The Red Door Inn

The Red Door InnThe Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson
Series: Prince Edward Island Dreams #1
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Revell on March 1, 2016
Pages: 352
Also in this series: Where Two Hearts Meet
Also by this author: Where Two Hearts Meet

 

From the back cover:

Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into the Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It’s a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won’t you stay for the season?

 

I tend to go through phases with novels, consuming anything and everything in a genre until I get just a little bit burned out and have to move on to something new. A few years ago I was consumed with Amish fiction, before getting enamoured with historical romances. In the last couple of years I’ve turned my attentions to contemporary romances. While a lot of the novels I read are from the general market, I’m always on the look out for something new and refreshing from a Christian perspective. I’m a big fan of Robyn Carr and Kristan Higgins, and have yet to find a Christian author who writes contemporary romances that hit the spot the way these ladies do, but I’ve not given up hope! Liz Johnson’s novel didn’t quite meet all my requirements for an Absolutely Perfect Romance, but it was still an excellent story.

“Forced to work together on a project” romances are among of my favourites. There’s just something so appealing about stories where the hero and heroine would never otherwise meet each other, especially if they don’t exactly hit it off and are still forced to cooperate for some greater good. The Red Door Inn had the added bonus of having a lot of realistic details about the immense amount of work needed to turn a house into a functioning B&B. I’m not one of those girls who gets excited over picking out paint colours—my idea of “decorating” involves chucking a few pillows on the couch and sticking a scented candle on an end table—but I did find the details in this novel really interesting. I now have a lot more respect for people who have the energy to completely redo a property!

Even if I wasn’t a contemporary romance junkie, I probably would have picked up The Red Door Inn for the simple fact that it’s set on Prince Edward Island.

Even if I wasn’t a contemporary romance junkie, I probably would have picked up The Red Door Inn for the simple fact that it’s set on Prince Edward Island. Squee! I am such an L. M. Montgomery fangirl. As a preteen, I frequently reminded people that my middle name is Anne with an E. I have often bemoaned the fact that my hair is boring brown and not red (even now, at twenty-four). I’ve still hung on to all my Anne of Green Gables VHS tapes, even though I don’t actually own a tape player. I have an entire bookshelf devoted to Montgomery’s novels, including some interesting early editions that may have definitely seen better days. And the most embarrassing confession? Once, when I was twelve, I pretended to have a boyfriend named Gilbert. Yep. This is definitely my kind of book.

So, let’s address the L. M. Montgomery connection. Can you enjoy this book even if you’ve never read Anne of Green Gables? Absolutely! The tricky part about writing a novel that’s influenced by a classic work is the accessibility to readers who aren’t familiar with the original. Liz Johnson does a good job of letting the reader know about the connection—references to the fact that Marie herself is a Montgomery fan, brief mentions of quotes from novels or things about the island that remind Marie of the author and her books—but the references are never “in” jokes that newbies wouldn’t understand. The reader isn’t overloaded with information about the novel’s inspiration, nor does this inspiration overshadow the story of Marie and the Red Door Inn. That said, as a self-confessed Montgomery fangirl, there were some parallels to her work that I read into the story. In all honesty, I’m not sure if they were intentional or if I was reading too much into it? Jack—Seth’s uncle and the owner of the inn—really reminded me of Matthew Cuthbert, in the way that he takes Marie—practically an orphan like Anne—under his wing and gently guides her into her new life on the island. Caden felt a bit like Diana—a local girl who immediately connects with the protagonist, and is self-conscious about her appearance. Aretha could even be Rachel Lynde, without some of the sourness, in the way that she always knows what everyone was doing and isn’t scared to speak her mind. Liz also captured the small-town feel that’s reminiscent of Montgomery’s novels, but none of these elements felt forced in any way. It was a fantastic homage to the writer.

Liz also captured the small-town feel that’s reminiscent of Montgomery’s novels, but none of these elements felt forced in any way. It was a fantastic homage to the writer.

Aside from the PEI setting, one of the things that initially appealed to me about The Red Door Inn was the amount of baggage that the hero and heroine appeared to be carrying. I’m not big on squeaky clean heroes and heroines—stories are a whole lot more interesting when our protagonists are battling past hurts and figuring out how to love again. Marie’s backstory was fantastically written. I don’t want to give too much away, but Liz perfectly captured the fear and anxiety that hung over Marie because of the way she’d been abused, and showed just how terrifying it was to open up to someone new, even just a friend like Jack. I’m not going to lie, Marie’s story is incredibly sad, and it’s easy to get dragged into her struggles and find yourself feeling a bit down, but the whole situation was perfectly depicted. I was so pleased for Marie when she finally began reaching out to Seth. I mentally cheered her on as if she were a real-life friend, not a character in a book.

I was so pleased for Marie when she finally began reaching out to Seth. I mentally cheered her on as if she were a real-life friend, not a character in a book.

Seth’s story has definitely been done before. Not that this is always a bad thing—I love when authors put a new spin on an old story—but I did find myself getting a bit annoyed at the way he treated Marie. He was hurt and betrayed by his fiance, therefore he assumes all women are out to hurt men, therefore he doesn’t trust Marie. Even though she’s blatantly suffering from PTSD and actually having full-blown panic attacks right in front of him, he still thinks she’s a gold-digger trying to get her hands on Jack’s non-existent money? Ugh. His initial hesitance seemed realistic enough, but after a while I got a bit tired of his refusal to trust Marie. It felt like he spent the whole book edging closer to her and then immediately regressing to his previous fearful, skeptical attitude. I also wasn’t entirely convinced by the issues they had at the inn—I could see why everything had to go wrong so that Marie would feel that she had to step in and help, but it also felt a bit unbelievable that so many things went wrong, one after the other. Jack’s issues with loans and the bank also felt a little bit drawn out. None of these are major issues that I had with the story, just little things that niggled at me while I read.

Unless you consider mixing up the wrong shade of paint to be a major point of tension, this isn’t a terribly suspenseful story. No major external hurdles appear that prevent Marie and Seth from getting together, but that doesn’t mean that their romance isn’t satisfying when it does come to its conclusion. Their journey is slow-moving at times, but realistic given the struggles they’re working to overcome. This is a beautiful story of two people learning to trust again, and the community that surrounds them and supports them as they grow together. I thoroughly look forward to revisiting The Red Door Inn and seeing the restoration and healing that it brings to future characters.

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