Review + Excerpt: The One Real Thing by Samantha Young (and Giveaway)

Paperback: 382 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Hart's Boardwalk #1
While Doctor Jessica Huntington engages with the inmates at the women’s correctional facility where she works, she’s always careful to avoid emotional attachments in her personal life. Loss and betrayal taught her that lesson long ago. But when she comes across a set of old love letters in the prison’s library and visits the picturesque town of Hartwell to deliver them to their intended recipient, she finds herself unable to resist the town’s charm—and her attraction to the sexy owner of a local bar proves equally hard to deny.

Since his divorce from his unfaithful ex-wife, Cooper Lawson has focused on what really matters: his family and the boardwalk pub they’ve owned for generations. But the first time Jessica steps into his bar, Cooper is beyond tempted to risk his heart on her. Yet as their attraction grows hotter and Jessica remains stubbornly closed off, he begins to realize it will take more than just passion to convince her there’s only one real thing in life worth fighting for…

I've been meaning to read Samantha Young's On Dublin Street series for years. I bought all the books and I've even read a couple of the novellas. But it's another case of too many books too little time. So, The One Real Thing is actually my first full-length novel read by Ms. Young and I'm kinda kicking myself for not picking up a novel by her sooner because I absolutely enjoyed this book! 
The One Real Thing follows Dr. Jessica Huntington, a doctor currently working at a women's prison, and Cooper Lawson, a recently divorced bar owner who lives in a small coastal town of Hartwell. These two would never have met if it wasn't for Jessica discovering these letters written by a former inmate who had since died to a man who lived in Hartwell. Touched by the tragedy of these unmailed letters, Jessica decided to hand deliver them to their recipient. In Hartwell, she meets Cooper after being caught in a surprise downpour and there was an instant attraction between them.

However, something happened to Jessica and she doesn't let anybody get too close to her, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. She had this friends-with-benefits thing going on for a few years with a fellow doctor that kept her free and unattached, but she can still scratch that itch once a week. But, the longer she stayed in Hartwell, the more friends and connections she made with the locals, especially Bailey (the owner of the inn Jessica was staying at) and, of course, Cooper Lawson.

Cooper, in turn, also wasn't looking for a relationship. After he found his then-wife cheating on him with his best friend, he divorced her and was in no hurry to jump into a new relationship. That all changed when he met Jessica. He could tell she's different from any woman he had ever met, and he decided to pursue her.

Let me first talk about the town of Hartwell, because I want to live there. I've always been a sucker for small town romances and The One Real Thing definitely satisfied. I fell in love with the town along with Jessica. I loved meeting all townspeople, especially those who will potentially have books of their own book in the series like shy cafe/bookstore owner Emery, who I'm totally shipping with Jack Devlin, who was Cooper's best friend until he slept with Cooper's wife. His betrayal was unforgivable, but I'm ready to forgive him if there's a good explanation--we're certainly given hints that there might be more to the story about Jack. I know we're getting Bailey's story next and I'm so excited for that, especially because it's an enemies-to-lovers story because she's paired with her business rival. Then, there's Iris and Ira, an older, eccentric married couple who owns a restaurant next too Cooper's bar. They were a hoot! I love the small town atmosphere Ms. Young created and I'm looking forward to spending more time in Hartwell in the next book.

As for Jessica and Cooper, I liked both of them. I liked them separately and I rooted for them to be together. Their characters didn't bring anything new to the genre, or anything like that, but they were both very likable characters. I felt for Jessica when she realized how empty here life has been and it was great seeing her make those connections in Hartwell and seeing her grow as a person. Another thing I liked about Jessica's character was that she's not one of those romance heroines who haven't had sex in years and now the hero is going to come along and give her the best sex in her life, which I've noticed is so typical of romance heroines these days. Nope, Jessica has a fuck-buddy and get's regular sex before meeting Cooper and that's totally fine! A typical romance hero gets regular sex (and they don't have to be manwhorish about it), so why can't romance heroines? So, I really like that detail about Jessica. As for Cooper, he was a good guy who's hardworking and he cared for the people in his town. Basically, all the characters, main and secondary, were wonderful to read about all around and I wanted to be part of their town so I can be part of their circle.

