cover image Second Chance Girl

Second Chance Girl

Susan Mallery. HQN, $8.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-373-79935-0

Mallery’s delightful second Happily Inc. contemporary (after You Say It First), set in a small California town that markets itself as the perfect wedding destination, is a heartfelt and genuine friends-to-lovers story fraught with emotional trauma that makes the happily-ever-after satisfyingly sweet. Perky Carol Lund, a gamekeeper at an animal preserve, is happy with her life, as long as her secret crush on Mathias Mitchell is just an intellectual exercise. She’s sure that she is too plain and ordinary for her charming, handsome neighbor. Glass artist Mathias enjoys his camaraderie with Carol, and he’s struggling not to act on his growing attraction to her, as he only does no-promises hookups. One night, after drinking too much, Mathias confesses to a recurring fantasy about Carol; they have the best sex ever, but the next morning he thinks it was just another dream. They continue as friends, wondering whether to attempt a romance, while also dealing with painful past issues. Slowly they realize that all romances don’t follow a stereotypical course, and accept what their hearts are telling them. A wide cast of sharp, well-drawn characters, a lonely giraffe, and a naughty beagle add depth to the story, as does the town of Happily Inc. Agent: Annelise Robey, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Oct.)