Carolina Dreaming - Dare Island series, Book 5

Author: Virginia Kantra

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 2, 2016

Blue Ribbon Rating: 5

Format: Print

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Gabe Murphy is a former Marine, newly acquitted of murder and fresh out of prison. Craving a new start, he heads to the only place that has ever resembled "home". Gabe, to his distaste, is accosted by a crotchety old cop on his first day back on Dare Island, North Carolina. Thanks to the assistance of his old Marine friend, and the man's family, he receives his first real break to turn his life around. Gabe's first official job is to renovate the bakery which belongs to the skittish, yet generous, woman who gave him a free meal. He knows Jane Clark is too good and wholesome for a man like him. Jane makes Gabe strive to be a better person, the type of man worthy of her and her young son.

A cop's daughter, Jane Clark is well-known and well-liked on Dare Island. She owns and operates the only bakery on a small island off the North Carolina shore. Jane agrees with the necessary renovations to her shop to contend with a new, potential competitor. Gabe's appearance reminds Jane too much of her abusive ex-husband. Wary of the newcomer, and his effect on her, she still cannot resist giving him a free meal. Much to Jane's surprise, Gabe is among the three men sent by her landlord to work on her store. Gabe offers to make her dreams for the shop a reality in exchange for free meals for him and his new pet. Working in close proximity with him, Jane discovers there is more to Gabe than he allows people to see or know.

I always enjoy seeing a hero who shares my youngest son's nickname. Gabe Murphy never stopped yanking on my heartstrings throughout this book. The world has not been particularly good or kind to him, continually dealing him a tough hand. Despite a rough childhood, and people's preconceived notions about him while not giving him a chance, Gabe still manages to maintain a big heart beneath the veneer of attitude. He does have his moments when his mouth lands him in trouble, saying the wrong things at times, yet Gabe's determination to start anew gives him the necessary incentive to learn to curb his impulses to mouth off. I like how, being born in separate life styles and circumstances, Jane and Gabe find they do have common ground: wanting to find the one person and place they truly belong and being loved. I love how Jane's silent faith and encouragement convinces Gabe he is worthy enough to reach for things he once believed were unobtainable.

I am happy that Jane got a book. If any heroine deserves a happily-ever-after, it is Jane Clark, especially after the role she plays in the fourth book, CAROLINA BLUES. She is not the typical type of heroine I generally like. Jane is the girl next door type who has made some youthful mistakes that she is coming to terms with in a positive way. I admire her fortitude and inner strength of getting out of a bad relationship while she focuses on making a better life for her and her young son. Jane's ex may have dimmed her self-image and trust, but Gabe bolsters and reinforces her self-esteem, giving her new reasons to trust again. I like how after she gets over her initial distrust and wariness, Jane is the first person to give Gabe the benefit of the doubt, seeing the hurt person he keeps hidden under the surface.

CAROLINA DREAMING is book five in Virginia Kantra's contemporary series, DARE ISLAND. I love how characters from the prior books, especially the Fletcher family, show up off and on throughout the story, reinforcing the feels and mentality of a small town. It is always a treat to see how past-beloved characters' lives continue and progress after their story.

CAROLINA DREAMING is a feel-good story that invokes the heart. I simply adore Virginia Kantra's writing style. The author captivated me with this sweet, small town romance making me eager to return and revisit. I anticipate, and wonder, who the next novel in the series is about.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Raonaid

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