- At Fairfield Orchard
- A Spiced Apple Winter
- The Apple Blossom Cafe
These were the sort of happy, relaxing romances that are super low-stress to read, but aren’t quite at that brain-melting level of predictability. I’m always partial to stories about siblings working together, and that’s the foundation of this series. The Fairfield parents have been running the orchard for years, but have decided that they would like to take some time to travel and relax, after a recent cancer scare for Mom Fairfield. The six Fairfield siblings agree to take turns coming back to run the orchard while the parents head out to enjoy life in their RV. Each book focuses on a different sibling – the third book was just published at the end of last year, so I’m assuming that there will eventually be at least three more books to round out the family.
Amy and her twin, Tyler, are the first siblings to return home. (A third sibling has been working the orchard her entire adult life and has also decided to take a break.) Amy is recovering from a bad long-term relationship and trying to decide what she really wants to do with her life. Only a few weeks after her arrival at the orchard, she’s approached by a professor from a nearby college who is writing a paper about Thomas Jefferson, who sold the land to Amy’s multi-great grandparents. The professor, Jonathon, wants to spend some time learning more about the history of the orchard to tie into the theory for his paper. I’m sure you can all guess what happens from there…
So yes, overall a relaxing and happy story. There was a little too much angst at times – Amy tended to blow her own mistakes significantly out of proportion, which got on my nerves, but I really did like her and Jonathon together, and also liked seeing Amy’s relationship with her brother mature and change as well. Amy has spent a lot of time more or less hiding from her family because she’s been ashamed of sticking with her ex-boyfriend, so while the focus of the book was romance, a lot of the story was also Amy reconnecting with people from her childhood, and I thought that was done really well.
The second book focuses on Tyler. He’s a minor celebrity from a role he played on a soap opera, but he isn’t sure what is going to happen next since the show was cancelled. He’s re-learning about orchard work, but doesn’t think he wants to stay there forever. In the meantime, since he’s been back it also means he’s spending more time with Amy’s best friend, Brianna. Tyler and Brianna had a little fling several months earlier, and he’s starting to wonder if it should be more than that.
Part of the backstory for these books is that throughout much of the Fairfield siblings’ childhood, their dad was a working alcoholic. While he wasn’t abusive, he was distant and more interested in drinking than any of them. Over a decade before these books open, he had a scare and almost killed several people in an accident because he was too hungover to operate the equipment correctly. Since being scared straight, he’s been on the wagon and working hard to make amends for his past mistakes. All that to say, a lot of what happens in these books is the various siblings dealing with that part of their past in their own ways. Throughout all three books, I felt like this was handled extremely well, with forgiveness coming more easily to some than others, and with each of them having their own particular reasons for feeling hurt by the past. I really enjoyed the aspect of the family making peace with one another, based on the sincere regret and sorrow that their dad has for his past.
For Tyler, growing up he felt like his real dad was Brianna’s dad, who was always there for them. Now that Brianna’s dad has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Tyler and Brianna are both struggling with that, as well as their confusion over where their relationship should go from here. I really loved the genuine kindness and love that Tyler showed towards Brianna’s dad, and it made Tyler’s relationship with Brianna seem more realistic – you don’t just marry your person, you kind of marry their entire family, and I liked that part of the story.
At first I thought there were only two books in this series, because that’s all that’s listed on Goodreads, but I happened to see the title for the third book and realized it was also part of this series – no idea why it isn’t on the series list! The third sibling is Noah, who is a chef, and has taken his sabbatical to come and start a café at the orchard. Part of the drama of the second book was one of Tyler’s old soap opera co-stars, Gabby, coming to stay for a while, and she becomes Noah’s love interest in this book.
This story was a little grittier than the other two. Part of Gabby’s backstory is that she gave up her baby for adoption when Gabby was a young, unmarried mother. Years later, she’s still wrestling with her feelings from that decision, and whether or not it was the right choice. This was all done extremely well – I had a lot of empathy for Gabby and her situation both in the past and the present. Meanwhile, Noah is still very embittered towards his dad, and watching him come to grips with that and realize that his refusal to forgive and move forward was hurting himself as much as it was hurting his dad, was a really good story.
These books definitely had more sexy times than I personally prefer, but as it wasn’t the main point of the story, I was able to skim through those bits pretty easily. While these weren’t as humorous as I like my romances to be, they were still good stories with likable characters who felt sturdier than the cardboard stereotypes these kinds of books so often contain. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out to see if Cane continues the story of the Fairfield siblings and their orchard.
Also, side note, aren’t these covers lovely?? I don’t understand why they can’t give romance novels pleasant covers like this.
NB: At Fairfield Orchard is my ninth read for #20BooksofSummer!