Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NEW + REVIEW: Lake + Manning by Jessica Hawkins



When I was thinking about writing this review the first thought I had was how in some ways this novel was like a full length epilogue to book three, Move The Stars
Except that that would indicate that this novel didn't really have a full story arc and that it had no friction or conflict, which is false. Lake and Manning's story has never been easy and even in their happily ever after, there were bumps and hurts and hardships.
What is true, though, is that Manning and Lake have a story that romance readers long for. It feels like this series will be a classic in the genre. It has the breadth and depth, obstacles and yearning, and a powerful love that runs through all four novels. This final novel gives us a finished ending that will leave fans of this series fully satisfied. We can walk away knowing how their story ends--and what a lovely ending it is.


Manning and I have what happily-ever-after is made of . . .

A home he built us on the unshakeable foundation we fought for. A life of laughter carved out of heartache and betrayal. A love story to stand the test of time.

But between a trust that can’t be broken, joy that can’t be bridled, and passion that would scorch the sun, the empty spaces are becoming more and more difficult to ignore . . .

Fears that keep Manning up at night as he slips from our bed. Our complicated relationship with a man he respects and one I don't know how to forgive. And a sprawling, beautiful home with one small room I'm afraid I'll never be able to fill.

Manning and I have what happily-ever-after is made of . . .

But I'll beg the heavens for just one thing more.

Lake + Manning is book four in the Something in the Way series, a love saga. 

Release Info:
iBooks ➜ http://bit.ly/landmibooks
Amazon ➜ http://smarturl.it/landmonamazon
Nook ➜ http://bit.ly/landmnook
Google Play ➜ http://bit.ly/landmplay
Kobo ➜ http://bit.ly/landmkobo
Goodreads ➜ http://bit.ly/lmgoodreads
Paperback ➜ http://smarturl.it/landmpb

