Kurt Holland wants the best for his younger brother, which is why he moves Sam to Bridgeport, Ohio. It’s a bigger town with a well-known high school. Just the place to give his little brother more opportunities—maybe even a scholarship to college. Kurt hopes his gamble pays off, since Sam’s future isn’t the only thing riding on it. Kurt’s put most of his savings into a new landscaping business there, too. But when Sam gets in trouble for fighting at school, Kurt isn’t so sure it was the right decision … until he meets Sam’s English teacher.
Emily Springer is passionate about helping all of her students succeed, but there’s something about Sam Holland that makes her want to go the extra mile. When he’s caught in a fight at school, she goes to bat in his defense, and during a conference with the principal she meets Sam’s rugged older brother—and guardian. Emily has a strict no-dating policy when it comes to her students’ parents, but Kurt isn’t technically Sam’s parent. It’s OK to bend the rules a little bit, right?
In an effort to make some friends and find a place in the Bridgeport community, Kurt starts up a weekly poker game in his garage. It’s not long before everyone wants in, and they all soon discover that these Friday night poker gatherings are about more than just the game.
Shelley Shepard Gray’s new Bridgeport Social Club series is about men who need a place to call home, a community in need of hope, and a group of women who are special enough to help both things happen. This first installment is genuine and heartfelt. It’s filled with hope, warmth, and the belief that love and acceptance can overcome any tough situation.
I have been reading Shelley Shepard Gray for years (though not her Amish novels) and so I was super excited to see that she had written a contemporary romance (that was not Amish)! Let’s just say, this book was a bit of a surprise. My thoughts:
What I liked
The characters. I liked Kurt who had so much faith and love for his brother that he would pick up and move for him. Heroes who sacrifice their dreams and desires for others are always a win in my book. Also, Kurt learns to establish male friendships which I think is not something that is necessarily addressed for men past the age of high school. You could begin to see where the series was going with the different men that Kurt knew. I liked Sam, who even though he struggled a bit with the move, recognized and appreciated his brother. I liked Emily who isn’t one to just take stuff. She’s a tough cookie, but in a good way. This was definitely a more character driven novel than plot driven, but the characters were such that you didn’t mind being in their heads. And sometimes it’s nice to read a book about relationship dynamics be it father-son, brother-brother, or teacher-guardian.
The writing. I’ve already alluded to this, but the story, though it’s not complicated, does a lovely job of pulling you in.
The romance. While it wasn’t exactly a forbidden romance, it was a romance that was tinged with possible overtones. You can see Kurt and Emily’s hesitation and reluctance, and that’s what makes it sweeter as they are constantly thrown together. Kurt and Emily worked well together and even though they had their miscommunications and frustrations, those were not the things that drove the book.
What I didn’t like
This is not exactly what I didn’t like, but more like what I didn’t expect. Obviously, I approached Gray’s novel expecting a christian contemporary and while this book was clean and the characters mentioned church…I’m not sure about the christian (at least not mature christians, yes, let’s say that). I’m not knocking the book for this per se, just saying that my expectation was one thing, and what I read was another.
Romantic scale: 8
Overall, I enjoyed this book because Shelley Shepard Gray is a fabulous writer. I’m looking forward to book two.
**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**