By JL Berg
This is the first book in a series of stand alone stories with interconnected characters.
Death is easy.
Surviving it? That’s the hard part.
Dr. Jake Jameson knows this all too well. Losing his mother at the age of eighteen, he walks away from his small hometown and the painful memories it holds, vowing to never return again.
Twelve years later, he finds himself driving back down the coast of North Carolina. When his father leaves him a small medical practice, he has no choice but to heed the call until he can find someone else to take it off his hands.
But coming back home means facing everything he left behind, including the one woman who might make it impossible to leave again.
Molly McIntyre has spent her entire life in one town. Taking over her parents’ small inn, she’s settled into a quiet, happy life. But all of that comes to an abrupt halt when Jake shows up at her door in need of a place to stay.
Molly loathes everything about this man, but she can’t find it in her heart to refuse his request.
After over a decade, these former lovers quickly discover what once burned brightly between them has only grown in their time apart. Soon they must decide if the choices they’ve made have led them back to each other for a second chance or one final goodbye.
Dr. Jake Jameson is heading back to his hometown Ocracoke Island after the death of his father. After the death of his mother it becomes clear to Jake that leaving the island is the best way for him to move on. That decision leads him to become the hot-shot cardiac surgeon on track to become the youngest chief of surgery.
Molly McIntyre is always taking care of others. She takes care of her neighbors and venders. She takes care of the guests that come to the By the Bay Inn. She gave up her dream of going to college to stay home and take over the third generation family business.
Jake and Molly have been together since they were kids even planning their interconnected future. When Jake’s mother passes and he decides the only way he can cope is to leave the island. Molly knows that she has to stay. 10 years pass before Jake returns home to settle his father’s affairs, when he arrives he finds things are not the same as when he left. Including his first love’s engagement to his childhood friend Dean. But, everyone's plans change with a blink of an eye.
The Choices I’ve Made is a heart twisting tale of a second chance romance. Sometimes people meet when they are really young, they fall in love and live happily ever after. It’s rare, but it happens. That’s not what happened to Jake and Molly. This story is about loss as much as it is about love. From the very beginning of this book it is clear that our characters have suffered and will suffer, but it’s a brilliant ride.
I really enjoyed the men in this story. Jack is the male protagonist and he is so emotional and so raw. Don’t get me wrong I can appreciate a take charge, protective, and territorial alpha male. But, it is so refreshing for an author to allow her hero to be so emotional. He may not have a choice after losing his mother, his estranged relationship with his father, and walking away from his first love. It’s a no wonder he throws himself into his studies and his work. Jake is truly the beloved flawed hero.
Even though he is a secondary character, I fell in love with Dean. He was so sweet and so earnest. His reaction to his situation is so real and honest. Even as he alienates those around him you can’t help but feel for him and even root for him.
Molly is the deeply rooted on the island. She has this calling to take care of everyone around her, and doesn’t feel she can leave them. I’m not sure I really understood why Molly was so tethered to the island. I was expecting there to be a reveal of some grand trauma, besides the love of her life walking away, but it never came. Maybe I don’t understand her need to stay because I have always had case of wanderlust myself.
This book was one of the most emotionally exhausting stories I’ve read in a long time. But, as the genre demands it does have the emotionally satisfying ending that is worth the rollercoaster ride.
Aracely’s Book Review:
From the start I could tell that The Choices I’ve Made was going to hurt. In the first few chapters there was so much emotion. Berg really gets in there with a bang. The series of events that Jake and Molly have to go through to overcome their past defines their present and molds their future. There is so much pain and grief that it seems that they won’t ever be able to get it right.
“It was a long time ago, it doesn’t mean it can’t still hurt.”
Even though we can see Jake and Molly have loved each other their whole lives they aren’t at the same place. They both have to figure things out if they ever want things to work out between them. But for a brief moment they are able to have the love they once knew. If anything Molly teaches us that even for a moment in time, it is best to love for a brief moment in time than to never loved at all.
“So, I’d love this man for a lifetime even if we were given only a fraction of it.”
In life things don’t always go the way we want. We sometimes have to move from broken dreams and modify them. If it is a job we hate, love we can’t let go or simply finding peace of mind with how we live. We need to move on from what we thought life should have been to what we can save from the life we thought we should have.
“Moving on doesn’t require letting go of everything we shared. I realize that now. We can honor our past while creating a future.’’
The Choices I’ve Made really got to me thinking about the choices I’ve made in my life. At times I felt like Molly had dreams of something bigger but stayed in a place that she felt safe, after her heart was broken. Maybe she was waiting for Jake to come back, or for something else to happen, maybe just waiting for her life to really start. But in the end she needed something inside of her to change and help her to figure out what she really wanted. She needed to think about herself and not what everyone else needed from her. This really hit home for me. I’ve realized that I’ve put everyone else's needs before my own. It might be my nightingale syndrome or “human nature” but in order to move on from the hurt something inside of us has to give.
“Why do we go into relationships without guarantee it will succeed? Why do we make friends and hold our families close? It’s human nature to care.”
Overall I think that the message of this book is that it is alright to care for others but remember you can’t fix everyone no matter how much you try. The best things sometimes is to step back and take care of yourself before you are able to be any good to anyone else.
An ARC was generously provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why did we choose this book:
This was the first time either of us have read JL Berg. Even though you’re not suppose to judge a book by it’s cover we have to admit that it was this book’s beautiful cover art that drew us it. A handsome man wading into the dark ocean water seems perfect for Reading After Dark.
About the Author:
J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready series, the Walls duet and the Lost & Found series. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she's not writing, you will find her cuddled up, watching a movie with her family, obsessing over minions or devouring anything chocolate! J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.