I also really enjoyed the writing. We get Jessica's first person narrative and then the chapters switches to Cooper's third person narrative. I liked having both of their perspective. Ms. Young's writing was very readable, so it made it very easy for me to stay up late in the night or lingering in bed on Saturday morning turning pages. As for the plot, it's a familiar story of a woman who finds herself in a small town and falls in love, but it's really the characters who bring the story alive.

If you like small town romances, The One Real Thing is definitely one to check out and pick up. It was a thoroughly entertaining read, steamy, and I absolutely love the characters and looking forward to reading more about them and the town of Hartwell in the next book. 

Why did it feel like having sex had complicated things so much? Usually sex was complication-free for me.
But before that night I’d been completely sure that Cooper was interested in exploring something more with me, and now I was freaking out that his interest would wane now that he’d had me.
I shook my head slowly. “No. It was good.”
He scowled, his arms tightening around me so much there wasn’t an inch of space between us. “It was better than fucking good, Jessica.”
I scowled back and pushed at his chest for some breathing space. “Well, I’m sure you’d know all about that.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“You use the word ‘fuck’ a lot.”
“It’s a good fucking word.”
I was tempted to laugh at how disgruntled he sounded and he seemed to catch my amusement because his hold on me eased.
“What’s going on in your head, Jess?”
I thought about evading this conversation. I’d never had to have an adult, open conversation with a man about sex. However, I realized, somewhat reluctantly, if I wanted something more with Cooper Lawson I was going to have to give him more than I was used to giving.
I couldn’t change his past, but I could figure out what it was he wanted in the future by just being honest and asking the question.
“You still want something with me, right? This”—I gestured behind me to the table—“it wasn’t just about sex.”
“No,” he said. “It’s not just about sex.”
As I heaved a sigh of relief, he let go of my waist to cup my face in his hands, dipping his head down to mine so our noses almost touched. He stared deep into my eyes and I shivered. I felt like he was trying to see right into my soul.
“I’m in this for the long haul, Doc. I was before you walked into my bar tonight, but now, after the best fucking sex of my life, after how wild that was, there’s no way I’m letting you walk out of here without me.”
And there he went doing it again.
His words resonated deep within me along with giving me that deep, sexual belly flip of arousal.
My fingers curled into the top of his biceps. “Best sex of my life, too,” I murmured. “It stunned me a little. Confused me . . . I thought maybe . . . you . . . this was old hat for you . . .”
He gave me a crooked grin. “You think I make a habit of fucking women in my bar.”
“You could,” I said. “You are definitely a man who could pull that off.”
Cooper threw his head back in laughter and I pressed my body deeper into his to feel his joy.
And then he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me.
Just as I’d suspected, he was a really good hugger.
When he pulled back he was smiling gently at me. “You’re the only woman I’ve had in my bar.” He let me go only to take my hand in his. “No one sits at that table anymore.” He gestured to the scene of the best sex we’d both ever had. “It’s now a shrine.”
“You can’t do that!” I was mortified at the possibility of people finding out why there was a table in Cooper Lawson’s bar that no one was allowed to sit at.
“I can. It’s my bar. I think I’ll even carve ‘Coop and Doc were here’ on it.”
Finally getting that he was joking, I made a face. “Funny.”
“You’re slow on the uptake tonight,” he teased.
“My brain was just frazzled by the orgasm to beat all orgasms.”
He squeezed my hand. “You up for more brain frazzling?”
I shivered at the thought. “Definitely.”
His eyes darkened. “Let’s go back to my place.”
Exhilarated by the prospect, I followed him, and it wasn’t until we’d stepped outside the bar into the cool night air that I said, “I don’t suppose you know where my panties are?”
“I do, actually.” He led me to the back of his bar to the parking lot. A dark-colored GMC was the only truck there.
“Um . . . could I have them, please?”
He stopped me at the passenger side of the truck, pressing me up against the car. “Why?” he whispered against my lips before he kissed me deeply. He came up for air a few seconds later. “You’re not going to need them where we’re going.”
The nagging pressure between my legs increased. “You are so very, very good at stringing the exact right words together.”
He kissed me again.
“You’re just good with your mouth in general,” I murmured.
Cooper grinned and brushed his lips over mine. “In the truck, Doc.”

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