Usually, when I enjoy a book as much as I enjoyed this one, I have loads of thoughts about it. Once in a while, however, depending on what else is happening in my life or on the other books I read in the days before, I get one hundred per cent carried away and forget to take notes. When that happens, it also means all my feelings are so enmeshed, I can’t untangle them enough to analyse them. I don’t really feel like it either, I just want to bask in them, treasure them, keep them warm in my heart. Hideaway isn’t a short book but I read it in one sitting. I didn’t want to let go.
Phoebe is back in Burlington, Vermont, to get her beloved grandmother’s cabin ready for rental. That’s the official reason. Phoebe also needs a break from her life in Boston after losing both her job as a financial analyst and her girlfriend through no fault of her own. Almost as soon as she sets foot on the property, a dog comes running, followed by a woman, who happens to be Taylor, her childhood best friend, her first love, the girl whose heart she broke when they were sixteen.
I just love the way Rachel Lacey writes. Even as I read the first chapter and especially as I got into the second one – the story is told in alternate POV by both main characters – I could tell this book was going to break my heart.
The second-chance trope is one of my favourites, I thrive on nostalgia and longing, the battle between the fear to trust the one who hurt you most and all sorts of desires.
Rachel Lacey did a wonderful job of bringing back the attraction, slowly, progressively, but with flashes of heat reemerging from thirteen years ago. At first, Taylor is on the defensive, she doesn’t trust Phoebe not to hurt her again, even as a friend, which is what the other woman pushes for in the beginning. What was supposed to be a short break, to give Phoebe some breathing space from the chaos her life had become ends up opening so many doors, so many possibilities – not only in the love department. Like, who would have expected Phoebe to foster a pregnant pitbull? Or that she would rediscover her love for music?
I love that while Phoebe gets a new perspective on her life, she doesn’t want to change everything. In second-chance/return to hometown-ish romance novels, one of the characters often has a born-again epiphany where they realise the other followed their childhood dreams while they stayed in their assigned lane and are, at best, content. I enjoy that trope too once in a while but I like that Rachel Lacey didn’t choose this path. Phoebe went through a rough period of time but she retained her agency and is more sad and disappointed than pathetic. She’s not broken, she doesn’t need to rebuild herself, she just needs a break. It allows the author to show how strong she has grown to become compared to the scared and closeted teenager Taylor knew. And it makes the shift in balance all the more believable. Taylor is the anxious one in the relationship now, because of the hurt Phoebe caused and despite living her dream life in every other respect. It also adds some low-key angst as Phoebe does have things to lose if she chooses Taylor. The stakes are higher and give weight to Taylor’s skittishness.
Despite being part of a series (the same as Flipcup by Kim Hartfield), Hideaway can be read as a standalone. It was nice, however, to get back to Vino & Veritas, the wine bar and bookshop in Burlington, with new characters and see it from a client’s perspective. All the answers to any question you may have about this series and the three others in the World of True North are here.
If you can’t get enough of Taylor and Phoebe, you can get a bonus epilogue by subscribing to the author’s newsletter. Like with Flipcup, it really is a bonus, you don’t have to read it to get the full experience. But let’s face it, these two are so adorable that you will probably want to.
The audiobook will be coming out on May 25th, narrated by no other than Abby Craden and Melissa Moran, and I can’t wait to listen to it. In the meantime, I’d love to see a picture of Cherry in her cherry sock shirt.