Series: Timber Falls, #5
Release Date: May 18th, 2021
Deputy Painter never dreamed she’d get fan mail. When Chase Carpenter’s letter crosses her desk, it never occurs to her not to answer it. After all, he’s polite, grateful, and has amazing penmanship. Never mind that she arrested him two year earlier; he’s clearly changed a lot since she took him down for using opioids at the town’s birthday celebration. And she can’t help but be flattered by his attention, given that he never gave her a second look the first time they met…
Chase is sober for the first time in his adult life, and now it’s time to go home. The friendship he’s been building with the tough redhead who helped get him on the path to sobriety feels like the start of something more…but when his last letter before leaving rehab goes unanswered, Chase worries that he’s taken all this the wrong way.
Can they translate their long-distance friendship to a relationship IRL?
I’ve been pretty excited about Chase Carpenter’s story since we got to see his brother Carter fall in love with Martina in Right Back Where We Started. I just did not expect to feel so much while reading this book! Fiona West has been slaying me regularly with her books in the Timber Falls series, all of them set in a small town following the lives of the various characters that live there. With every book, I’ve been wanting to go and live in this town and watch these characters go on with their lives. That’s just how immersive the entire series is. If you haven’t read the books yet, please start now and I promise you, you’ll love every single one of them.
In Just Getting Started, we’re introduced to Chase Carpenter and Deputy Lizzie Painter. Chase has spent a good part of his life dealing with a substance abuse problem and after making a complete mess at the town’s fair, he’s arrested by Lizzie and carted off in front of everyone. Chase goes to rehab, Lizzie goes back to life. His mission: to get sober and get better. Her mission: to get a promotion within the police department. Only one of them is succeeding at their mission, though. But once Chase starts to recover, he writes letters to connect with those he’s hurt through his drug problem. And one of those letters is sent to Lizzie Painter. Chase is apologetic, he’s charming, he’s funny and he’s got Lizzie’s attention, so obviously she writes him back and thus begins a wonderful friendship.
“Even on such a bad day, he could find a little sunshine, a little something to be grateful for. And that was Lizzie.”
In the 21st century, it’s so rare to write letters that you send through the post, so to read about it in Just Getting Started warmed my soul. As someone who had many a penpal and built relationships through letters, this was beautiful. I love how Chase and Lizzie were so open with each other through their letters, but also how much fun they had. It was almost like they were both craving that kind of connection and once they got it, they just soaked it up completely. Chase started the letters as a way to make amends, but the more they write to each other, the more it starts to become something else. And that, my friends, is how you fall in love with someone you arrested years ago.
While Lizzie is happy reconnecting with Chase via letters, he definitely wants more. And a sneaky trivia invite leads to them seeing each other and feeling things that nobody asked them to feel. However, even without the letters, the chemistry is potent and Chase and Lizzie are able to converse as much as possible. Lizzie’s awkward about having feelings for a man she arrested years ago, while Chase is just happy that she’s not chasing him away completely. But their relationship is really tested when Lizzie has an accident at work and is asked to rest and stay off her feet, and like any good friend, Chase offers to move in and help her through it. Because obviously she needs the assistance since her grandmother (who she lives with) is living it up on a trip to Paris with her girlfriends.
“There was a moment when they touched; they’d been finding lots of those moments over the last two days, and the chemistry between them felt like a beaker about to boil over. She didn’t know how to turn down the heat, and frankly, she didn’t want to. It was a rush.”
I love that Fiona tackles lots of important topics in each of her books and in Just Getting Started, we have Chase dealing with his substance abuse problem. There’s a lot of references to his time in rehab, him going through the steps of recovery and it’s really good to get that in depth look into what he’s gone through and how he’s getting better. There’s also all this family drama that Chase has to deal with, but what I really did enjoy was seeing Lizzie’s internal drama. She’s a woman who has never wanted anyone to take care of her or do things for her, she’s always been very capable of looking after herself. And here comes this handsome, charming guy who wants to do all the things for her and Lizzie’s struggling with accepting help. I know it annoys people when characters are difficult about accepting help, but I love it because it makes them human. Lizzie’s also dealing with stuff at work, which is weighing her down, but she doesn’t let any of it really drag her into the dumps. She works at it, to make her life a little better, even if she’s going at it really slowly.
Lizzie and Chase were such opposites who made it work every step of the way and I loved that so much. With Just Getting Started, you are guaranteed a whole heap of sassy old ladies, a fluffy and happy dog, nosy friends, a smart and determined heroine falling in love with a charming hero on his recovery journey. In short, Fiona West nailed it again with this fifth installment in the Timber Falls series.
Thanks to Fiona West for generously providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.