Blueberry Pie
Winter 2008
Chapter One
With oven mitts tucked under one arm and my cell balanced between my ear and shoulder, I stepped over Blue. Every winter since we’d adopted her two years ago, the dog had taken to lying in the middle of the kitchen whenever I baked.
“One sec,” I said into the phone and bent at the waist. I flipped on the oven light and a blueberry pie appeared, crust browning right on schedule. “Perfect.”
“What’s perfect?” Val asked on the other end of the line.
“The pie I’m baking Manning.”
“Good. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Not exactly. After over a week away from Manning, food would be the second thing on his mind. “They need to think a few inches lower.”
“You’re such a wife, and you’re not even married. I bet you’re wearing an apron and everything.”
“I am. It has birds on it.”
“Okay, that’s weird. Birds have nothing to do with cooking,” Val said. “But here’s what you need to do. Once Manning is full of pie and bear meat, or whatever a human his size eats, and he’s half-asleep, ask him why.”
“Why what?”
“The marriage thing.”
I turned off the oven. I should’ve known she’d bring it back up, even though I’d tried to steer her off course. Diversion tactics didn’t work on my best friend when she was onto something. “There’s no marriage thing,” I said, checking over my shoulder to make sure Manning hadn’t snuck up on me. “Can we drop this?”
“You were telling me you weren’t sure why, after four years of cohabitation—”
“One of which I commuted to Los Angeles for work,” I said, “and three of which I’ve lived part-time in Pomona.”
She ignored me. “You were saying you don’t know why Manning hasn’t proposed yet.”
“That’s not what I said.” With a sigh, I removed the pie from the oven and set it on a burner. “I already know why he hasn’t—I told him not to until I was done with school.”
“You said you didn’t want to get married until you were done with school—and you’re graduating next summer. He can still propose.”
I hated to admit Val had a point. What I’d actually started to explain before I’d remembered Val would take anything juicy and run with it, was how Manning used to bug me constantly about getting married . . . but lately, he’d been uncharacteristically quiet on the topic. Between his furniture business and me being gone four days a week for school, marriage had hardly come up at all the last six or so months. I wasn’t wondering why he hadn’t proposed—I wanted to know why he’d given up trying to propose.
Because Manning had ways of getting what he wanted. We’d once spent three weeks arguing over whether I needed snow tread tires for my car. Snow in Big Bear was pretty mild, and when it wasn’t, we took Manning’s truck. Winter tires were expensive.
I’d given in out of exhaustion.
Manning wanted to get married, of that I was certain. He would’ve sealed the deal the warm September day I’d moved in except that I’d made him promise to wait. That, and he wanted the wedding to be special, and right now, neither of us had time for anything more than a quick trip to City Hall. Manning’s business kept him busy around the clock. I went to school two hours away, so I’d rented an apartment where I stayed during the week. Our life had not yet begun.
But it would soon. I had one semester left of classes before graduating in May, and surely that had crossed Manning’s mind. “I’m not going to dope him up on blueberry pie and ask him to ask me to marry him. Especially since I don’t even know if I want that yet.”
“You won’t let yourself want it because you’ve been burned in the past.”
“Not true. I want it eventually, but with our schedules—”
“Blah, blah, blah. Listen, if the pie doesn’t get him to drop to one knee, withhold sex until he caves. I assume you’re naked under your apron.”
I laughed. “I am not. And I don’t need Manning to cave. He and I have no secrets. If I’m ready for a proposal, I can just tell him.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” she asked. “In my plan, you get pie andsex.”
“I’m already getting those things. Since I was gone all last week for exams, I’m surprising him with a home-cooked meal and . . . other things.” I didn’t need an excuse to feed us both into a coma or climb Manning like the mountain of a man he was. Nor did I need one to broach the subject of marriage—should I decide to do such a thing.
“He thinks you’re still in Pomona?” she asked.
“Until tomorrow.” Blue raised her head to look at me with her signature turquoise eyes. I put my index finger over my lips. “Don’t tell Daddy.”
“Ew,” Val said. “You call him Daddy?”
“I was talking to Blue.” I squatted to scratch her stomach. Manning and I had decided to foster pets until after graduation when I’d be living at home full-time. Blue was a Border Collie-Australian Shepherd mix—or so we guessed—named after the striking color of her eyes. She’d been the third dog we’d taken in. I’d cried buckets when the shelter had placed the second dog, so Manning had suggested we keep Blue. He’d said it was to prevent more tears, but it was no secret Manning had a weakness for blue eyes.
When the front door opened, Blue perked up. “He’s here,” I whispered to Val. “I’ll call you later.”
“Tell him to put a ring on it,” she cried.
“I don’t even want to know how many times you’ve listened to BeyoncĂ©’s new album,” I said before I hung up.
“Lake?” Manning called, stomping through the foyer.
I stood and smoothed out my apron before quickly scrubbing flour from my wrist. “In the kitchen.”
He came in wiping his temple on his sleeve. “You said you were driving in tomorrow morning.”
I had about two seconds to get a good look at him—flannel open at the collar, a week’s worth of beard, and hair pushed off his face—before he had me off my feet and wrapped in one of his strong bear hugs.
“I decided to surprise you,” I said.
