Author: Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Hope Cove: Book One
Oliver Parrish has been alone in the world since he was born. So when Sheriff Owen “Mack” Macklin shows up on his doorstep to deliver the news that Oliver’s sister has died, he’s beyond surprised. Still, Oliver returns with Mack to Hope Cove, Maine, hoping to get to know the sister he never knew he had. As he tries to snap these new elements into his solitary life, he’s not sure how they might fit.
His life is shaken up further as he falls in love with the irresistible town of Hope Cove, and with Mack, its equally irresistible sheriff. But when he receives devastating news about his sister's cause of death, Oliver doesn't know whether to stay and fight for love and a good life, or cut his losses and run.
“I don’t know what I am. I know how I feel when I’m with you.”
- Owen Macklin
Cate Ashwood is one of those rare writers who knows how to leave a reader breathless. Her writing style is engaging and descriptive. Despite the sad circumstances that bring Owen “Mack” Macklin and Oliver Parrish together, Brokenhearted has an undeniable energy and charm. The title of this book is wonderfully accurate and sets the tone for the novel and the development of Owen, Oliver and the absent Maggie.
Ashwood’s mastery of description is apparent at the beginning of the book when Oliver and Mack first meet in front of Oliver’s apartment building. Oliver, a sous chef, has had a long, tiring day, and he is literally counting the steps home to his apartment. Readers can feel the weight on his shoulders as he walks down the street toward his apartment building.
He rounded the corner to his building. Eighty-four more steps until he was home… almost there and none too soon. There was a man asleep on his front steps. Likely his neighbor’s boyfriend she’d kicked out again. He’d heard them fighting through the gauze-thin walls of his apartment complex, but until now, he’d never actually ruin into the guy.
Fitted jeans that showed off tightly muscled thighs, plain white T-shirt, and a well-worn brown leather bomber jacket clung to a body Oliver thought he might like to study pretty fucking closely. A five o’clock shadow dusted the guy’s cheeks, despite the early hour, and his dark hair was the prefect length – short enough that it didn’t look unkempt, but long enough that if you wanted to, you could get a good grip on it.
Mack, aka Sheriff Owen Macklin, has traveled from Hope Cove, Maine to Seattle, Washington, to tell Oliver that the sister he never knew he had, Maggie, has died, and since Oliver is family, everything she owned is now his. Despite his reservations, Oliver decides he wants to know more and hops on a plane with Mack to go to Hope Cove to learn more about his sister.
Growing up in foster care, Oliver has no experience with families or love. He never knew his mother, and, until now, he did not know he had a sister. To say his meeting Mack and trip to Hope Cove have him off kilter would be an understatement. In addition, Mack’s presence and the clearly mutual attraction between the men has Oliver confused and feeling out of sorts.
He didn’t know Mack very well, and the man seemed to keep his expression pretty guarded, but there was some pain that ran so deep that the impact was impossible to hide. Maggie and her mom were that pain for Mack. He looked absolutely gutted.
Oliver didn’t have a nurturing bone in his body, but at that moment, all he wanted was to step into Mack’s arms, bury his face against his neck, and hold him close. He doubted that would be very well received, but the urge to make it all better was overpowering.
Mack may be even more confused than Oliver is. Mack was Maggie’s best friend. They grew up together and were only separated when Maggie was attending culinary school. In contrast, Oliver never had any close friends or family. The photos he sees of Maggie, her adopted mother and Mack make him ache for something he has never had and did not realize he wanted. Oliver is convinced that Mack is straight. When that issue is resolved though, Oliver aches for something he not only does not think is possible, but something he does not deserve.
He imagined what his life would have been like if she’d still been alive, She would have been the one to show up on his doorstep, opening up to him, acknowledging him as her brother. The thought made his chest ache. What he would have given to be close to someone like that, someone who would love him despite his rough exterior and less than endearing personality traits
In the pages of this book, Ashwood drags the readers through emotional turmoil as Oliver tries to learn to let go of his self imposed fears and isolation and allow Mack to enter into his heart and to a lesser extent the people of Hope Cove into his life. Mack, who doesn’t understand his overwhelming desires to be with Oliver, needs to come to terms with his feelings. Both characters are going through an “emotional labyrinth”.
As Maggie writes in her journal, Mack sees the world in black and white terms. The irony is that Oliver does, too. And even when the two men appear to want the same things, Oliver cannot trust his heart.
Mack was saying all of the things Oliver had wanted his whole life to hear from someone. He was overjoyed and terrified at the same time. Part of him wanted to jump in completely, no thoughts or reservations, and part of him was absolutely frozen with the thought that this could, and likely would come crashing down around him. He had no idea what was going to happed in the next few days, let alone the next few months, He wasn’t even sure if he belonged in Hope Cove. His life, his job, his apartment, all his things were in Seattle.
When it is discovered that Maggie’s death was not exactly as it seems, Ashwood stokes the tumultuous fire with more angst. Oliver’s foreboding instincts about having bad luck seem to come to a head as he doubts himself and his new friends.
The minor characters in this book are endearing and help solidify the relationship between Mack and Oliver. Although the minor characters are not fully developed or fleshed out in this book, readers do learn more about them in the rest of the series. This book is the first in a series, so there are some loose ends. Ashwood has a concise and beautiful writing style, and the plot and stories are enchanting.
Ashwood is a talented writer and storyteller. Her prose are poignant and she is well versed in the art of symbolism. With Brokenhearted, Ashwood has penned a charming and captivating tale with three-dimensional, intriguing characters.