BOOK REVIEW: Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home--a quaint tourist town full of memories she'd just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work--something her eclectic family doesn't understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren't ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can't find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he's found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along--if only she'd just look up.

I wasn't overly sure what I was going to think of this book.  The premise was enough to draw me in when I read it on the Tynedale page.  But then I've read a few romances lately and tend to burn out on them fairly quickly.  That and I've never heard of this author.  I should have known I'd love her just based on the bio but well, ya know.  Lane was everything a flawed character needs.  Social tics, insecure backstory, and a drive to be better than what she believes she's not.  Ryan, or Brooks, as he's called a lot by those who know and love him, is just as beautifully flawed with his own backstory, minus the social tics and feelings of insecurity.  It just goes to show that having a so-called perfect childhood does not shelter someone from growing pains and guarantee a well adjusted adulthood.  Or that being from the literal wrong side of the tracks means you will never stretch your wings and fly.  

I loved these two flawed characters surrounded by flawed family and a town that never quite grew up.  It's steady consistency is vital to these characters and this family.  People grew, and sometimes changed but the town itself remained the safe harbor of 'home'.  And yes, while you can never go 'home' again you can always go home to love and acceptance and memories.  As Lane learned though, you have to be ready to go home.  You can't just do it out of obligation.  Lane has avoided home, the horrible memories, and the inferred betrayal of her family.  Having gone away to college, changed herself completely as a person, lost her first love to her sister and feeling betrayed by that she's made her life about her career.  And the hustle and bustle of the big city.  How often do we all try to find ways to replace the hurts with something that can't hurt?  

Brooks on the other hand was given refuge with Lane's family when he was just a kid.  He got out, went to the military, deployed, came home the hero.  But it wasn't enough for him either.  From the next town over, a town to nowhere, he relocates to the haven of his childhood and knows he has found home.  The son of an abusive alcoholic and a disappearing mother he knows the hardness of life.  But he finds solace in the acceptance of his found family and tries to look for the silver linings.  Their backgrounds are as opposite as the moon and sun. Their outlook is just as varied.  I loved these two characters, watching them grow and learn and just figure things out.  Sometimes you have to have the confidence to look up, look around, and hang on for your life.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Tynedale and NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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Just Look Up

About Courtney Walsh
When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend. Her name was Kellen and she had auburn hair and freckles. She wore a patchwork brown dress and brown Mary Janes.
Come to think of it, she was very brown, but she went with me everywhere.
I suppose it’s unacceptable to have imaginary friends once one becomes an adult. That’s why I decided to become a writer. To give myself creative license to dream up all kinds of imaginary friends…and then, to tell their stories.
I’ve always been a person with a pure love for creating characters and bringing them to life. In high school and college, I turned to the stage. Later, it was scrapbooking. Now, it’s fiction. Funny how it all comes together, no?
See, I believe we all have a story to tell. We all have stories that make us laugh or shed a tear. We may even have that one that stops the heart. And I suppose that’s why I write…to capture those stories. To give them a place to breathe. To remember how it is that I got here in the first place.
I learn so much more when I’m paying attention.

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