IT’S BETTER THIS WAY by Debbie Macomber

From the publisher:

After her marriage ends, one woman’s struggle to pick up the pieces finally leads to a new beginning but is the past truly behind her? #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber explores the powerful intersections of love and family in this poignant novel.

It’s been nearly six years since Julia Jones had her heart broken. After her husband became involved with another woman, she did everything she could to save their marriage, to no avail. Their two daughters continue to stand by Julia in the wake of their father’s behavior—and they’ve had a tough time getting along with the “other woman” who became their stepmother. Distraught after selling the family home, Julia moves into a condominium complex that offers the warmth and charm of a fresh start. Now, having settled into her new community and sold her successful interior design business, she’s embraced a fulfilling new life, one that doesn’t seem to need a man in it. Her beloved father’s trusty saying is ringing truer than ever: It’s better this way.

But when Julia meets a handsome new resident in the building’s exercise room, she can’t help but be drawn to him. Heath Johnson is a welcome change from the men she’s encountered on the occasional—mostly disastrous—dates her sister has eagerly planned for her over the years. As she and Heath, a divorcé himself, begin to grow close, their friendship blossoms into an unexpected love. However, they soon realize that combining families proves to be a challenge, even though their four children are adults.

When a dramatic revelation threatens the happiness they’ve found, Julia and Heath must reconcile their love for their children with their love for each other. If they can’t, their bright future together may be nothing but a dream.

If you haven’t read Macomber, this book is an excellent place to start. It is a romance, but like all her romances, it is of the sweet, no sex, variety. I must admit that sometimes that really bothers me, especially when the main characters are parents, legally single, and of retirement age; it just doesn’t feel real to me. Would a 50-something woman date a man for months without sleeping with him? Is she a nun? If she is then she shouldn’t be dating. There are many books that are sweet romances and don’t include sex, but hint that there is a physical relationship going on off-screen, as it were. That makes sense to me and I’m fine with it. But don’t even religious Christians have sex outside of marriage? Or am I just a cynic?

Anyway, just know going in to any Macomber book you will be safe from having to read anything sexual. I like her stories enough to push past my disbelief. But even though she writes romances, all of her books fall into another category some people call “comfort reads.” I like that descriptor, it really works for these books. They are comfort reads; cosy, sweet, sometimes a bit religious but never over the top, and they always have a happy ending. That said, she doesn’t shy away from conflict because conflict is what drives romance. In this story, the conflict comes from the adult children of our protagonists. One of the things I love best about Macomber’s books is that she doesn’t feel the need to always make her protagonists millennials, or younger. Older people also can have a great romance in their lives, sometimes more than one, and she celebrates that. As someone who is a card carrying member of AARP, I appreciate that.

I don’t want to say a lot about this story beyond what is in the publisher’s synopsis; there are too many spoilers and this is a story that needs to unfold naturally for the reader. I will say that I read it in a day and really enjoyed it. A lot of it actually hit very close to home for me, especially the way the blended families interacted. Until the happy ending, of course. I didn’t get that with my dysfunctional family! So it was especially sweet for me. Another easy read from the Queen of Christmas.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IT’S BETTER THIS WAY by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (July 13, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984818782. 320 pages.





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