Barefoot on a Starlit Night (Rendezvous Falls)
“Filled with tension and raw emotion, Barefoot on a Starlit Night is sure to please readers of contemporary romance.”
In this third installment of the Rendezvous Falls series, Bridget McKinnon is stressed. She has inherited the Purple Shamrock Pub and her childhood home from her deceased father, but living in California with Clark, the man she is supposed to marry, she wants no part of it. Nevertheless, it is now hers. Her dad included her cousins in the will, but she holds the controlling share, so with no choice, she returns to New York, only to find Clark now has someone new.
This must be an omen as Bridget discovers Clark’s true feelings for her, and now her beloved nana, Maura, is going through chemo for breast cancer, so Bridget needs to be with her to support her through this trying time. Maura, who practically raised Bridget, is a typical Irish grandmother, feisty and honored by her heritage and most of all, her crowning glory of red hair. Unfortunately, the poison coursing through her system to cure her is causing her luxurious mane to fall out in clumps, and Maura, too proud to wear a wig, sinks into depression.
Not only anxious about her nana, Bridget also worries because business is slow, and the second mortgage her father got to break up the family home into two apartments for extra income needs to be paid. It’s currently vacant, and Bridget requires a tenant to rent the first-floor unit to help with her debt.
The devilishly handsome Finn O'Hearn, a professor in the local college, desperately needs a permanent residence. Fired from his last job in North Carolina, after hitting his best friend upon learning he and Finn's wife were having an affair, he now needs to prove himself, amend his past, and attain tenure so he can keep his visa and stay in the states.
When Finn hears Bridget is looking to rent an apartment, he wants it. And Bridget is astounded by the handsome Irishman with the thick brogue, and though she does not want him living downstairs from her, she has no choice. The unit is decorated with a female in mind, and she hopes he won't want it, though her bills are piling up. At this point, Finn would rent a storage shed with an address to show his good faith and intention to make the town his home.
Finn insists he'll take the small apartment even when Bridget offers him a list of conditions to live there, hoping he'll turn it down, but he isn't fazed by them. His job and visa are more important. After he moves in, sparks start to fly as he and Bridget become better acquainted, and she lets down her guard by telling him things she normally wouldn't tell another guy. She's been burned once, why would she look to be burned again?
In a meeting with his boss, Dr. Greer, Finn is questioned on his likelihood of sticking around:
"Greer pointed at him. 'The other candidate for your job may not have been as qualified, but he was more stable, with a wife and a family. He reached out to me last week to see how things were going.'
"Yeah, Finn could just bet he did. His jaw tightened, 'Are you threatening to give my job to someone else?'
"'No. But I am reminding you that I have options. I like you, O'Hearn, but eventually, the bigger schools will forget about your little . . . situation . . . in North Carolina. You'll get offers. I'm just skeptical that you'll want to stay at Brady College if you get a call from Yale or something."
Finn discloses he's settling into a permanent residence and plans to make Rendezvous Falls his home, though Greer fears he'll leave for a more prestigious university or head back to Ireland. When Finn jokingly states he and Bridget are engaged, to have the man realize he is stable, Greer picks up on this, believing it to be the truth. Shocked by Greer's acceptance of this, Finn pleads with him to keep this new quiet for they haven't announced it to anyone, and they don’t want Maura to know yet due to her health.
Does his boss keep his confidence? Heck no! He tells Vickie, Maura's best friend, so of course, Vickie runs over to Maura to ask why she is keeping this a secret. Bridget, when it comes to her attention, and knowing nothing of Finn’s lies, becomes livid. Ready to deny such rumors, Finn begs her to go along with him, stating he'll explain his faux pas to her later.
Before long, Maura and the rest of the family start planning an engagement party, a bridal shower, and the wedding. Maura is thrilled and now has a glow on her face and regains her energy and excitement, looking well for the first time in a long time. How can Bridget refute this "fake engagement" without crushing her nana's hopes and maybe causing a relapse?
Surprisingly, Bridget and Finn share a chemistry they cannot deny. Bridget is falling in love with Finn, and he is with her, but neither of them can learn to trust again. Finn, thinking his marriage was for life, burns with the pain of his ex's infidelity and is afraid. He can't envision a life without Bridget, but what if he gets hurt again?
Meanwhile, everyone can see the attraction between them, yet Maura has some doubts. How did Bridget become engaged in such a short time? What is going on with her granddaughter? She proposes she and her book club members do some sleuthing to find answers. While Bridget falls more deeply for Finn she wonders if a fake engagement can turn into a real one. Is this relationship a sham or can their love be genuine?
Finn's ex shows up and announces she is pregnant, making Finn feel like a knife is thrust into his heart. He ascertains he will not go through this pain again and breaks things off with Bridget:
"'We started on a lie, Bridget, and I won't continue on one.'
"'I don't know what you mean.'
"'It's my fault. I made you think I could do this. That I could fall in love again.' His head fell back, and he stared up at the sky. 'Shit, I thought I could do that. But I can't.' . . .
. . . "'You're saying you don't love me?'
"He huffed out a dry laugh.
"'That's the problem. I do love you.' She started to smile, feeling hope, seeing a future with this man. But his next words sent it crashing down. 'But I loved Dori too, and she shattered me. I thought I'd put the pieces back together, but Dori's little visit proves I haven't. I may never be whole again.' He looked straight into her eyes, his own dark with heavy emotion. 'I don't know if I'll ever be able to able trust again. And I don't mean trust you, I mean trust myself. My judgment. My choices.'”
A sweet, somewhat sensuous love story, this novel shows how faith and communication play a big part in a relationship. Can unlikely partners with many similarities and heart-breaking pasts come together and learn to trust, especially with the wholehearted endorsement of a close-knit and devoted family? Filled with tension and raw emotion, Barefoot on a Starlit Night is sure to please readers of contemporary romance.