Review

Review: Stronger Than Hope by Katherine McIntyre (2022)

Chesapeake Days, Book #1

Heat Factor: 👨‍❤️‍💋‍👨🍆🍑🍆🍑🍆🍑👨‍❤️‍💋‍👨

Character Chemistry: OMGGGGG, he’s so hot (and he has a great personality, too)

Plot: Nate, recently dumped and starting over in a small town, almost runs over Linc, single dad widower who’s stifled in the small town, so obviously they’re MFEO but it takes a while to get there

Overall: This was a very chill read


Here’s the scoop: Nate’s inherited an old coffee shop from his uncle, so he moves to Chesapeake City to start over. Linc’s lived in Chesapeake City his whole life, but after his wife’s death in childbirth (six years after), he’s struggling to find happiness under the cloud of grief and survivor’s guilt. Plus his child is being bullied at school, so the clear choice is to start over somewhere else, right? 

Both Linc and Nate are relationship type guys, and Nate’s all heart eyes from the moment that Linc bends and agrees to dating. They have to take it really slow because Linc’s ready to bolt at any moment, plus he’s a parent and doesn’t want to confuse and upset his child. So, while they’re both totally smitten with each other, the tension in the relationship really stems from Linc’s fear that he’s not going to have a connection like he had with his wife, and he’s going to leave. And, because he’s upfront with Nate, that fear translates to Nate being afraid that he’s going to be in too deep and will be abandoned. Plus Nate’s ex did a number on his confidence and belief in his own desirability. 

The setting of this book is pretty spot on. If you’ve never been to the Chesapeake Bay…well, I’m not saying that you should choose it over, like, the Grand Canyon, but it’s really lovely. Quaint. Pretty. Boats on the water and boardwalks and bridges. There were moments when I was reading and thinking, “That’s MD AF.” E.g. when I read: “Any time his son stayed over his parents’ house…” Who needs prepositions?! 

Because I am from the area, though, there were a few head-scratchy moments for me that I just chalked up to “for plot purposes.” Like, for example, Linc is thinking about moving to Baltimore and takes a short term job there to see if it might be a good fit for him. The commute is an hour. His parents are aghast, and he stays overnight in Towson (outside Baltimore) for the days he’s working there. So, Chesapeake City is on the very north end of the Bay, like maybe you wouldn’t even call it the Bay, because it’s on a river that connects to the Bay (but that’s, like, the whole area, so… it’s basically the Bay), and I’m not as familiar with those commutes up north, but, like, long haul commutes are normal in the area, so why does taking a job in Baltimore equate to him moving? Some people I used to work with were commuting 1.5 hours one way every day. Some folks commute even longer than that (some commute from the Eastern Shore or even Delaware every day), but a commute of an hour (at least) is totally normal for the area. There are commuter buses that have dedicated parking lots and bus stops. There’s a commuter train network (not the Light Rail). Linc’s not an office staffer like most of the people I knew (though one of my Southern Maryland colleagues who had a 1.5 hour commute was married to an electrician for the Architect of the Capitol, so blue collar workers commute, too), but a one hour commute is nothing. That said, it is a PITA to get around the top of the Bay, so I can understand the desire to relocate, especially when we attach all Linc’s emotional baggage. 

But then, Linc has a hometown network that’s helping him be a single parent – he’s got friends and relatives who are available to help with childcare at almost any time if he needs them. Because he works for himself, he can also have a flexible schedule to take care of his child (say, to pick him up early because he’s gotten pushed around by the bullies), which is a much harder ask on a job with a bigger staff that’s more regulated. Why do you think moving is a good idea, Linc? I know, it’s because he’s thinking with his feelings, not his logic. Linc, Linc, Linc. Sigh.

Don’t think I’m giving Nate a free pass! His employee was a nightmare, and he was way too nice to her. Or, rather, conflict avoidant, which, TBH, is about right for management. Why speak directly to a staff member who’s not doing what they’re supposed to when you can make a new rule for the whole office, amiright? But Nick is getting his footing, opening his own business and having staff in the first place, and it’s hard to know what’s best when you’re new to management. The whole process of Nick renovating and reopening his uncle’s coffee shop, and the angst that caused for people in town who don’t like change, was definitely engaging. 

Head-scratchy moments aside, I enjoyed the easy, sweet mood of this story. It’s got that laying-on-the-boat-deck, enjoying-the-sun energy. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


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