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No Substitute - Susan Diane Johnson Amy Walsh has returned to her home town of Goose Bay, Washington, for the first time in seventeen years, covering maternity leave for the English and journalism teacher. One of her brightest students is Shayna Macmillan, who she finds is the daughter of Quentin Macmillian, the high school sweetheart who abandoned her with no explanation and married his beautiful best friend instead. Shayna has been paired with Bradley Baxter for a journalism assignment, and her father is angry when he finds out—angry enough to visit the teacher and demand she change the assignments. He’s shocked when he realises the teacher is Amy Welsh, his one-time love. The Amazon blurb says: “When Amy Welsh returns to Goose Bay as a substitute teacher, she has no intention of seeing Quentin Macmillan, the man who once left her waiting in the rain clutching her suitcase and dreaming of becoming his wife. Seventeen years later, his teenage daughter shows up in Amy's class with plans to reunite her widowed father with the woman he has always loved.”Don’t you love it when the blurb gives away half the plot? I actually hadn’t read the blurb before reading the book, so I thought best part about the novel was trying to work out the motivation for Shayna’s actions, because they didn’t seem in character. When the big reveal came at the end, it was a surprise to me, and it explained Shayna’s actions nicely. But it won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s read the blurb. Amy is thirty-four going on eighteen, and I’m wasn’t convinced she had the emotional distance to see Quentin as the man he is today rather than the boy he was seventeen years ago. One minute she’s determined never to trust a man or let Quentin anywhere near her heart, the next she's flirting, going on a date with him or kissing him (and not just a peck on the cheek). Even when she was convinced she was seeing the man, not the boy, I felt she was being led by her teenage emotional self, not her adult self.But Amy wants to know why Quentin never turned up that last night, and it seems that every time they are about to have ‘the conversation’, they put it off (and those plans kept going awry). Why not just say it?I was expecting a different reason, so No Substitute scores a plus for the element of surprise, but when the Big Reveal came, I wasn’t convinced. It didn’t seem logical. I didn’t find it realistic that a man who is supposed to be intelligent couldn’t come up with another solution. I understand that it was supposed to cement him in our minds as being noble and loyal, but it came across to me as controlling, because that is how I had seen him acting throughout the novel, particularly in relation to his daughter. He certainly wasn’t an example of Christian forgiveness in action. On the plus side, the writing was good and the minor characters, Shayna and Brandon, were excellent—real teenagers who I could believe. Amy, Quentin and Shayna are all Christians, and I thought the spiritual aspects and the underlying theme of forgiveness were handled well, without being preachy. A solid debut novel with several layers and a nice mix of funny and serious.Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.