Friday, February 15, 2019

All In - Shelley Shepard Gray

Bridgeport Social Club – Book 2
Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN: 978-1438440889
February 2019
Romance Women’s Fiction

Bridgeport, Ohio – The Present

An unexpected hit in the back while hiking dropped Meredith Hunt to the ground, and whoever hit her, stole her backpack with all her vital information, car keys, telephone, and money. She didn’t see the person who struck her. A man, who calls her darling, helps her to a sitting position. Then she recognizes a young man with her rescuer. Finn, a sophomore from her friend’s classroom where she volunteers once a week, stands nearby. His father, Ace Vance, and Finn saw the mugger, but stopped to help her. Ace tells Finn to follow down the trail to see if her backpack has been discarded, and Finn does find it. They insist on taking Meredith to urgent care for her bleeding hand, cut on glass shards where she fell. While surprised at their kindness and at the giddy feelings her rescuer inspires, she doesn’t want to be a burden. She felt that often enough while growing up when she never seemed to reach her mother’s expectations or earn her respect. Her father left when she was five to never reenter her life.

Vance has taken over the care of his son from the boy’s mother Liz. Finn has become his priority. His boy needs someone to show they love him and will always be there for him, unlike how his mother treated him. A brief encounter resulted in Finn’s birth, so Ace can’t regret it, except Liz was not a very good or caring mother. He has Finn now, and a few weeks ago they moved from West Virginia to Bridgeport for a fresh start. The difficult part is that Ace is now far from his loving parents and siblings. He works as an auto mechanic working on valuable classic cars. He knows Finn has trouble in his new high school, but the coach is very interested in adding Finn to the varsity football team knowing Finn’s size and talent will help the team.

Finn has trouble relating to anyone as his mother always left him to fend for himself. Allison, a junior girl from his high school, lives next door. But in a brief encounter to look at her dog’s puppies, he realizes her family is the perfect family, and when among them, he doesn’t know how to relate, how to act, or what to say. He finds it difficult to believe anyone wants him for who he is.

The unexpected relationship between these three wonderful characters develops quickly and goes through several distressing events, which allows them to emerge as stronger individuals who want to take a chance in believing they are worth someone’s love. Their mutual support helps them develop in important ways, and they each have supportive friends who add interest to the story. Themes of loneliness, parenting, developing friendships, and finding not only love with someone else, but also self-love, create a moving, emotional story. Yet overcoming doubt and distrust is difficult. Once readers start down this story’s trail, they won’t want to stop, earning it a Perfect 10.

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