Mandy’s life in Costanoa is simple, if a little hectic. She waitresses at the local grill, cooks at the local inn, and dreams of getting her catering business off the ground. But when a Hollywood locations manager shows up and needs an extra caterer on set, it’s not exactly the break she’s looking for. With a bipolar actress for a mother and a Hollywood father she barely remembers, she prefers to pretend that Tinsel Town doesn’t even exist. Of course, that would be a whole lot easier to do if that locations manager wasn’t so damned irresistable.
James Lubbock has a plan — and it doesn’t include romance. With Hollywood success just over the horizon, he knows better than to let a woman get in the way now. Later, once is career is rolling along smoothly and he’s solidified his place in Hollywood, maybe, but right now he’s more about harmless flings than white picket fences. If only he could get the new caterer off his mind.
The general plot seems pretty standard — down-on-her-luck waitress meets handsome Hollywood man, and despite her resistance, romance blooms. But that’s where the romance story standard ends.
Mandy’s childhood has really messed her up, but not in that overdone, angsty way that so many romance heroines fall victim to. Instead, she’s making her own way in life, working toward making her career dreams a reality and developing strong friendships with people who support her through it all. She’s worried about the hereditary aspect of bipolar disorder, though, concerned that her bouts of sadness might be a precursor to turning out just like her mother.
James has his own painful past to contend with, but like with Mandy, it’s not overdone. I expected him to be more of a jerk, maybe more of a womanizer, but from the get-go, he turned out to be a good guy. Sure, he wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship, but he was honest and not the least bit manipulative.
Normally I would have stayed far, far away from a book that touches on bipolar disorder. After all, 99% of them give the characters all the classic symptoms of borderline personality disorder and then slap the bipolar label on it — because apparently there’s only one mental illness that affects mood? But this one got it right, all the way down to the list of questions in the shrink’s office, the blood tests, and the wide variety of behaviors it can cause. Anyway…
While certainly a romance story, California Thyme is filled with introspection from both characters, each of whom starts falling in love before they’re willing to admit it and have personal obstacles to overcome before they can move forward. It’s a light-hearted read, despite what the characters have been through, and once they let go of their hang-ups, it turns into a sweet romance.