Thursday 27 May 2021

If I Didn't Know Better

Finished May 23
If I Didn't Know Better by Barbara Freethy

This is the 9th book in the Calloways series, all around a large extended family. Here, the story is focused on Mia Calloway, a young art curator, who has just left her job at a museum after an ill-fated romance ended. Mia's favourite aunt, Carly, has died recently and Mia volunteers to go to the town of Angel's Bay, where her aunt lived and clear out her house. Her aunt lived an adventurous life, travelling a lot, having lots of short relationships, and being creative. Mia had spent time visiting when she was younger and regrets not seeing her aunt more recently. 
Carly had a guesthouse out back of her place, and let people stay there for free, mainly artists who would leave her a picture in payment for the stay. Many were going through difficult periods in their lives and needed some time to focus and think things through before moving on.
The house next door has recently been rented to Jeremy Holt, who is both recovering from injuries received during his military career and determining what his future holds, and getting to know his eight-year-old daughter Ashlyn, whose mother recently died in a violent robbery, and who Jeremy wasn't aware of until authorities contacted him as next of kin. Ashlyn is traumatized by the loss of her mother, and is mostly non-verbal and withdrawn. She is in therapy, but seems drawn to Mia from the start.
As Mia deals with the contents of the home and guesthouse of her aunt, she finds many paintings, some from the artists who stayed in the guesthouse, some her aunt painted herself, and gets an idea for an exhibit at the local gallery.
Both Mia and Jeremy are at turning points in their lives, deciding on what they will do next professionally, and finding new ways forward personally. 
The romance starts quickly, with both drawn to each other immediately and not thinking beyond the summer at first, and other things happen quickly here too.
There is a mystery surrounding the paintings, and background on both main characters, with enough to hold the reader's interest. I did find some of the dialogue awkward, and things worked out a little too easily for me here, but it was a quick read.

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