“Feels Like Falling” by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Best-selling women’s fiction author Kristy Woodson Harvey (Peachtree Bluff series, Slightly South of Simple) is known for her crystalline depictions of modern, genteel Southern life. Her female lead characters are imbued with a fiercely feminine strength that serves them well as they face life’s challenges and never fail to inspire fans to cheer them on. In Feels Like Falling (Gallery, 2020)), she infuses two strong female characters with familiar yet unique flavor, like a cherished peach pie recipe boldly updated when the new bride in the family dares to add a different brand of nutmeg.

Gray Howard is a super-successful CEO of ClickMarket, a marketing company she started while still in college. Her seemingly perfect husband even worked there, but only long enough to fall for his gorgeous young assistant. He chooses an anniversary trip as the perfect time to announce he wants a quick divorce–and half of Gray’s company. They share an eight-year-old son named Wagner, and the boy’s tennis instructor Andrew soon emerges as Gray’s potential “summer fling.”

Meanwhile, a second woman’s woeful tale unfolds across town. Diane Harrington, one of four siblings named for British royalty and then “left to rot” by a mother they never saw again, finds herself living in her car after breaking up with the latest in a string of useless boyfriends and losing her job at the drugstore photomat, both in short order. Her difficult childhood spent in foster care and a long-ago heartbreak over the loss of Frank, her one true love, haunts into her forties, thwarting all attempts to move forward with her life.

The women’s lives intersect when Gray complains about her photo printing order and her status in the toney beachfront North Carolina community causes the store owner to fire Diane, though his faulty printing equipment is actually to blame. Gray’s guilt upon hearing about this compels her to offer Diane a job cleaning her fabulous waterfront home. Diane gladly accepts the offer and moves into Gray’s guest house just in time for both women to experience the most important summer of their lives.

The story is smoothly plotted, with dual points of view depicting disastrous circumstances that try but fail to knock these women down. Their voices are made distinct by Woodson’s colorful sprinkling of Carolina dialects which highlight the differences between these two women who actually share more in common than they might have imagined.

Supportive and fiercely loyal female friend groups provide some of the most satisfying and uplifting scenes, especially when the two groups finally meet and easily blend into one for an afternoon of jovial sisterhood fueled by Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Diane has listened to each woman’s opinion on how she should proceed with a certain romantic situation (not to give too much away!), and she reflects on her how far she has come, with or without the man of her dreams:

I bit my lip to keep the tears away. It was like a light bulb went off. Yeah. Things went bad—all the time. I’d always been okay. I’d be okay again. And I had these ladies to pick me back up if I fell. “You’re right. I can spend my life wondering or I can spend my life living.”

Kristy Woodson Harvey

Gray and Diane each face a rollercoaster of life-altering events over the course of one summer, but the major theme of female strength and support runs strong throughout, carrying each of them to the dream-come-true outcomes where all the troubles of early summer dissolve into an idyllic new life come fall. Southern winds blow across the water, carrying away any doubt that these two unlikely new friends will achieve the desires of their hearts, so long as they remain steadfastly by each other’s side. A satisfying, breezy beach read with an aspirational setting, filled with plucky, smart women who ultimately each get their hopeful, happy ending.

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