It was always assumed that Sawyer Drake would take over the management of Drake’s, her family’s restaurant In Nashville, Tennessee, because her younger twin siblings, Erica and Brady, had shown a talent and interest in food preparation and both became chefs. Sawyer dutifully majored in business in college, but upon graduating, she began a meandering journey through life, bouncing from job to job and woman to woman. She sticks with nothing for long, except her resistance to taking any part in the family business. Even when her father has to take an early retirement due to health issues, she refuses to take over his role as manager, leaving it to Erica to leave her love of the kitchen and assume the day-to-day business of running the restaurant.
Having grown up in foster care from the age of eight, Jori Diamantina has never had a true family or a place in the world where she felt she belonged—until she began working at Drake’s as a pastry chef. In no time, she wins everyone over with her reliable work ethic, her exquisite desserts, and her shy and quiet demeanor and finds what she hopes will turn into the long-term security she’s never had and maybe even a place in a family.
When Sawyer’s sister Erica is in her third trimester of pregnancy, Sawyer gets a call from their mother, asking her to check on Erica and the restaurant and help out. Sawyer balks, but since she’s just been fired from her most recent job—sitting in a bamboo hut and taking tickets at the zoo—she has no excuse not to. When she arrives at the restaurant, she meets Jori, and suddenly her interest in the smooth and efficient running of Drake’s becomes a priority. She tells Erica she’d be happy to sign on and help out for a while, then is highly insulted when Erica offers her a position as a server. She’s about to storm out, but a strong draw toward Jori makes her reconsider. What the heck. Why not give herself a shot at an adorable, shy pastry chef while at the same time, making a few bucks? But when Erica is ordered to bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy, Sawyer has to step up or lose the respect of the woman whose opinion has begun to matter to her.
As the attraction between them grows into genuine feelings, each has to face her fears and resistance. Jori has learned in her past the dangers of getting involved with her boss and doesn’t want to risk the place she’s found working at Drake’s, and Sawyer is afraid being with Jori is inextricably linked with the role in her family business she’s always run from.
Can Sawyer and Jori open their hearts to one another to find where they truly belong?
I found both Sawyer and Jori to be extremely likable characters.
Sawyer is charismatic, funny, good-hearted, and well-meaning despite her tendency to disappoint the people closest to her. Her internal struggle between finding a place for herself in the world and resisting the place she’s always been told is hers made her an extremely sympathetic character for me. She’s a well written black-sheep-of-the-family type of character, which I always have a soft spot for. When she does finally step up and take over the running of Drake’s in Erica’s absence, she gives it her best, even under Erica’s constant doubt and criticism.
Jori is soft, femenine, and has a past that left her completely alone in the world to fend for herself. Her strength and independence is admirable, while simultaneously made my heart break for her due to its necessity. Of the two, I think Jori is my favorite, though they’re awfully close. Both are great characters whose actions and responses are believable based on their histories and personalities. My only complaint about Jori is that she gives Sawyer a lot of double messages, which is a bit annoying to me in romance novels, but I suspect that’s because it pushes some of my own relationship buttons. In this book, it does enhance the conflict between the characters, and the author makes it plausible due to Jori’s backstory.
There’s a great cast of secondary characters, in particular Erica and Brady, who play a significant role in the story and enhance it nicely. The dynamic of the Drake family is well-crafted and has all the love entangled with the competition, expectations, judgments, and rivalries that can be found in many typical families. Dutton doesn’t make any of it overly dramatic or over the top, which is nice. It’s all just enough to make it real and probably familiar to many readers.
The Writing Style
The writing style is clean and crisp and fits the story and the characters nicely. The story is well layed out and moves along at a good pace. There are no points that lag either in the story or in the development of Sawyer and Jori’s relationship, and the way the main characters reveal themselves to one another kept me wanting more the exact right amount. Dutton makes good use of the secondary characters and their scenes with the individual mains in not only bringing out needed information but also in the flow of the story and its progression. It’s a technique that not all authors can pull off, and I give Dutton two thumbs up for her use of it.
A Place to Rest is narrated by AJ Ferraro, who does a good job with it. She makes a clear distinction between the characters’ voices, so I wasn’t confused about who was speaking, and I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of Sawyer. I’m not sure I can clearly express why, but Sawyer’s fun, carefree, and sometimes irresponsible nature was beautifully captured in the slightly scratchy voice Ferraro used for her. It was a perfect fit and made me laugh. Overall, a job well done on the narration.
There was a lot to like about this book. The biggest pro for me was the wonderfully accurate portrayal of an average, slightly dysfunctional but not horribly so, close, despite the occasional attempt not to be, family. I loved everything about this aspect of the book—the friction between the two very different sisters, smoothed by their underlying love for one another; the brother, always trying not to get caught between them; his wife, who somehow managed to calm everyone; and the parents, who put in their time, then moved away to live in Florida, staying in touch just enough to keep tabs on everyone and everything. And all of them committed, in her or his own way to the wonderful restaurant that has been the family focus for several generations. I found it all so charming and was touched deeply by it. I fully understood Jori’s desire to be a part of it.
No cons for me. The only thing I will mention, for those readers that might be sensitive to it, is that there is some violence in Jori’s past. It isn’t written explicitly, but it is discussed.
If you like romances with characters who could live next door to you and the element of family interaction and dynamics, A Place to Rest is for you. It’s charming, moving, and emotionally satisfying. I’ve read a number of Erin Dutton’s books, and I find her to be a skilled storyteller who writes lovely romances, and this one is no exception. Give it a go.
Excerpt from A Place to Rest by Erin Dutton
Once during dinner she hadn’t been able to help herself and her composure had slipped. For a second she’d felt as if Jori could sense the desire that stirred inside her. She wondered if Jori had been contemplating that moment as well, if she also felt like they were moving toward an inevitable encounter. Or maybe I’m the only one who feels like I’ll combust if I don’t touch her.
Sawyer started and looked at her.
“You have the key.”
She realized she’d been standing on the cabin porch lost in thought while Jori waited for her to unlock the door.
“Sorry,” she mumbled as she opened the door.
Once they’d stepped inside, Sawyer reached around Jori to secure the deadbolt.
“Thank you for a wonderful day. I really needed this,” Sawyer said.
She closed her fingers around the lock and stared at Jori’s mouth. Jori moistened her lower lip and Sawyer realized she was only seconds from kissing her. She ached with the desire to close the space between them and could already taste her, need nearly overcoming logic. Pull it back, Sawyer. Don’t lose it now. Only the voice in her head kept her from taking Jori right there, against the front door of the cabin. She would stick by her decision to let her make the move.
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. I did, too.” Jori’s voice held a slight rasp, as if she could see the battle raging within Sawyer.
“Good night.” Sawyer kissed her cheek, carefully keeping the gesture light.
Hoping Jori didn’t hear the tremor in her voice, she forced numb fingers to flip the lock into place, Then she backed away, though her body fought her at every inch. She fled before she could change her mind, seeking the safety of the loft.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781602820210
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
- Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
- Narrator: AJ Ferraro
- Erin Dutton Online https://www.erindutton.com/
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