Barefoot in the Rain
By Roxanne St. Claire
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Jocelyn Bloom left Mimosa Key as a teenager, determined never to return. She’s been back only three times in fifteen years: for her mother’s funeral, for a crucial town meeting, and for the wedding of one of her closest friends. Now she’s been named the other woman in the divorce of one of the celebrity clients she serves as life coach, and Jocelyn needs a sanctuary. Her other high-profile clients are distancing themselves, and the paparazzi are after her in a feeding frenzy. Longtime friend Lacey Walker offers privacy and support at the upscale resort she and her husband Clay are building at Barefoot Bay. Jocelyn is not surprised when not only Lacey but also their other best friends Tessa and Zoe meet her at the airport, but she’s totally unprepared for a meeting with Will Palmer, a friend with whom she shares an even older history, the one for whom she fled Mimosa Key.
Will Palmer was a golden boy. A star athlete in high school with a college baseball scholarship that the town, Will’s father, and Will himself expected to be a logical step on his path to a major league career, he never expected to be back in Mimosa Key, living in his parents’ house, working as a skilled carpenter on Lacey and Clay Walker’s dream project, and taking care of a man he has every reason to hate. Will has spent a lot of time over the past fifteen years thinking about Jocelyn Bloom, his best friend from the time he was ten until that night etched forever in his memory when two eighteen-year-olds almost became lovers and Will tasted failure more bitter than any loss he’s ever known on a baseball diamond.
Jocelyn, a woman in control with a detailed plan for every move, is about to get a lesson in how little she can control. First there’s the unexpected meeting with Will, and then there’s the news that her father, whom she hasn’t seen since her mother’s funeral, is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is being cared for by Will, whom he once threatened to kill. The powerful father she hates has become a harmless old man who knits, does needlepoint, and watches TV. He thinks Will is his son, and he’s forgotten he had a daughter. He thinks Jocelyn has come from his favorite HGTV show, Clean House, to reorganize his home and give him a new start in life. Jocelyn plans to find her father a place in a home that can care for him. Will, who has come to care for the helpless man, wants her to forgive her father. Even more he wants a second chance with Jocelyn. But Will doesn’t know everything that happened that long ago night, and Jocelyn is still fiercely protecting her secrets, old and new. Can a heart guarded by defensive walls so thick open itself to love’s healing touch?
Roxanne St. Claire is another of my autobuy authors, and I enjoyed Barefoot in the Sand, the first book in her Barefoot Bay series. But the first book didn’t prepare me for the power of Barefoot in the Rain. St. Claire deals with important issues realistically and poignantly. She shows the complex emotions that are entangled in domestic abuse and the ways even those who escape are shaped by the experience. She gives the best portrait I’ve seen in fiction of the ways Alzheimer’s steals its victim’s memories and transforms personality. Having dealt with Alzheimer’s personally, I also appreciated her showing the black humor that stems from these changes.
But this book is so much more than just another issues book. It’s also a book that raises questions about the human capacity for change and for forgiveness. Are some things unforgiveable? Can people who are guilty of heinous actions change? Is harboring even deserved anger and hatred worth the prison sentence it imposes on the heart that holds such darkness?
Barefoot in the Rain is a terrific romance by conventional criteria. I cared about these characters. I was totally engaged by Jocelyn and Will’s relationship, I loved seeing Lacey and Clay living their HEA, and I look forward to returning to Barefoot Bay for Zoe’s and Tessa’s stories. But it’s those questions that the book poses that haunt me. It’s those questions that make me not only give this book my highest recommendation but also add a request. If you read only a dozen romances this year, make this one of them.
What other romances have you read that left you thinking long thoughts and pondering significant questions?