Moonlight Over Manhattan is a delightful read that is not without its dark and serious moments. Harriet is struggling with the consequences of mental abuse that have undermined her sense of self while Ethan believes himself incapable of real emotions after having to turn them off to manage the stress of trauma medicine.
Harriet’s brother and twin sister have protected her from both their father and life in general for too long, but with both of them falling in love, Harriet knows she needs to learn how to fend for herself. She goes about this in a way that is both strange and yet strangely courageous as she tackles things that intimidate her by attempting something she would not do each day until Christmas from online dating to wearing high heels.
It’s those two elements that land her in Ethan’s emergency room on a busy night in which she appears as a pool of calm, but then she’s gone. She makes enough of an impression to linger in Ethan’s mind.
It’s coincidence, though not as great as you might think with Fliss and Harriet’s-dog walking company dominating half of Manhattan, that she’s called in to help Ethan care for his sister’s dog when she has an emergency trip out of town.
This much you can gather from the book description. However, the description fails to capture a crisis-filled second meeting that leaves Harriet fiercely defending the needs of Madi (the dog) despite having all her fears of being unable to survive on her own thrown in her face.
Both Harriet and Ethan are decent people to start out with, but they grow on the page as they learn more about each other and themselves than many do in a lifetime. While they appear very different on the surface, both of them are observant, caring people who are not consciously aware of the difference they make. Madi helps in this by throwing the confident, controlled Ethan so far out of his element that he has to solicit Harriet’s expertise out of desperation.
I loved how Harriet pushes herself to become self-sufficient, and how that effort grows to include her true mate rather than having him fill the gap left by her siblings’ life changes. It speaks to the strength of Sarah Morgan’s characters that I thought I’d already read Daniel’s story (Harriet’s brother) when he appeared in this one because I know him so well from the previous book I’d read. The characters I met in this book are much the same. I wanted some closure with the instant friend Harriet meets in the very beginning, even though circumstances made it unlikely they would meet again, but Natalie was such a bright spot I hope she shows up something else.
This is not a clean read. There is on-screen sex though not with explicit detail, but it has that kind of feel, focusing more on the people, their lives, and overcoming the shadows they carry from the past. I felt like I was there with them for both the high points and the low ones.
There are quite a few chuckles; heartfelt moments for animal lovers; and deeper, wrenching times when both their pasts come up to haunt them and attempt to disrupt any chance they have of a true relationship. Ultimately, it’s as sweet a Christmas story as it can be with a complexity that makes it feel real.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.