Sweet Laurel Falls
by RaeAnne Thayne
Published by Harlequin
Genre: romance; chick list
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes
One thing is for certain: this book is very sweet. So sweet, in fact, that it might induce a diabetic coma.
Maura McKnight's life at the moment is dark and sad. Her youngest daughter, Layla, passed away in a car accident, and her oldest daughter, Sage, is away at college. The girls have two different fathers; Layla's is Maura's ex-husband, and Sage's is Maura's first love, Jackson Lange. The two men have something in common other than Maura in that neither is around. Chris travels with his rock band, and Jackson bolted from their small Colorado hometown of Hope's Crossing shortly after he graduated from high school.
Jackson left more than Maura behind. She was pregnant, but did not know it when he went away. She tried to get in touch with him, but he didn't return her calls. Over the twenty ensuing years, Maura has gotten accustomed to life without Jackson, believing he will never return.
But he does show up ... as a visiting speaker to one of Sage's college classes. The two have a chat, and in the course of their conversation discover that they share some DNA. Neither is happy with Maura's refusal to disclose Jackson's parentage, but when Jackson returns to town, he manages to forget his ire when he comes face to face with Maura. Old attraction, it appears, does not die, it just lies in wait for a reunion.
The two must come to terms with their lingering love for each other, and Jackson has some fences to mend with his cranky old father. Sage is a soothing restorative, but she has secrets of her own and needs her parents to help her find solution and solace.
The romance between Maura and Jackson unfolds slowly, as they come to rediscover their feelings for each other. This is very much a G-rated romance, so no fear of any hot headboard rocking. Even the kissing scenes are chaste.
Fortunately, what saves this from complete sugar overload are Maura and Jackson. These are two flawed adults. She is too raw with hurt over Layla's death, fear over possibly losing Sage to Jackson, and heartbroken over Jackson leaving in the first place. He, on the other hand, is angry with her for not disclosing that he is a father, and he's also bitter over his father's past manipulation. They have to get past those barriers before they can come together.
The setting is as much a character as the humans, and just as charming. You will find yourself wanting to visit this tiny ski village in hopes of dining at the cafes and visiting Maura's bookstore. RaeAnne Thayne does an excellent job of showing us Hope's Crossing and its effect on its residents.
Thayne tells the story slowly (sometimes too slowly) and gently, if not occasionally repetitively. I felt like I read the same scene more than once, and the "shocking news" that Sage delivers is not all that shocking. As a means to bring Jackson's father closer to his family, it works, if not predictably so.
Sweet and gentle: that's the best summary of this book I can give.