“I hate surprises.” He inhaled my hair. “There’s ice on the roads and it’s dark out. If anything had happened—”
“Want me to come back tomorrow?”
He growled into my neck and set me on the counter. “A week’s too long, Lake.”
I let my head fall back as he trailed kisses up my throat. He pulled me to the edge, urging my legs around him. “Manning,” I said when his tool belt pressed my inner thighs. “Your drill.”
“That’s not my drill, Birdy.” He snickered as he unhooked his belt and let it hit the ground with a thunk that made me jump.
“Watch out for Blue!”
“She knows to get out of the way when Mama Bear comes home.”
I laughed as he tickled the underside of my jaw with his overgrown stubble. “Why are you still wearing all that anyway?” I asked.
“Huh?” he said, leaning in for a kiss.
I pulled back. “Usually you leave your belt in the workshop at the end of the day.”
“I was coming in to grab a bite.”
I pushed my palms into his chest, using all my strength to keep him from devouring me. “A bite?” I asked. “What about those frozen meals I left you?”
“That’s a bite for me. I was going to put one in the microwave—”
“You mean oven.”
“Then what?”
“Down the hatch and back to work. Can we talk about this after?”
I arched an eyebrow. I’d expected enthusiasm from him, naturally, but Manning was coming at me like I was blueberry pie. “After what?”
He sighed, relenting enough to let me push him back. “I missed you. You can’t expect me not to be eager.”
“Phone sex not cutting it?” I joked.
He leveled me with a glare. “You know it doesn’t. I’m just happy to have you to myself for more than a weekend.”
“Thank heavens for Christmas break.” I played with one of his shirt buttons while keeping my distance. “But it’s after seven. Why were you going back out there?”
“What do you think I do when you’re not here?” He licked his lips as he stared at mine. “I work.”
“Not tonight, you don’t.”
He squeezed my hips, bringing me against his crotch. “I never work late when you’re here. That was our deal. No matter what’s going on, if we’re both in town, we always eat dinner together.”
I kissed his forehead and slid off the counter despite his grunted protest. “First, we eat.”
“But it’s been almost two weeks.”           
“It’s been eight days.” I picked up his tool belt and set it on the counter. “There’s lasagna in the oven, and I’m cooling a pie for dessert.”
As I’d predicted, that silenced him. Food was the one thing that had the potential to hold over Manning’s sex drive, at least for a bit.
“You were supposed to have dinner with classmates tonight to celebrate getting exams out of the way.”
“There was no dinner.” Bent over to check on the lasagna, I looked back at him and grinned. “I lied.”
Lied?” He hooked a finger in my apron string and tugged me backward. “To me? Who do you think you’re dealing with here?”
I pushed his hand away and shuffled back to the oven. “Hand me the mitts.”
He put them on himself and pulled the dish out to set it next to the pie. “Nothing like your homemade meals,” he said. “My mouth is watering.”
“Patience. I won’t be responsible for yet another of your burnt tongues. Why don’t you go shut down the shop?” I asked, turning to get a spatula.
He took my elbow, pulling me back until I was against his chest. “Thank you,” he said.
Tucked into him, I let out a long breath. As much as I liked to tease Manning for his grumpiness when we were apart, I felt our distance, too. Every hour of every day. There were times I was tempted to drop out and leave Pomona so we could finally start our lives together, but it was the closest college to us with a veterinary program. “What’re you thanking me for?” I asked. “I haven’t done anything yet.”
Blue tried to nose between us. Manning scratched behind her ear while keeping me close. “You’re home early. That’s worth giving thanks for.”
“I wish I could be here more.”
“I want that, too, you know I do, but it’s not forever.”
Even though I knew our distance bothered Manning, he’d been nothing but supportive of my career. He’d stuck by me as I’d finished out my contract in Hollywood, then when I’d turned around and picked a university that was also two hours away. Over the last decade and a half, we’d gotten pretty used to being apart. Maybe what we needed now was a piece—or even a promise—of forever.
Damn it, Val. It was possible she’d known exactly what seed she was planting when she’d brought up marriage. That girl had always been wiser than she looked.
And then, any thoughts in my head vanished. Manning bent down and shook the ground I stood on with a slow, sweet kiss. “Should’ve done that as soon as I walked in the door,” he said.
“You were excited,” I teased, sliding my arms around his neck.
“Still am.” He thumbed the corner of my mouth. “Your lips are all red. If I’d known you were coming tonight, I would’ve shaved.”
I ran the back of my hand over the short beard he’d grown during the week we’d been apart. “You never let it get this long.”
“Because I don’t like to scratch you up.”
“So if I weren’t around, you’d go full Sasquatch?”
“Nah. All this hair itches. I’m just too lazy to shave it when you’re gone.”
Considering it was December, I kind of dug the mountain man look, but if he didn’t want to shave, I’d do it for him. He did enough for me on a daily basis; tonight was about him.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” I said, slipping out of his arms. “Go lock up. I have plans for you later.”
“Plans?” He patted my behind and picked up his belt from the counter on his way out the door. “Can’t wait.”
I turned back to Blue, who looked from me to the food as if I might finally break down and scoop a serving into her dog dish. A home-cooked meal, blueberry pie, and sex—that was a plan, wasn’t it? A good one, too. No sense in bringing up anything as serious as marriage tonight.
If only I could stop thinking about it.

