From the USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.
Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.
Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.
Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.
Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.
Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.
Sally Thorne is one of my all time favourite authors. I first fell in love with her debut novel, The Hating Game, in 2018, and this fangirling quickly turned to 99 Percent Mine in 2019. So when it was announced that Sally was releasing a third novel, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy, stat!
Second First Impressions tells the remarkable tale of Ruthie Midona, long-time employee at Providence Luxury Retirement Villa, guardian of the endangered golden bonnet tortoises, and all-around good person who has kind of forgotten that she’s only twenty-five and has the world at her feet!
While running an errand for one of the retirees, Ruthie meets Teddy Prescott, with his beautiful long hair, stunning tattoos covering his body, and laid back personality. Little does she know, he is the son of Providence’s new owner/developer and she’s about to be tasked with keeping an eye on him for a little while.
What I loved about both characters were how relatable they are. Both Ruthie and Teddy are complete opposites (this story is very much a beautifully written opposites attract tale) and yet, I found parts of myself in both characters. Ruthie feels mature for her age and states she’s 25 going on 125. I know that feeling all too well, and Sally constructs a really well-developed understanding of what lead to Ruthie feeling that way.
Her background, the responsibilities given to her from such a young age, and the impressions promoted by her elders throughout her life… well it’s no wonder she has such views on routine, order and maturity. But she’s also self-aware enough to know she’s missing out on her youth. With those thoughts already firmly in mind, Ruthie and Teddy’s first meeting shakes up a new-found desire in Ruthie to start living a little.
Teddy is pretty much the opposite. Trying to simultaneously prove himself to his family but also live his own authentic life has left Teddy somewhat lost and confused. Again, totally relatable! Up until now, he’s always wanted a ‘tidy, structured’ life but has never really done anything to obtain it. He can fit all his belongings in one bag, which he carries on his back as he rides his motorcycle between places to couch-surf. And finally, thanks in part to his father’s acquirement of the retirement villa (and subsequent meeting of Ruthie!), and his friend’s tenuous offer of co-ownership to a tattooing parlour, he can start to learn the value of adding structure to his life – without completely giving up his easygoing personality or freedom.
While Teddy and Ruthie have opposing personalities, they balanced each other out immensely. Teddy teaches Ruthie how to act her age and have fun; while Ruthie teaches Teddy how to set roots down and plan long-term for his life’s goal. If you’ve ever read any of Sally’s previous work, you can expect all the usual quirky goodness that Sally is known (and loved) for! There were so many moments between Ruthie and Teddy that had me wanting to race through the pages to find out what happened next but also slow my reading right down because I did not want it to end.
Outside of the main romantic relationship, there was a bevy of amazing side characters – each with their own personalities, backgrounds, dreams, and problems. The so-called ‘eccentric sisters’ were such a delight and their story had me smiling through the tears. How their story ended in the final pages was so beautiful that I sat there, hugging my kindle for ages afterward. There was also Ruthie’s 22 year old agency temp who had some big decisions to make for her own life too! And the ‘turtles’! Again, this element only added more to the story!
Basically, I loved this book. Sally has hit the ground running with her third super-impressive story and I simply adored it. She’s basically cemented herself permanently in my list of favourite authors and is definitely on my auto-buy list. While I’m incredibly grateful to receive this e-copy of the book, you can bet I’ll be buying a beautiful physical copy to add to my shelves on release day as well! I’ve also heard through the social media grapevine that Sally’s working on another novel, and I cannot wait! In the meantime, however, you can find me re-reading all three of her books many, many times over.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Hachette Australia for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
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The Hating Game – Sally Thorne
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Happy-Go-Lucky – LH Cosway
You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle