REVIEW: All in Good Time by M.K. Chester
She wants to fade away. He can’t possibly let her.
Elizabeth arrives in small, Southern Bryeton to teach first grade in 1948, hiding a painful secret that haunts her. She doesn’t count on falling for Jake, a WWII veteran struggling to raise his young son after his wife abandons them amid a swirl of scandal.
He’s everything she ever wanted yet can’t have. Between her secret and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, more than enough reasons exist to deny their attraction. When one little boy runs away, all pretense falls away. Can they face the truth and follow their hearts?
Dear Ms. Chester,
I was looking for something a little different when I remembered I had this book. I wanted to see how a 1948 post war time frame plus a scandalous divorce would work out, especially since this was going to take place in a small town.
Elizabeth Temple seems to have picked Bryeton, NC to start her teaching career because it’s the back of beyond and she didn’t expect there to be any eligible men who might be attracted to her smarts and good looks. Turns out she chose badly as the very first day of school she meets young Charlie Ryan and his handsome father Jake. Charlie is a charming little boy and Elizabeth finds herself agreeing to let Jake drop him off early on Jake’s way to work. Before long Elizabeth’s been filled in on the local drama that Mrs. Ryan ran off a year ago. Elizabeth has her own private drama and reasons for running from her family and former fiance which will be hinted at but not revealed until after I figured it out.
Jake is trying his best to be both mother and father to Charlie. He knew when they married that his big city wife wasn’t thrilled to be moving to a small town but he never expected her to just up and run off on them. It’s been a year now and Jake has accepted that she’s not coming back. All he wants is to find her, get her to sign the divorce papers, and be done with it. He’s not looking for another relationship but his younger, engaged sister as well as a lot of other women in town seem to think that he and the new schoolteacher have some sparks.
While the town isn’t exactly pushing them together, the Ryan family, Elizabeth’s new teacher friend, plus the older ladies at the boarding house where she lives have made up their minds. Will Elizabeth open up about why she keeps distancing herself from Jake and is he ready to risk another woman in his life and Charlie’s?
I loved the scenes of Jake and Charlie. Jake is a natural father who cares deeply about his son. His family is there to back him up but he’s trying to handle things on his own plus make sure that Charlie knows he’s loved and in a secure family. In fact the whole Ryan clan are great especially Jake’s quiet father who has the art of open ended questions down pat.
Elizabeth’s love of teaching is obvious and takes me back to some great elementary teachers I had when I was Charlie’s age. It’s all new and thrilling to her, even on days when everything goes wrong and the children are wild. It makes sense that she’d bond with a fellow teacher as a new friend and I liked Molly, too.
This is the type of small town romance that I can tolerate since most of the action focuses on the relationship between Jake and Elizabeth. There is mention of a bit of gossip about them though there’s not as much fall-out as I thought would occur after two events. A single teacher staying overnight at the house of a divorced parent – for an entirely innocent reason – and there are no raised eyebrows or outraged parents? That didn’t seem likely but on the other hand I didn’t mind missing the drama either. I wish more time had been spent with the other women at the boarding house but given the shorter length of the story, I can see that this wasn’t possible. One thing that was odd is that Elizabeth’s landlady is given “Southern” dialect for about three pages after which (thank goodness) it disappears.
I did get slightly annoyed at Elizabeth withholding her (valid) reason from her fiance for breaking her engagement. True it wasn’t information that she owed anyone in Bryeton but Percy should have been told the real reason why Elizabeth handed back the ring and called it quits. To be honest, I sort of felt more on his side of that issue. But I could understand why Elizabeth didn’t want to spill her medical secrets to all and sundry in her new town, despite some gentle prying, and that since she didn’t plan on entering a relationship with Jake, she wouldn’t have told him either.
The ending was sweet and avoided a few other dramatic clichés I thought were coming. Yay for that. Better use could have been made of time period but I did note that Jake was able to take advantage of the GI Bill. I found this to be a quieter book that is low on histrionics and is a fast read with a great father/son relationship. B-