⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Finding love after loss

Emotional and often heavy, this romance shows that tragedy doesn’t have to mean the end of all life. As a fan of Shari J. Ryan’s romantic comedies, I was surprised by the heaviness of this book but not by the quality of the writing itself. It’s all well done and very realistic, which means that it’s an emotional gut punch, may trigger some readers, and our heroine is sometimes abrasive or difficult to connect to because of all that she’s going through. This is definitely for those who like an angsty, heavier read.

The story follows Melody, a woman whose long term relationship grew stagnant a few years ago. It isn’t until she finds out that her father is terminally ill that she decides to finally end things and move home. On the plane ride, she encounters a guy who seems vaguely familiar, though she doesn’t puzzle out who he is until she returns home. Brett was her childhood crush, an all-around good guy, and one of the only people to step up and help her family in their time of need. As Melody struggles with the impending loss of her father, she also slowly connects with Brett.

This is a whole new side of Ryan’s work for me, and while I appreciated the quality of the work, I also struggled with just how heavy a lot of it is. I would’ve liked a few more light moments early on in the book in order to connect with the characters – Melody is obviously not in the best frame of mind, and we don’t get Brett’s perspective on things, so that often made connecting difficult. If you go into this with the right expectations, it’s likely that you’ll enjoy the book a whole lot, just know it’s an emotional ride. I received an ARC and am voluntarily leaving a review of this angsty romance.

Title: Bourbon Love Notes
Series: Barrel House #1
Author: Shari J. Ryan
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 13, 2020
In a split second, life can steal a last breath … and
derail all future plans.

While flying home after a phone call that left me
heartbroken, a row to myself would have been ideal. Instead, I was unknowingly
sitting shoulder to shoulder with a strikingly attractive single dad and
ex-Marine. I could have pretended not to notice the man, but there was
something familiar about him.

It didn’t take long before I pieced together where I knew
him from or why he was back in my life.

With chaos holding me hostage, I wanted to hide but couldn’t
avoid Brett Pearson, our old family friend, and my teenage crush, because he
kindly offered to help out with my family’s business—The Barrel House.

Handling my father’s distillery would be a distraction from
my brutal reality. Except, I never paid close attention to the art of making
bourbon, unlike Brett, who was full of bourbon knowledge. He offered to teach
me a thing or two, but all I could focus on was the way his lips moved when he
spoke to me.

I needed to grieve, and my head was in the wrong place at
the wrong time, but my heart was splitting at the seams.

Bourbon was spilled, drinks were shared, but could passion
ignite from a dying last wish?

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Shari J. Ryan

How can Dad be
thinking about so much when he doesn’t know if there will be a tomorrow? I
can’t believe he already hired someone to run the business. I can’t pretend
like I ever had intentions of taking over the shop, even knowing Dad wouldn’t
be able to run it forever, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind because Dad
is supposed to live well past his retirement age. Nothing has gone as I have
planned since I graduated college, and while I have traveled along with the
bumps in the road, everything feels like it’s crashing down on me now. 

Maybe I have no
business being in The Barrel House, pretending like I know everything there is
to know about running a bourbon distillery. 

“Melody!” It’s
. He’s calling after me. Doesn’t he know when a woman runs out a door,
it’s probably best not to follow her?

I turn back toward
the firehouse, watching him walk toward me. My instinct forces me to take a
step back, which causes me to trip off the curb. I catch myself on a car,
thankfully, but the car’s alarm beeps at me just to add an extra dose of
humiliation to this moment.

My heart is in my
throat, or maybe it’s my stomach. My head is spinning and … why did he have
to come after me?

“I need to get back
home. I should be with my dad,” I tell him, looking both ways to make sure I
don’t get creamed by a car on top of it all. The coast is clear and I cross the
street, finding my way to Mom’s car. 

“Wait up for a
second,” Brett continues, following me across the street. He places his hand on
the door, preventing me from opening it and jumping inside. “Your dad wanted a
bottle,” he says, handing me the bottle of Red Apple that Dad did, in fact,

“How did you—” 

“He called to warn
me that you were on your way down, flustered, upset, trying to be a hero, and
you’d most likely forget that he requested a bottle of Red Apple.” Brett laughs
sweetly, smiling benevolently. “I’m not trying to take over your family
business, despite what you might be thinking. My dad has been a barrel supplier
for your dad since before either of us were born. I was just asked to come help
you guys out.” 

“I know.” In truth,
I don’t understand much of anything now. I’ve been going a mile a minute since
I got that letter yesterday. I’ve been awake since five this morning, and I’m
exhausted. “Thank you for coming to help,” I offer sincerely, wishing he would
move his hand from my door. 

“I’m sorry for what
you’re going through. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.” The look in Brett’s eyes
triggers more pain in my stomach.
I’m losing my dad. 

“I don’t know what
else to do right now other than help him, and being in his shop feels like the
only way I can help,” I explain. 

The backs of my eyes
burn. I’m supposed to be the strong one, but I’m falling apart. I stare up to
the sky, waning away the threatening tears.
Keep it together, Melody. My
body doesn’t respond to my command. Tears trickle, one by one and I gasp for
air as my lungs feel like they are deflating. I place my hands over my face,
embarrassed to be crying in front of Brett Pearson of all people, but the pain
has been building, and though I let a few tears escape this morning at the
airport, it clearly wasn’t enough. “I’m sorry,” I mutter. 

Arms envelop me and
my head falls against his firm chest. His embrace is tight and though I don’t know
the adult version of Brett well enough to feel comfort from a hug, the squeeze
is alleviating some of the pressure in my chest. 

The rate of my
breaths slow and I’m able to stop the tears from falling. Brett must notice
that I’ve calmed down because his arms release from around me and he takes a
step back. I don’t know what else to say or do aside from searching his
worry-filled eyes as if I’d find the answer there. 

He presses the pad
of his thumb beneath my eye and sweeps away a remaining tear. “Take some time
to process it all,” Brett says, sounding wise beyond his years. “I don’t know
how long you’ve known about your Dad becoming sick again, but I doubt there’s
any length of time that’s long enough to accept or adjust to that kind of news.”

“I’m going to—” I
point to the car.

Brett backs away,
slipping his hands into his back pockets. I close myself into the car, rest my
head back, and close my eyes for a minute before starting the engine. 

A knock on the
window startles my eyes to reopen. Brett is standing outside of the car holding
up the bottle of Red Apple. I roll the window down and retrieve the bottle.
“Thank you,” I tell him. “For everything.” 
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Author Bio
Shari J. Ryan is
an International Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance and Women’s

She lives in
Massachusetts with her husband and two young sons.  Shari started her career as a graphic artist
and freelance writer, then found her passion for writing books back in 2011.
She has been slaying words and creating imaginary friends ever since.

With over 125k
books sold, Shari’s books have hit Amazon’s Top 100 bestseller list, Barnes
& Noble’s Top 10, and iBooks at #1. 
Some of Shari’s bestselling books include Last Words, The Other Blue
Sky, A Heart of Time, and Man Flu from the Man Cave Collection.
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