Dogwood Hill - Sherryl Woods

Series: Chesapeake Shores (Book 12)

 

When former pro football quarterback Aidan Mitchell comes to Chesapeake Shores to take a high school coaching job, he's embraced by the town -- especially the O'Briens. But Aidan has a secret that could alter all their lives.

 

For wounded Liz March, who's trying for a fresh start after a devastating betrayal, taking a chance on Aidan may be more than she can handle. Her heart, however, refuses to listen to her head. But just when forever seems within reach, Aidan's secret threatens to change everything.

 

Does this tempting stranger who's made her feel alive have the power to convince her to look beyond the past and reach for the future?

 

Very good book, full of the love and fun that seem to follow the O'Briens everywhere. After a career ending injury, Aidan Mitchell has begun a new career as a high school football coach. He has been offered the job at the Chesapeake Shores high school. On his first day in town he meets Liz March, who encourages him to take the job. He's attracted to her, which is an incentive to stay. He also meets Mick O'Brien, one of the leading citizens in town, who has been advocating for Aidan's hiring. Aidan is interested in the job for two reasons - first, he's really impressed with what he has learned about the program, and second, he has reason to believe that the father he never knew is one of the O'Briens. Aidan is the son of a single mother who never told his father about him. She also never told Aidan who he was, just that he was an important man who is dedicated to the work he does. Aidan has spent a lot of time resenting the fact that he never knew his father, and blaming the man for never getting back in touch with his mom in all the years since. After his mother's death, Aidan found his birth certificate and information about his father. Working in Chesapeake Shores will give him a chance to learn more about the man before deciding whether to reveal who he is.

 

Liz came to Chesapeake Shores to start her life over, away from the memories of her marriage. Her husband died in a crash right after she learned of several secrets he had been keeping that had been a betrayal of everything she believed about their life together. Wanting to put her past behind her, she hasn't talked about her marriage or her late husband to any of the friends she has made since her move. When she meets Aidan, she is attracted to him, but she had made the decision that she wasn't going to get involved with another man. She's conflicted, because her body and her heart want her to get to know him better, but her head is telling her that he's got secrets and she shouldn't take that risk again. 

 

Add the O'Briens, well known for their matchmaking tendencies, and things start to get really interesting. Mick and the others are sure that Aidan and Liz are just perfect for each other, and take every opportunity to throw them together. The family also has a mission to make the newcomers feel welcome, and Aidan especially finds himself constantly drawn into their circle. The more time he spends with them, the more he really likes them, except he's still withholding judgment on one of them. He's not quite sure how to handle what he knows and what to do with the information. 

 

I loved seeing the relationship develop between Aidan and Liz. The attraction is strong but both are wary. Aidan isn't sure what will happen when and if he reveals his secret, so committing is something he's reluctant to do. Liz has huge trust issues and, sensing that Aidan is hiding something, is reluctant to take a risk. Aidan is a bit more open to the possibilities and pursues Liz fairly hard, until he realizes just how skittish she is. I loved seeing him back off a bit and try going the friendship route until he can make her see things his way. He's sensitive to her feelings, and I loved seeing some of the things he tried to do for her. I also liked the way that when he felt like he had pushed too hard, he would send her friends to her to help her out. Liz finds it pretty hard to resist Aidan when he's being so good to and with her. She hadn't thought she could be interested in another man, but Aidan is breaking down her barriers pretty quickly, except for that fear about what he's keeping from her. When the secret does come out, her reaction is very strong. She has to decide if she can get past her fears and open herself up to Aidan and love.

 

As always, the O'Briens take meddling to a pretty extreme level. They always mean well, but sometimes their interference just makes things more complicated. I loved seeing some of the encounters between them and Aidan and Liz. Most of the O'Briens had been on the receiving end of meddling at one time and didn't like it, but it doesn't seem to stop them from dishing it out. There are some pretty funny moments, such as the guys' basketball games, where they do their own parts to get Aidan and Liz together.

 

I loved seeing Aidan's process of learning about his family and observing his father. His inner conflict was intense and seeing him try to decide what to do was emotional. The big reveal almost seemed to be spur of the moment and to say his father was shocked would be an understatement. I thought the reactions were quite realistic and very believable. The person whose reaction I was most concerned about turned out to be wholly supportive. Grandma Nell's reaction was sweet and completely like her.

 

One of my favorite characters in the book was Archie the dog. From the moment he brought Liz and Aidan together it was as if he, too, was working with the O'Briens. I loved seeing how quickly he bonded with Aidan even though Aidan kept insisting he didn't want a dog. Archie was sure that he did, and Liz was just as certain.