Title: Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery
Blackberry Island Series Book 1
Imprint: Mira Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: A
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Michelle Sanderson may appear to be a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she’s still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner’s suite occupied by the last person she wants to see.
Carly Williams and Michelle were once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn’s cheerful veneer.
Single mother Carly has weathered rumors, lies and secrets for a lifetime, and is finally starting to move forward with love and life. But if the Blackberry Island Inn goes under, Carly and her daughter will go with it.
To save their livelihoods, Carly and Michelle will undertake a turbulent truce. It’ll take more than a successful season to move beyond their devastating past, but with a little luck and a beautiful summer, they may just rediscover the friendship of a lifetime.
Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery is a touching novel about friendship, healing and forgiveness. Wounded in both body and spirit by multiple deployments to combat zones, Michelle Sanderson is confronted by her past when she returns to Blackberry Island.
Michelle Sanderson and Carly Williams were best friends until misunderstandings and betrayals destroyed their friendship. Michelle joined the army and stayed away from Blackberry Island for ten years. Now recovering from a battle injury, Michelle returns to the family owned Blackberry Inn following her mother’s death. She is bitter and resentful when she discovers Carly has been working at the Blackberry Inn in her absence. Michelle is undergoing physical therapy for the wound she received in combat and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also taking a toll. Rather than facing her problems head on, Michelle is self-medicating with alcohol. When a financial crisis and personal betrayal push her over the edge, she finally hits rock bottom and begins to take control of her life.
Carly is mistrustful of Michelle and terrified of losing her job and the only home her young daughter Gabby knows. The peace between Carly and Michelle is tenuous and fraught with unresolved issues as the two women forge an uneasy truce and attempt to put aside their personal feelings to save Blackberry Inn. Over time, both women are forced to accept responsibility for their respective roles in events of the past and they slowly rebuild their relationship.
Unlike Ms. Mallery’s previous novels, romance takes a backseat in Barefoot Season. Instead, the book focuses mainly on Michelle and Carly’s relationship, both past and present. Michelle’s PTSD and recovery from her battle injuries are also a large part of the refreshing and unique storyline. There is a romantic element for both Michelle and Carly, but it is very subtle and understated.
Susan Mallery’s Barefoot Season is a beautiful novel that explores the complexities of friendship and exposes the unseen toll that war takes on soldiers. Carly and Michelle are engaging and sympathetic characters that are amazingly true to life. Their struggles and emotions are realistic and oftentimes, heartbreaking. Easily Ms. Mallery’s best work to date, I highly recommend this heartwarming and moving novel.