Author: Brooke Moss
Number of pages: 296 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: 2 August 2011
Source: eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle store, Book Depository
Grade: 5 stars
Goodreads appetizer: What would you do if you're "what if" guy showed up at the lowest point of your life?
(Autumn Cole clocked hers with an encyclopedia.)
After losing her job at a swanky Seattle art gallery and finding out her father has been hospitalized, single mother Autumn Cole reluctantly returns to her tiny hometown of Fairfield, Washington to put the pieces of her life back together.
Her disgruntled twelve-year old son isn’t thrilled about going from hip to hick, but Autumn’s got it worse. She resumes her role as the daughter of the town drunk, promptly facing a crisis with her father that’s been decades in the making.
Running into Henry Tobler, and nearly breaking his nose, is almost more than she can handle, but can rediscovering love–and herself–with her “what if” guy teach Autumn to forgive before it’s too late?
My Thoughts: I will start with a confession. It was the above eyecatching beautiful cover which first caught my attention and made me notice Brooke Moss' debut novel. But then when I read the blurb I was a goner: I love small town romances and second chance love stories even more, and Brooke Moss surpassed all my expectations! It is a wonderful, heartwarming, romantic, emotional yet chuckle out loud story.
The "What If" Guy is the story of how Autumn Cole a thirty-something young single mom leaves Seattle with her teenager son and moves back to her small hometown to take care of her ill, alcoholic father. Autumn was a delightful character. She is clumsy and endearing, and such a girl next door, that the reader can easily identify with her and her feelings and fears.
Henry and Autumn went out when she was twenty and at college. He was the love of her life. Then she discovered she was pregnant and their paths split, but she was never able to forget him. And now 13 years later she runs into him in the last place she would ever think: in her own hometown, in the middle of nowhere.
Henry is the ideal man, he is dreamy. He is gentle, warmhearted (works as a middle school teacher people!) and irresistibly charming. In Autumn's own words:
"He’s the perfect mix of rough and soft. And he has this way about him. Strong, yet so incredibly gentle."
Of course sparks fly as soon as these two just glimpse each other, and Brooke Moss' witty writing made the development of their relationship extremely entertaining and touching:
It is extremely difficult to eat a holiday meal with your ex-boyfriend sitting next to you. I took a modest helping of everything, then pretended to nibble on a slice of turkey every time Henry’s eyes roamed in my direction. When his attention wandered elsewhere, I rammed spoonfuls of the gloriously fattening homemade stuffing into my mouth.
Yeah. Friends. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted us to admit that we were still in love, to recreate one of our hot and heavy make-out scenes from college, then ride off into the sunset together.
And fear not, because when those spark ignite, the passion between Henry and Autumn is hot hot hot!
My legs trembled. I grasped Henry’s shoulders and steadied myself. Our kiss was like a tornado, whirling and tossing me in fifty different directions at once.
But at the same time their love has plenty of tender and heart-flutter inducing moments. I don't tear up often or easily when I'm reading or watching a movie, but Brooke Moss managed to make my throat close up several times and I had to swallow that treachorous lump when reading about everything these two went through to end up together.
Henry’s eyes moistened. "You’re the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep at night. We wound up in Fairfield together for a reason."
Brooke Moss has a way with words. How lucky that she decided to share her talent with us and become an author! Her story not only flows naturally, but whirls the reader right along with the events and characters. Some romance novels tell you a love story and you are merely a spectator, but in The "What If" Guy you will feel included and not just as if you were looking in on what is happening behind closed doors.
Besides the wonderful romance of The "What If" Guy I have to applaud Brooke Moss for the emotional depth and variety she brought to a contemporary romance: she explores the rebellious state of mind of a teenager who had to move from the only home he knew to an unfamiliar place full of strangers, the problems and fears of a single mom, what it feels like to grow up with an alcoholic parent, to be the unpopular kid at school who doesn't fit in, and I could go on. But most of all she portrays wonderfully how family relationships are and evolve.
And she tops all of that by interspersing moving scenes with Autumn's dry and sarcastic humour which makes for an explosive combo:
"Chill. It’s a holiday." And what a holiday it was turning out to be. I’d had pies in the oven by seven a.m. and had slaved over my sweet potatoes while the two of them watched television and argued about football versus MTV. So far, the only thing I was exceptionally thankful for this Thanksgiving was Tylenol.
My son acted as if he were bound for a Turkish prison every time he got on the school bus.
And to end my review I will leave you with the very last paragraph of the novel (so if you'd prefer not glimpse it now is the time to close your eye, though I don't think there is too much spoiler-material in romance novels ;-), because it shows wonderfully everything I love and praised about this novel:
I still work at the school, teaching history to uninterested sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders. I spend my days talking over the sound of text messaging, whispering, and note-passing, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Why? Because every night, I come home to the most beautiful woman in the world, tangle my hands in her wild, red hair, and kiss her so long and so hard that my knees go weak. And yes, even after all these years together, my knees go weak.
*sighs* Now tell me in all seriousness if it left you cold and didn't make you go "aww".
Verdict: The "What If" Guy is Brooke Moss' debut novel and it is fantastic! It is a heartwarming small town romance, reminding me of Kristan Higgins' stories as it is emotionally deep and spotlights family relationships besides the romantic storyline. As it was stated in the backcover bio of Brooke Moss, "she loves to write stories that are equal parts hilarious and heartwrenching", and I can tell you, The "What If" Guy will make you tear up then laugh til it hurts. Brooke Moss navigates the emotional rollercoaster brilliantly taking you from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other all the while never relenting her grip on the reader's heart and interest. A must read!