All the Little Things
By Heidi Sprouse
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
December 11, 2013
Megan Taylor and Sam O’Malley have loved one another since they met when she was eight and a new resident of Cordial Creek, Vermont, and he was ten and the boy next door. For over twenty years, they have been together. They began as best friends, and when their relationship turned romantic, it just added another, albeit more exciting, layer to all the years of loving one another and sharing their lives. But at twenty-eight, Megan is unhappy and feeling trapped by the unvarying routine and predictability of her life with Sam, which seems to stretch endlessly before her void of the color and adventure she craves. One Sunday as she and Sam begin their regular Sunday afternoon drive, Megan demands that Sam stop the car—and, with no explanation, she walks away from him to keep a date with a tall, dark, and handsome stranger she had connected with through an online dating site.
Sam O’Malley is an all-around good guy: an architect who is considerate of his employees, a friend who loyal and supportive, a son who is caring and dependable, and a faithful lover anticipating a happily-ever-after future. He has loved Megan Taylor forever, and he is devastated when she walks away. Wounded, disillusioned, and angry, he retreats briefly from all the responsibilities of his busy life, but in that isolation, Sam comes up with a plan.
He asks Megan for twenty days, one day for each of the years that they have been part of one another’s life, twenty days to remind her of all to which she is saying goodbye, twenty days to prove to her that the love they share and the life they are building is all that she needs. Each day he will give her a tangible reminder of particular moments in their life together, and he begins with a bouquet of red roses, although this bouquet is from a florist, unlike the first bouquet ten-year-old Sam stole from his mother’s rose bushes to welcome Megan to the neighborhood. Will the memories Sam’s gifts evoke be enough to remind Megan of their once-in-a-lifetime love?
Since I believe the deepest, longest lasting love is most often rooted in a friendship based on a shared history, shared values, and shared dreams, I love romance fiction that presents such a relationship. I was easily captured by the description of this book, expecting a sweet, small-town story that would leave me happily sighing over the HEA. But only some of my expectations were fulfilled.
I love Sam! He is a wonderful beta hero, the kind of guy on whom every town relies, the steady caretaker every family needs, and the faithful, tender lover most women hope to marry. Cordial Creek is a pleasant place, and I was particularly pleased that it was not another Great Northwest or Texas setting (as much as I love some series with those settings). But for a book to reach keeper status for me, I want to love both the hero and the heroine. This time I didn’t. Megan irritated me. She hated the rootlessness of her early childhood. She chose to return to Cordial Creek after college. She had ample opportunity to explore a larger world and seek adventure if she so desired. Surely she realized at some point in more than a decade of dating Sam that she had never dated anyone else. At twenty-eight, she is old enough to have some sense and too young for a mid-life crisis. She says she hates to hurt Sam, but she handles the breakup in a cowardly, cruel manner. She redeems herself to a degree by book’s end, but it was too late for me to believe she deserved Sam. But if only deserving people inspired unwavering love, romance fiction—and life—would have fewer HEAs.
With that said, this is a highly readable novel, and the memory scenes of earlier times in Sam and Megan’s life are sweet and evocative. Some readers doubtless will find Megan less of a problem than I did. This one is well worth checking out, particularly for readers looking for romance novels with less sizzle and rich development of the H/H’s relationship.
Have you read books that left you feeling that the heroine or the hero didn’t deserve her/his beloved? Were you able to move past that feeling and enjoy the book?