I am Adelina Amouteru, the phantoms whispered to my father, speaking my most frightening thoughts in a chorus of voices, dripping with hatred. My hatred. I belong to no one. On this night, I swear to you that I will rise above everything you’ve ever taught me. I will become a force that this world has never known. I will come into such power that none will dare hurt me again.” ― Marie Lu, The Young Elites

Three years. That’s how long Esmeralda has before she loses half her worldly goods. But time is growing short on fulfilling the humiliating codicil in her father’s will, that Esmeralda find a husband or hand over half of her family’s grapefruit orchard to her drunken, and yes, male, cousin. The ‘son’ her father never had. Forty and single, shy and, yes, a 40-year-old virgin, Esmeralda was surrounded by gossips and grasping divorcées living on the farm, so she picked up stakes and moved to Brownsville, hoping to find a man to marry so she doesn’t have to give up her home. A man who will love her for her instead of her orchard and the natural gas wells on the property.

Determined to help, Esme’s neighbor sends her off to the local senior recreation center to meet the people there. And Esme does meet someone. Hank, a two-time divorcée from Wisconsin who lives in a Jayco at the beach. Older than Esme would have preferred, his lackluster approach to a work ethic and double divorce status makes him the antithesis of what Esme was looking for. But there is just something about him that draws her, no matter the work ethic her father pounded into her head and her Catholic upbringing that says anyone who is divorced twice is a two-time loser.

Esmeralda and the Second-Hand Suitor is the second book I have read by Hebby Roman. The first, Catalina and the Winter Texan charmed me, gifting a lightness to my heart I hadn’t known in a long time. Ms. Roman’s characters are of the over-40 set, with histories and years of baggage trailing behind them as they embark on new journeys to late-in-life love. It isn’t easy, not by any means. Blended families, histories often filled with pain, loss and betrayal, all these things make us who we are. Finding a way to fit those jagged edges together isn’t easy, and watching Esmeralda and Hank was both painful and uplifting. Esmeralda is filled with guilt over a childhood accident her father never forgave her for. Hank too wears guilt like a shroud from failures that both are, and are not, his fault. Watching their story made me laugh – and yes, cry – and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Hebby Roman is one of my ‘heroine authors’ – an author who writes the truth in such a way that anyone, young or old, can grow and learn from her stories of life, loss and love. If you haven’t read her, you should.

I received Ms. Roman’s book from her in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. Love ya, Hebby!

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