|Single mom Lucy Carpenter has left Boise behind and moved her two sons to the upscale ski community of Red Duck, Idaho, hoping the small-town atmosphere might offer her boys a better lifestyle. Sixteen-year-old Jason has already been caught smoking dope, and twelve-year-old Matt is still an innocent. Their father is down in Mexico with his girlfriend and never visits. Lucy, a personal chef, hopes to make a living catering to the community’s moneyed California transplants and celebrities.
The only house Lucy can afford is a maintenance nightmare with a falling-down porch, and the local celebrity chef, Raul, isn’t going to make life easy for Lucy. In order to get her business off the ground, she’s going to need a jump-start. Local golden boy Drew Tolman might be just the person to help. Drew, a former pro baseball player, is every woman’s heartthrob – and he knows it. Now forty-six, he’s the local Little League coach, and his playboy lifestyle is the envy of every guy in town.
Even Lucy isn’t immune to Drew’s charms, and her knees go weak and her heart thumps faster, etc. whenever he’s around. But she’s determined to keep her distance. Drew, who is hiding a painful past, is about to welcome his estranged teenage daughter for the summer. He’s very attracted to Lucy, who represents the kind of real woman he secretly longs for. With his life in flux, though, and dogged by rumors of a drug scandal in his past, Lucy and Drew can’t seem to get together.
When Raul starts sabotaging Lucy’s efforts to get established, Drew becomes her first customer, and they have the chance to spend a little time together. Jason and Matt both make the ball teams and start making friends in town. It looks like Lucy and her boys will start to put down roots in Red Duck.
Neither of the lead characters really worked for me, and it was somewhat of a chore to follow their romance. Lucy is plucky and determined and all that, but her reaction to Drew is borderline teenybopper. She all but drools whenever she sees him, much as a teenager might drool over a poster of [insert current Hollywood hottie here]. It might have been cute if she were twenty-one, but it’s annoying in a woman of forty-five. Drew didn’t have to work very hard – Lucy can barely stand up straight when he’s around.
As for Drew, he’s every caricature of an overgrown party boy. From the flashy house to the flashy boat to the “Laker girls” (think models in bikinis, apparently) that he hangs around with, there wasn’t much to convince me this guy was worth a second look. He and Lucy have few conversations of any substance, and their romance was unconvincing. He wants her because she’s mature and good-looking. She wants him because he’s hot. The best scenes in the book weren’t between Drew and Lucy at all, but between Drew and his daughter, Mackenzie, with whom he’s trying to build a relationship. That part felt honest as Drew fumbles his way into a long-delayed fatherhood and tries to earn his daughter’s forgiveness.
There is a delightful secondary storyline involving a centenarian named Fern “Spin” Goodey-Leonard and a young woman named Jacquie, who is Drew’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. When Drew finally calls it quits with Jacquie, she ends up doing volunteer work at the local old folks’ home, where Spin becomes a positive influence on her life. Spin is, quite simply, a riot and a truly memorable character. Her advice to Jacquie as she acknowledges her dependence on men is sharp, funny, and bittersweet. Too bad we don’t all have a Spin in our lives at times.
Read Lucy Gets Her Life Back not for the romance, but for the memorable side characters and subplots. Stef Ann Holm’s storytelling is effortless and breezy; this is a quick read and will leave you wanting to visit Red Duck yourself.