In First Time in Forever (Puffin Island #1) by Sarah Morgan, Emily keeps her emotions under tight lock and key. It's safer that way. When she suddenly finds herself guardian to a young niece she's never met before, her life takes a dramatic change. She doesn't want this responsibility, doesn't feel she has anything to offer young Lizzie. Tragedy at a very young age still haunts Emily, and this holds her back, haunting her and keeping her closed off from most people. Despite all this, it seems Emily is going to do whatever she needs to to keep Lizzie safe. She escapes to Puffin Island to do this, and to figure out what comes next. Small town and surrounded by the ocean, Puffin Island doesn't seem like it should be what Emily needs...
Ryan is back on Puffin Island, a place he couldn't wait to escape from after too much responsibility at a young age. But tragedy in his life brings him back home. Running his business keeps him busy, and he has no intention of ever settling down. His carefree life and lack of relationship commitment suit him just fine. But when he agrees to check on Emily for a mutual friend, he doesn't expect the undeniable attraction to her. Ryan finds himself drawn to Emily, wanting to know her secrets, wanting to help her.
On Puffin Island, Ryan and Emily can't help but run into each other, and they start spending more time together, along with little Lizzie. Even as Emily works through her inner turmoil, the time she spends with Ryan makes her feel like she's never felt. In some ways he's good for her, but in other ways he's not. He's made it clear he's not looking for a relationship, and Emily has more than just herself to think about now. Ryan enjoys spending time with Emily and Lizzie, but he resists any hint of commitment, even when his heart is telling him otherwise. Will Emily and Lizzie find security and their future on Puffin Island? And how will Ryan fit into it, if at all?
First Time in Forever is a great start to a new series by Sarah Morgan. I love the setting she's chosen! The ocean and small town island life really called to me through this book. With her vivid descriptions, it was easy to smell the salt air and hear the surf, and Sarah took me there. There is so much going on, just like in real life, and Sarah weaves it all together expertly and believably.
The main characters are realistic with many layers that are slowly peeled away. They both have their flaws and their pasts which helps bring them to life. Emily has many fears and insecurities, and even though she claims not to be able to give Lizzie what she needs, her actions show otherwise, whether or not Emily can see this. I loved the growth Emily showed in First Time in Forever, and watching her come into herself and find peace with her life was such an emotional journey. Ryan has had his share of pain too, and it's led him to where he is today. Will he be able to move past that? I really liked the connection between Emily and Ryan, how it played out, and where they took it. At times a fun, humorous journey, at other times serious and heart aching, it was realistic and easy to lose myself in their world.
I love all the secondary characters we meet in First Time in Forever. Lizzie is a strong secondary character who features prominently in the plot, and there are numerous other characters I am looking forward to seeing more of in future Puffin Island books. I really liked Ryan's family, especially his grandmother and how they were worked so well into the plot.
Learning to trust yourself, being able to trust others, and taking a shoulder to lean on is something both Emily and Ryan struggle to do, and their whole journey, not just the romantic one, makes First Time in Forever a great read. Entertaining and entrancing, I'd recommend First Time in Forever to any romance reader.