With the final book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, On Love’s Gentle Shore, author Liz Johnson returns to the picturesque Canadian setting with a fresh story of love and forgiveness.
Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.
Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.
After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.
On Love’s Gentle Shore continues the sweetly romantic style of this series with a final story bringing some previous characters full circle and new ones a hard-won joy. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about this series is that each novel has been vastly different — the first having a hint of suspense (The Red Door Inn), the second a unique story of happiness (Where Two Hearts Meet), and this third one a new twist on a romantic trope with deep roots of friendship. While each can stand independently, overall they encompass themes of joy and belonging — and all have fun moments of humor.
Author Liz Johnson presents the “voice” of the characters with her smooth style, balancing lighthearted moments with those of import and gravity. Sometimes a line penned hit me in the heart with its clarity and truth. Other times, the humor and wit of a situation made me almost laugh! (Particularly when involving Justin’s POV, especially with the dairy, cake, or his sweet Mama Kane.) Or, the subtle romantic moments naturally born of friendship between Justin and Natalie had me smiling or swooning over the littlest things, like plaid shirts. And lighthouses. And a kitchen party.
With this story, Johnson employs a common romance trope that I’m not usually an advocate of: an almost-love triangle with an already-engaged heroine returning to her hometown only to reconnect with an “old friend”. HOWEVER, Johnson implements it with such care and plausible ease I can’t help but be impressed. The context of this situation serves as the necessary catalyst for Natalie’s growth and, subsequently, Justin’s own small realization of joy. Without the trope setup, the depth of characterization and fully realized arc of the characters would not be possible. It has the potential, with this feature, to be a top-notch Hallmark production with its plot and endearing cast, which would be just fine with me ;). (hint, hint, Hallmark)
Speaking of the journey these characters take, its complexity surprised me in a few ways, particularly concerning Natalie. It’s a deeper story of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness, of the importance of honesty in all relationships. Natalie’s character shows how events or people from the past can influence who you become and your choices in the present. Though Justin grew as a character and experienced his own life lessons, this story is Natalie’s transformation. She comes to terms with so much, especially the idea of her own self-worth. Witnessing her growth as a result of her circumstance and the love of friends who shield and support her is an experience not to be missed!
Thank you to Revell Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.