her father. That relationship has a TON of reasons for it not to work, but it was really beautiful in the way that she wrote them working out their differences. This is a great book about small town life, about second chances, and about love and romance. Overall, I really, really liked the story. One of my favorite things about how Brooke wrote the story was such a small detail, but it was great for impact. The entire story is written from Autumn's point of view, but the epilogue is written from Henry's. It was such a cool detail that I really LOVED! This is one of those books that I can see myself reading over and over and coming to love it more and more with each reading. It was just one of those books. Definitely going on my keeper shelf!
Review by Kate: I wanted to read this story because of one of the first lines in the blurb - 'Autumn Cole clocked hers with an encyclopedia.' After accidentally hitting my husband with a 2x4 (among other things.and all totally accidental, I swear), I could relate! The opening language had me completely hooked (see Favorite Quote), but I didn't have my hopes up for the language and style to continue. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Brooke Moss' The "What If" Guy was not all humorous, but also very poignant and managed to capture various emotions so perfectly, you felt like you were talking with your best friend and seeing her heartache. Autumn Cole is a single mom who just lost her job in Seattle and is heading back to her small hometown, the place she vowed never to return. I could identify with her character and the need to not return to a small town upbringing, once you have been to the 'outside' world. The author did a wonderful job of capturing that small-town mentality, where everyone knows everybody else's business, whether you want them to or not. Autumn's character ran away, and now has to go home and face the music of her actions; such as, when she didn't want her best friend to know she had become pregnant and had to drop out of school. Because of her 'shame,' Autumn never spoke to her childhood best friend, Holly, since then. All of the characters in this story are perfectly drawn. The forgiving best friend, who opens her heart and welcomes an old friend back home, as if nothing had happened. The couple who own the local store and know everything that is happening in the small town of Fairfield. The town drunk, who learns before it's too late that family is important. The local school teacher who comes from San Francisco with big ideas that help those students who don't quite fit in. The student who is a little bit 'odd' but learns to fit in as well as stand up to the local bullies. The woman who comes home, in more ways than one. The characters are all a little different, which is so refreshing to see. There is nothing worse than reading a book where everyone has the same speech pattern, and you get no sense of who they are as an individual. That is definitely not the case here. This being said, it is more of a character-driven storyline, than one based on a prescribed plot. It is the story of a woman going home and what she finds there. Having been conditioned by so many plot-driven contemporary romances, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were. There were a few shoes placed lightly on the floor, but nothing too shocking or that throws the story completely off-kilter, making you wonder if they will ever get together. I actually enjoyed the change quite a bit! It wasn't cliche, it was a story of people. The 'What If' Guy by Brooke Moss is now one of my favorites, and one that I would heartily recommend. The language was wonderful and the story flowed at a perfect pace. It's rare to come across a book were the ending didn't seem rushed. The word that comes to mind (again) is poignant. This reader felt a part of Autumn's world and her story, feeling her pain and her wonderment. I wanted to sit down and share a plate of Haystacks with Holly and Autumn, have them as my best friends.