Castle's FOR THE LONGEST TIME, BOOK 1 in the HARVEST COVE SERIES, kept my interest throughout and really pulled at my emotions. Sam was a lost soul who had to return home to the town she despised growing up due to the bullying she had to endure. Her life wasn't what she wanted in New York City anymore due to problems with her roommate and her boss and had to return home in order to regroup and survive especially since she could no longer paint. The one bright light back then was her tentative friendship with Jake who pulled back when his ex-girlfriend wanted him back. He also had a group of friends that weren't the nicest to those not in their circle not only in high school but even now, years later, because they never grew up and still felt they were the "cool" ones. Watching Sam come out of her shell and stand up for herself especially with Jake was heartwarming. She rode emotional highs and lows and was a loner and a "freak" to her classmates and never outgrew the stigma until she went to work with Zoe at her gallery, became friends with local artists and got her groove back when she resumed painting and broke through her block especially since she was once again hurt while living in NY. Zoe and she became close friends which helped her self esteem and enabled her to tell Jake what she wanted. He took to heart much of what she said and had been starting to realize that his friends had never grown up and still traveled in a pack and created problems for those who weren't in their group. Watching both Sam and Jake come into their own both individually and as a couple was heartwarming especially her handling of the ex-girlfriend who has returned hoping to start back up where they left off many years ago. There were family - especially Sam's hippie mom and straight-laced sister- friends, coworkers, enemies, romance and love, laughter, hurts, tears, angst, secret and doubts, breakthroughs and lots of animals. There was nice closure especially with the epilogue and there was an excerpt from book two in the series, EVERY LITTLE KISS, which whet my appetite for more.
Castle is a new to me author and I look forward to reading her other contemporary novels. She also writes books in the paranormal genre which isn't my cup of tea.