Review: Call It Unexpected / Call It Fate by M.E. Montgomery (Sterling Mill #0.5 - #1)
Note: An advance reader copy (ARC) was provided by the publisher via Grey's Promotions. The novella is a personally owned copy.
M.E. Montgomery is a new-to-me author and my introduction to her writing came by way of the prequel novella and first full-length novel in her Sterling Mill series, a small-town romance set of stories published by Kristen Proby's Lady Boss Press. Call It Unexpected serves as a well-written teaser to the story of main characters Emalee Dawson and Zachary Abbott while they were college students in Edonton University in North Carolina. We see the beginnings of their romance in the novella, and it "continues" in Call It Fate. I use the quotation marks because it's more of a rekindling than an actual continuation, taking place almost seven years after the end of the prequel. When Zach is tasked to temporarily take over the veterinary practice of the town vet, he certainly didn't expect to coming face to face with the woman who made him believe in himself and in the possibility of a happily-ever-after the moment he arrived at the bed and breakfast where he would be staying. Managing The Dogtrot brought Emalee peace and purpose over the years, but having the guy who changed her life in the B&B is a total reminder of the precocious secret she's kept from Zach for over six years.
This was definitely a fantastic start to the Sterling Mill series! Readers get a romance and happily-ever-after with Emalee and Zach while also getting to meet the residents of this small Tennessee town as well as a couple of interesting people from outside its borders. Now, I'm not a huge fan of secret pregnancies unless it's done for entirely unavoidable reasons or if events leading to said pregnancy were suspect or nonconsensual. That being said, M.E. Montgomery has penned a second chance romance that makes it easy to empathize with both main characters. Neither one is perfect, and they made choices that could have probably benefitted from some hindsight. I appreciated that their journey towards giving their relationship another go and trying to co-parent their son, Iain, wasn't smooth sailing because it allows for growth and learning necessary lessons along the way. Kudos as well to the cast of supporting characters--from Iain and Emalee's mom and her cousins, to the respective circle of friends support systems and the quirky townspeople of Sterling Mill. I definitely wouldn't say "no" to a return visit to this town once the second book in the series comes out. I'm handing four stars to Call It Unexpected and another 4.5 stars to Call It Fate.
Release Date: 19 April 2022
Date Read: 16 April 2022
Learn more about M.E. Montgomery.