I hate saying goodbye to my favorite series. TV shows, movies, books. Especially books. Although… my family might argue that point slightly, seeing as I spent the majority of my brother’s 3rd birthday party glued to the television watching the series finale of “Happy Days” (see photographic evidence). This was very atypical on my parents’ part – to let me detach from the family like that, particularly for something as mind-numbing and anti-social as television. But I’m sure it was because they knew this was the end of an era – an era before we had such luxuries as VCRs or had even thought of anything as awesome and relationship-saving as DVRs. I needed to pay my respects to the show and say my goodbyes to the Cunninghams and their friends. Even at 8 years old, my imagination latched on to fictional characters and gave them life inside my heart. Besides, my brother would (and did) have many more birthdays and I consider him one of my best friends… so all in all the Happy Days-birthday fiasco didn’t set us back too far.
Anyway, enough about my imagination dysfunction. (But doesn’t my brother’s face just say, “Seriously? She couldn’t catch it in reruns?”) Today’s choice for “Favorites Friday” is Denise Hunter’s newest release, Married Til Monday, which also happens to be the conclusion to her Chapel Springs series. Of course that also means we have to bid farewell to the McKinley family so before I start wailing in grief let’s talk about the good stuff.
I have so wanted to read Ryan’s story since book 1 in the series, and it was well worth the wait!
With a big anniversary party in the works for his ex-wife’s parents, Ryan has just one weekend to play Abby’s husband . . . and win back the woman of his dreams.
Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby. He’s sulked, he’s gotten angry, and ultimately he bought her dream house. Big mistake. Living alone in the massive two-story has only made him miss her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary party in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan believes God has dropped a golden opportunity straight in his lap.
Abby McKinley never exactly told her parents about the divorce. A strained relationship with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship with her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to make the drive for their 35th-anniversary party.
Then Ryan shows up on her doorstep, looking as handsome as ever. When he insists he’s going to Summer Harbor, with or without her, Abby knows she can’t say no. Her parents still think they’re married and now Ryan knows it too. It’s just a one-week road trip with the man who broke her heart. What could possibly go wrong?
What, indeed? A better question might be – what could possibly go right? And when you have Denise Hunter in the driver’s seat, the answer will be “everything”. Ryan is heartbreakingly dreamy as a man still head over heels in love with his ex and determined to win her back. Abby is heartbreakingly heartbreaking as a woman still afraid to trust anyone with her secrets and her insecurities. Even God, who she feels has taken enough from her over the years – her dignity, her self-esteem, her marriage, and something even more personal. When the two of them (plus Abby’s adorable Yorkie) squeeze in to her tiny yellow Fiat for the long trip to Summer Harbor – and everything starts to go “wrong” – the sparks start to fly! Of course, these sparks are mostly the anger-driven fighting kind of sparks as all the bitterness and resentment that both have been clinging to begins to air out on the journey. But those can be fun too 😉
I adored the obvious love for each other still buried deep within them both – plenty of opportunities for tentative flirting, lingering gazes, tingling cheek-brushes, and near-kisses. Ryan’s dry sense of humor – and Abby’s inability to stay immune to it – made me smile and his steady, true, persistent heart shoots him to the top of my “favorite book heroes” list. The author’s use of flashbacks lifted the story to a whole other level, in my opinion, as we were given glimpses into the early days of their relationship, Abby’s troubled childhood, and the painful end of their marriage. It reminded me that Married Til Monday is so much more than a romance – it is a beautiful story of restoration. Not necessarily the restoration of a marriage (you’ll have to read to find out) but the restoration of two separate hearts that needed healing from life’s pain before they could ever become one again.
Denise Hunter handled some sensitive topics/situations in this story with perfect care and grace, which comes as no surprise to me from my experience with her other books. The romance sizzled but chastely, and the painful topics in Abby’s past were discussed with just enough detail to give us awareness without overexposure. A fine tightrope to walk in both cases, but the author scaled it beautifully.
More than just a fitting send-off to the McKinley’s (*wail*), the book is also a friendly greeting to her newest series (set in Summer Harbor) due out in September. Readers of Married will enjoy meeting Abby’s cousins, and I have to admit that I am already very impatiently intrigued about the possible love triangle between brothers Riley and Beau and Beau’s girlfriend/Riley’s best friend Paige.
All of the books can be read as stand-alones, but you really should read all of them. They are each so wonderful. Dancing With Fireflies has been and will probably always remain my favorite of the series, but if you want to read them in order, start with Barefoot Summer.
I give Married Til Monday (and the entire Chapel Springs series) 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and of course a spot on my faves shelf! I’m starting to think Denise Hunter needs her own shelf up there as a distinct majority of the books on said shelf are hers 🙂
Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Dancing with Fireflies and The Convenient Groom. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.
Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the experience of falling in love vicariously through her characters and can expect a happily-ever-after sigh as they close the pages of her books.
In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!
When Denise isn’t orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are raising three boys.
You can learn more about Denise by visiting her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/authordenisehunter