Mullett Lake in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula provides the backdrop for this shifting narrative of love, death and a second chance.
Coburn’s romantic novel is shared by a quartet of characters: Paul Crockett is a reliable local handyman/contractor; Jessica is the love of his life; Claudia Cardinelli is a vacation cottager with a wandering husband, Freddie; and supporting this cast is neighbor Agnes Decker, who is a catalyst for helping Paul and Claudia move beyond their low points. Claudia has had a miscarriage and later discovers Freddie is having an affair. Faced with these revelations, she considers divorce, but fate steps in and Freddie is killed in a motorcycle accident (along with his girlfriend). Before his demise, readers observe Freddie in a bar with his girlfriend, and his Harley Davidson parked outside, though these glimpses elicit little empathy from the reader. As Paul tools around Mullett Lake, readers learn the back story of his relationship with Jessica; the two were very much in love and moved away from the community, but Paul has inexplicably returned alone. Paul, 50, and 35-year-old Claudia are brought together by Mrs. Decker and some time after going to the Hack-Ma-Tack for drinks, they fall in love. But is this the happily ever after for which they’re both looking for? And what about Jessica? Coburn effectively depicts this transitional time for Paul and Claudia. The novel is short and the pace is brisk. Characters are believable and the romance is engaging. Much is made of the age difference between Paul and Claudia, with a definite slant toward the 50-year-old male perspective. (Readers are reminded often that Paul is very fit.) While the story focuses on moving beyond loss and the importance of hope, the work would have benefited from more complexity. Strong in establishing the Mullett Lake environment, the author also nicely captures the bittersweet, fleeting quality of love.
A pleasant, predictable tale that will satisfy fans of character-driven romance.