Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm by Rebecca Raisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars, really.
Lucy's chronically ill mother can't stand watching her daughter give up her youth and vitality to care for her, so she orders Lucy to quit her job and take a year off to travel, concentrate on her art, and apply to a prestigious art school in France. The last thing Lucy wants to do is leave her mother, but she reluctantly promises to buy a bus ticket for the next bus out of town and let fate take her where it will. She winds up in a small town in Connecticut, where some kind locals take her under their collective wings and help her find a place to stay and a job working for the local recluse who is trying to get his newly inherited maple syrup farm up and running.
Clay, the young curmudgeon she goes to work for, isn't thrilled when she shows up on his doorstep, announcing she's there for the job and that his cousin told her not to take no for an answer. His response is to put her to work doing difficult physical labor for long hours, and her innate stubbornness plus desperate need for money induce her to stick it out just to prove she can, despite having zero knowledge or experience of farming (nor suitable clothing).
For the first time in a long time--perhaps ever--Lucy begins to make friends and have a social life, despite her daily exhaustion. She takes cooking lessons and participates in Girls' Night activities, and when Clay unearths a box of journals beneath the farmhouse floor, Lucy makes an emotional connection to the mysterious author.
Gradually, though they constantly argue and push each other's buttons, Lucy and Clay grow to respect one another, which only fuels the fire of their mutual attraction. However, neither one knows how to trust enough to share the painful secrets and memories each is harboring, and that fear threatens to destroy their fledgling relationship.
It took me a little while to get into this story because I found the beginning rather confusing and lacking in exposition--why was the main character on a bus, and to where, and how old was the woman sitting next to her? I totally thought it was set somewhere in the South such as Virginia or one of the Carolinas at first, instead of Connecticut. Which makes no sense, given the part about the maple syrup farm, but the setting didn't feel...solidly fleshed out, I guess you'd say. I don't typically read for setting, but in this case because so much of the backstory was purposely left mysterious, to be painstakingly dribbled out, the lack of clarity hampered my ability to jump into the novel for a few chapters. I'm sure it didn't help that I read it mostly during lunch breaks at work! Eventually, though, it picked up steam, and I eventually really enjoyed the story.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free ebook review copy in exchange for my honest review!
For readers' advisors: Character doorway is primary; story secondary. A little sexual content, but nothing explicit (that I can recall--it's been more than a month since I finished reading).
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