Second Time Sweeter is a new novel from bestselling author, Beverly Jenkins. This is the ninth novel in Jenkins' “Blessings” series (following 2017's Chasing Down a Dream). Set in the fictional small town of Henry Adams, Second Time Sweeter focuses on a too-proud man seeking forgiveness and redemption and a single-father hoping that he can get a second chance with an old high school flame.
In Henry Adams, Kansas, there is never a dull day, especially when someone is trying to resolve events that occurred when we last visited our friends in Henry Adams. Malachi “Mal” July betrayed the town by stealing $70,000 (and promptly losing it in an investment scheme) and also the woman he loves, Bernadine Brown, the owner of Henry Adams. Now, Bernadine has dumped Mal and refuses to talk to him, and Mal's son, Trent, is both furious and hurt as a result of his father's actions. Even Trent's sons (and Mal's grandsons), Amari and Devon, are disappointed and exasperated with their grandfather. Mal knows that he needs to make restitution, but he has prideful notions that everyone should simply forgive him and move on from his... indiscretions. However, the revenge of another woman he spurned will force Mal to reconsider his uppity attitude.
Meanwhile, single-father, Gary Clark, is looking forward to his thirtieth high school reunion. Although he deeply loves his two daughters, Leah and Tiffany, Gary feels that his life is in a rut. He hopes a reunion with Elanor “Nori” Price, the high school girlfriend he was forced to give up, will prove that there is still a spark between the two of them. However, the woman he did end up marrying, his ex-wife, Colleen Ewing, is demanding a reunion of her own. Is the second time sweeter? Witness all this and more, plus the arrival of a mob hit-woman...
THE LOWDOWN: I had heard of author Beverly Jenkins, but had never read her work until I read her 2016 novel, Stepping to a New Day (the seventh “Blessings” novel). I immediately fell in love with the characters and with the town of Henry Adams. Adams is the kind of small town that Norman Rockwell or Walt Disney could have loved. Unlike a Disney small town idyll, however, Henry Adams has a diverse population. Henry Adams' predominately African-American population is descended from slaves, freemen, Native American, and assorted rascals
Second Time Sweeter is the third Blessings novel that I have read. It is also the darkest of the trio, as several characters are confronted by the consequences of their actions and/or by their troubled pasts. Jenkins also references some violent and troubling incidents from Henry Adams' past that I really do not remember her doing (or doing as much) in Stepping to a New Day or in Chasing Down a Dream (Blessings #8).
But damn, in Second Time Sweeter, every word of the good times, the bad times, and the ugly times is a joy to read. Jenkins' prose is efficient, but also elegant and is straightforward, but also evocative and emotive. In articles and courses that try to teach and guide budding authors on writing, creating engaging characters is emphasized. Jenkins offers the most lovable protagonists and the most engrossing antagonists. Jenkins captivates her readers with good guys and gals and bad folks alike, as always, especially in Second Time Sweeter.
Beverly Jenkins is a fantastic teller of tales of the heart. I recommend her novels without hesitation, and Second Time Sweeter is a sweet read times three. If Ms. Jenkins stopped writing “Blessings” novels, I might have to act like that crazy-ass woman in Stephen King's Misery.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of Beverly Jenkins and of stories set in wonderful small towns will want Second Time Sweeter.