I found Manning waiting at the base of the porch steps with Blue, looking every inch a man in jeans and fishing boots, the porch swing’s floral printed cushions under one arm. Any fears I had vanished. This was about the man I loved, a man both tough and sensitive, determined but attentive.
“Why are you wearing galoshes?” I asked, taking his outstretched hand. I started for his truck but he pulled me around the side of the house, toward the back. “And what’re the cushions for?”
“Guess,” he said.
Manning and I had explored the woods behind the house plenty of times. Usually we went back there for two reasons—to walk Blue, or to go on the lake. Neither of those seemed like great after-dark activities. “I’m stumped,” I said.
As we crossed from our backyard into the woods, Manning kept me close with an arm around my shoulders. Blue darted through the trees but always sprinted back when we whistled for her. Perhaps if I’d been anywhere except the place I called home, I might’ve been spooked by the cover of darkness. By the rustling bushes, or the haunting hoots and flapping of wings echoing around us. Instead, I snuggled into the side of the man I knew would kill to protect me or die trying.
The closer we got to the edge of the forest, the more convinced I was that Manning had lost his mind and decided to recreate the night we’d snuck out of camp, gone for a drive, and wound up in the water.
The woods spit us out into a clearing that opened up to a tiny lake we’d come to know well. It was shallow, mostly off the map, and small enough for us to drift aimlessly. Manning kept the first dinghy he’d ever made there, tied to a stake in the ground. He’d built other boats—some he’d sold, and with help, a larger one we kept at one of Big Bear Lake’s marinas—but we had this little slice of heaven all to ourselves most of the time.
“We’re going on the lake?” I asked.
“Bingo,” he replied. “Go on. Climb on over the starboard side.” Manning winked before he added, “And into my lap.” It was the same thing he’d said to me my first night at the house in Big Bear.
No matter how endearing his invitation, I stayed where I was. We’d made love in this boat. I’d laughed until my sides had ached watching Manning try and fail to catch a fish with his hands. We’d drifted around in it on hot afternoons eating orange slices as the sun had set. But we’d certainly never taken it out at night.
Blue whined, probably sensing she was about to get left behind. “Blue and I are going to need a bit of an explanation before we proceed,” I said.
He squatted to untie the boat, and I heard the smile in his voice. “What’s wrong? Don’t trust me?”
“To steer this thing in the dark?”
“The stars are out.” He gestured up at the sky. “They’ll guide us, Birdy.”
“Actually,” I said, hands on my hips, “it’s a crescent moon and particularly dark tonight.”
“I know,” he said. “I wish I could say I planned it that way, but we just got lucky.”
Warily, I climbed over the starboard side and set up both cushions. Once I was seated at the bow, he pushed the boat through the weeds and waded in after it.
“Stay,” he told Blue.
She barked once to get her point across but plopped down at the edge of the lake, watching us go as she had many times before.
“Where are we headed?” I asked once Manning had climbed in.
“To the middle.” Slowly, he rowed us out on the water. As the night spread around us, complete stillness punctuated by occasional splashes and croaks, I began to wonder if the journey was the destination. Though Manning and I had planned a fairly low-key weekend, there was no getting around the chaos that came with having friends and family in one place. It’d been days, maybe even weeks, since I’d experienced this kind of stillness and peace.
“Okay, this was a good idea,” I admitted, shutting my eyes and relaxing against the back of the boat to enjoy the warm breeze.
“We’re here,” he said.
I opened my eyes. “Where’s here?”
“Middle of the lake. Best spot to see the show.” He reached for me. “Come.”
Taking his hand, I let him guide me forward to sit between his legs.
He enveloped me, hugging my back to his chest. “Look up.”
I relaxed against him, resting my arms on his as I scanned the countless stars. In the pitch black, they shone especially bright. “They’re beautiful,” I said.
“You know I’ll always move the stars for you if need be,” he said. “Whatever it takes.”
Though I appreciated the warmth behind his words, wasn’t it possible some fates couldn’t be rearranged? The vastness of the black sky and the sheer number of stars overhead made me feel small and insignificant—but not in a bad way. Did the universe have plans for us? Or had Manning and I really defined our own destiny? And what did either of those realities mean for our future?
Manning bent his mouth to my ear. “Lake?” he asked.
“Did you hear me?”
Whatever it takes. It occurred to me as we sat under the glittering stars that Manning would do anything in his power to move them in our favor—but what would it do to him if he couldn’t?

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