by Jeannie Chin
Publication: September 28, 2021
The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane is a charming small-town romance, practically a Hallmark movie in its plot and execution but updated to be more diverse in its population. (And people have sex too…). June is a likeable protagonist. While Clay eventually grew on me, I still didn’t like him all that much. It has the typical small-town story that I usually enjoy but only half of the main couple is likeable, which affected how much I rooted for their romance.
Clay is a grumpy and stubborn vet who arrives in Blue Cedar Falls to fulfill his best friend’s dream of opening a bar. His less than personable behavior and his planned business venture put him at odds with some of the residents of the small town, including June, who helps run her family’s inn across the street from his bar. He realizes belatedly that he’ll need June’s support if he wants to successfully open his bar. Clay’s assumptions about June rubbed me the wrong way, and he never seems to be apologetic for jumping to conclusions about her. He second-guesses her motives, even though she doesn’t give him cause to. I didn’t think he deserved her, especially when the last act breakup started looming.
Used to being the responsible one, June needs to get more guests checking in to help pay her mother’s medical bills. It doesn’t help that the newest resident is making noise at all hours and driving guests away. Like Clay, she can be stubborn, but her outlook on life is much rosier. She’s the small-town girl who loves where she lives and wants other people to see its charm. June is relatively open-minded and is willing to give just about anything a chance, including Clay and his bar. Getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t prevent her from helping him once he sees the error of his ways. I liked her Pollyanna personality. The support she provides her best friend, who has a subplot here, is part of the reason why I liked June. She’s dependable but can sometimes carry too much on her shoulder.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the book is how quickly Clay and June pair up. I was left wondering what was going to happen for the rest of the book. The second half left me restless, although I did enjoy some of the subplots. I was disappointed that the Pumpkin Festival mentioned in the blurb only makes a small appearance. Chin does an excellent job of making the town charming. Everyone knows everyone else, and Chin easily pulls in characters to weave in some of their stories and backgrounds through conversations. It helped create that small-town atmosphere I was hoping for. Although I might not have liked Clay as much as I hoped, Chin has successfully drawn me into the town and I look forward to reading the next sister’s book. The one I’m really looking forward to is the youngest sister’s book.