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Sycamore Circle

The Rumors in Ross County series

by Shelley Shepard Gray


New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray returns with the second novel in her “tantalizing” (Publishers Weekly) Rumors in Ross County series. In Ross County, love can stay the course, but first you have to know who to trust.

There’s a lot going on in Joy Howard’s life. She’s got an ex-husband who starts acting like he doesn’t want to be an ex anymore, a sixteen-year-old daughter in need of a guiding hand and a lot of rides to dance practice, more orders for paintings than she has time to paint, and a roster of tutoring clients who sometimes need far more than she can give.

What she doesn’t have is time for a new relationship.

Samuel “Bo” Beauman is a lot of things. He’s a counselor for transitioning ex-cons, a good friend to many, a construction worker, a brother and son, and even a part-time model for a high-end sportswear catalog. He’s also a man searching for redemption.

One thing he isn’t is a man in need of a girlfriend.

But none of that seems to matter when Bo hears Joy’s kind voice in a crowded coffee shop. He instantly knows she’s someone he wants to know better. The two of them hit it off—much to the dismay of practically everyone they know—but Bo doesn’t care what other people think. He feels at peace whenever he’s with Joy, and he won’t let her go without a fight.

When Joy starts getting mysterious texts and phone calls from unknown numbers, she tries to ignore it. But instead of going away, the messages escalate and Joy realizes she can’t handle it alone. But she is juggling a jealous ex-husband, a handful of students with little to lose, and a brand-new boyfriend who spent several years behind bars. Who can she trust?



Bo is a stand-up guy who made mistakes in his past and is now spending his life helping others who find themselves in a similar situation – working with other ex-cons to transition from prison to regular life. It’s not easy but his no-nonsense attitude and occasional tough love helps. 

Bo was one of my favorites from book 1 – his steady presence and Southern boy charm makes him a heart-stealer. Having him do something as fanciful as falling for someone at first sight is a hoot, but Joy proves to be a good choice as she is just as giving and big-hearted as he is. She volunteers her time teaching adults to read and is ready to look to the heart of people, not just what you see on the surface.  

My biggest complaint with this book is that I would have loved for Joy and Bo to spend more time together. I found them delightful as a couple and would have enjoyed seeing their relationship develop and deepen. But that’s the romance reader in me – maybe this one would fall more towards women’s fiction as the author does a good job of letting us into the characters’ lives and thoughts. 

The Rumors in Ross County series so far has given us two slow burn, clean stories about ex-cons and the women who stole their hearts. There’s a little suspense and tension at the end to keep us on our toes but at its heart Sycamore Circle is all about Bo & Joy falling in love.