For a small place, there sure are a lot of love stories on Gansett Island, and each with a different path. Ready for Love picks up a year after Joe and Janey found their much-delayed happiness, but though Luke and Sydney had even longer to come back to this moment, their tale has little in common with the previous book.
Sydney has been coming to the island since her teenage years, but though she met, and loved, Luke back then, she wasn’t mature enough to see beyond her parents’ prejudices. Instead, she married someone else, had two wonderful kids, and lived a full life with summers on the island as a minor part of that. Still, she never forgot Luke or got over her regret at how she’d left one summer and returned the next time married to someone else, never giving Luke the breakup he deserved.
Then fate deals an awful blow as a drunk driver kills her family and injures her, leaving Sydney devastated.
All this happens in the backstory. We join the present when, a year after the first time Luke came to check on Sydney in secret, he’s back pulling his boat onto her beach so he can stand guard over her grief. Only Sydney hasn’t been ignorant of his visits as he supposed, something he learns when she calls him on it, finally ready to recognize his presence.
Their story is complicated with trust issues, grief, and expectations, but it’s a beautiful one as Luke tries to move forward while everyone helpfully reminds him how destroyed he was the last time she left him. Sydney is no better as she tries to make her way back to her first love without feeling guilty about finding happiness a second time despite the deaths of her children and husband. The guilt is also because her ties to Luke in memory stayed true throughout her marriage. She was never unfaithful in thought or word, so did not betray her husband, but neither did the past fade as it might have.
Nor does all this happen in isolation as the community of friends we’ve come to know meet to tease, support, and challenge each other, especially since Janey and Joe’s wedding is only two weeks away.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I like all the different paths to love these stories tell, and Ready for Love both has a complete story and several others running in parallel. Even in Luke and Sydney’s story alone, though, there are many threads I appreciated.
Doubt is an aspect, but when it would have been easy for doubt to overwhelm trust, I very much enjoyed how their understanding of each other wins out. Which is not to say doubt plays no part, because it absolutely does, but it’s not the simple things where it shows, but in multilayered ones where some level of mistrust makes sense even without considering their past.
This is a powerful, complex, supportive love story that swept me in. It has open-door intimate scenes, tragedy, and a faithful dog. Buddy is both an emotional crutch for Sydney, and a proper dog who scratches and whines at a closed door rather than a caricature. As much as the book’s about two people renewing a lost love, there’s love of family, found and blood, and active change in more than just the main characters. It was what I wanted to read at this moment, and Marie Force delivered.