When life gave you lemons, you learned who stayed and made lemonade with you. Or something to that effect. And the day Ellis Hayes kidnapped me—or, he borrowed a yacht and didn’t know I was on board—he'd definitely been handed too many lemons.
We faced a dilemma when I woke up hungover in the middle of the ocean. He needed to get the hell out of town to do some soul searching and decide whether or not to divorce his wife, and I needed to get back on land because humans didn't belong on the water. There was also better cell service on land, and I had my four-year-old daughter on vacation in Paris to check in with.
Then I remembered I wasn’t a complete tool. Ellis wasn’t doing all right, and we were practically family. I had to stay and make lemonade with him. Of course, me being me, seemingly un-dateable and complicated, I had to develop feelings for him, too.
That one word sums up a huge part of Uncomplicated Choices. Casey's family is a band of misfits, not unlike my own. You don't have to be blood related to be family and when I find a novel that uses that theme so strongly, I seldom dislike it. And let me tell you, I absolutely loved this book. Cara Dee got so many things right, I just loved it straight to my favorites shelf!
Firstly, I've been asked a time or two if this book reads well as a stand alone. In my opinion, it does. While there are a couple secondary characters that play heavily in the story that were in a previous book (Lincoln and Ade are the MCs from Path of Destruction), I haven't read that book and I had zero issues following their role in Uncomplicated Choices. Casey's connection to Lincoln is explained and it worked for me. I really liked both Lincoln and Ade, as well, but especially Lincoln, and now that I've finished Uncomplicated Choices, I want to go back and read Path of Destruction, even though I don't read much M/F anymore.
Casey -- he was a breath of fresh air, to me. He's young, around 30, but he's seen a bit of mileage and he's wise beyond his years. Or maybe he just grew up, and considering everything he has faced in his life, he could easily be a bitter person -- but he's not. He got caught up with the wrong crowd when he was in his teens and did some time in prison (it's how he met Lincoln), he grew up in a wealthy family, but his parents disowned him when he got sentenced and he's a single father of a 4 year old girl whose mother is no where in the picture. Casey has come out of all that and managed to make something of his life. Yeah, he had Lincoln and Ade helping him get on his feet, but he still had to do the work, himself.
Casey is bisexual and has had a really tough time with dating. Refreshingly, the reason for the troubles is not his bisexuality, however, but a combination of him being an ex-con and having a kid as well as him not fitting squarely into a masculine or a feminine mold. He is simply who he is and he's unapologetic about it. He hates stereotypes and the need that people have to put everything into a nice neat box. Casey is unfailingly honest, his past not withstanding, and he's more open than I would consider myself to be. And he's blurty. FSM, I loved that about him.
And Ellis is exploring his bisexuality for the first time. He's in a not-so-good place when the story starts, since he and his wife of 11 years are separated and are working on figuring out if their marriage is even worth saving. And, yes, he is still married for the entire book, but I can't say he is cheating, either. When they separated, his wife made it clear she was going to date -- and she did. Ellis acting on his attraction to Casey came after that. Ellis is reserved, but once he decides to go for something, he does so with everything he has.
Ellis and Casey just fit. Their romance was strong and they actually communicated! That one thing is so refreshing to me, I can't even tell you. There was also a bit of a plot twist that played out in ways I truly never expected. There was no melodrama and wow, I just loved it. That piece took an element that I normally hate in romance novels and made it so I not only didn't mind it, but I actually liked it. Thank you, Cara Dee!
And, happily, Ellis's (ex) wife only came into the story a couple times and while the first time I started to get my claws out, after that she was a reasonable person and also surprisingly self-aware. I found that I didn't mind her role in the story nearly as much as I thought I would. I like how real Cara Dee's stories are and how nothing is ever easy, but at the same time there is no melodrama to drag you down. Her stories always feel so genuine and real and the feelz!! Truly gorgeous.
So, back to family. Family are those people who will always have your back and who will always help you grow. I saw so much of that in Uncomplicated Choices that it brought me joy. Ellis and Casey get a satisfying HEA and form a family of their own.
I've loved each book I've read in this series and Uncomplicated Choices easily made my favorites list. I'm looking forward to reading more in the world of Camassia Cove and it's rather eclectic inhabitants.
ARC of Uncomplicated Choices was generously provided by the author, in exchange for an honest review.
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