REVIEW: SHELTER MOUNTAIN, BY ROBYN CARR

For the second time in a year, a woman arrives in the small town of Virgin River trying to escape her past.

John “Preacher” Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of the wet October night. A marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one—the woman is covered in bruises. He wants to protect them, and to punish whoever did this, but he knows immediately that this is more than just instinct. Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in this gentle giant of a man—emotions that he has never allowed himself to feel.

Then Paige’s ex-husband turns up in Virgin River. And if there’s one thing the marines’ motto of Semper Fi—always faithful—has taught Preacher, it’s that some things are worth fighting for.

Eagerly I began devouring the story in Shelter Mountain, as I had met some of the characters in the first book of the series and already developed a soft spot for the inhabitants of the little mountain community. Some of the original characters had returned for this outing, and I had an additional connection to them from watching the first season of the Netflix adaptation of Virgin River.

When you hear the expression “it takes a village,” you might think of a community like Virgin River, where the residents are protective and nurturing. You might also decide that some of them are nosy and too much “up in my business,” but at the end of the day, you would probably overlook that quality.

My favorite characters are Jack, Mel, and Preacher…and after reading this book, I know I will want to spend more time with them all.

I liked how Paige, a new character, came into the story and brought the issue of domestic violence into the mix. An especially relevant theme for characters who are protective and nurturing.

Now I can’t wait to continue all the stories with characters I love. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: LAST ONE HOME, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

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Cassie Carter has been struggling to work her way out of the dark hole her life has become. Escaping her abusive marriage would lead her toward a new life at last. She and her twelve-year-old daughter Amiee long for a home of their own, the kind of place that Cassie thinks about when she remembers happier times. Memories of the childhood games of hide-and-seek and calling out “last one home is it” shine through, reminding her that she can move forward and create her own family.

It has been thirteen years since Cassie has seen her sisters, Karen and Nichole, and sometimes the pain is almost unbearable. Her parents died a few years before, and their loss is a constant reminder of broken ties.

Because she ran away with Duke, leaving behind her family and her scholarship, her sisters have been unable to forgive her.

But nowadays, Cassie has hope. She has her cosmetologist’s license, a growing clientele, and there is a promise of a new home ahead, as she has been approved for a Habitat for Humanity house.

Can Cassie’s dream of a home really happen? Will she and her daughter finally heal from the past? Will Cassie be able to reconnect with her sisters, rebuilding the broken relationships? And finally, can there be love again?

Last One Home: A Novel is an inspirational story that reminds us of hope, dreams, and starting over. Another enjoyable read from this author. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARKEST CORNER, BY ELIZABETH HAYNES

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Their relationship looked like a perfect match. All of her friends were envious, and even when things started to go bad, Catherine Bailey was unsure about her own feelings, her own perceptions.When the nightmare that had become her life began to happen, however, what others thought didn’t matter anymore. She was the one battered and broken.Years later, as Catherine starts over as Cathy, in another city, she has the remnants of that time with her every day. She constantly checks the locks and windows of her new flat. The compulsion exacts much of her time and controls her to the point that she is still a prisoner.

But meeting her upstairs neighbor, Stuart, who happens to be a psychologist, will be a turning point. As she learns more about her OCD disorder and begins treatment, hope seems to be on the horizon. Will something more come for Cathy and Stuart?

Then everything changes with one phone call. Her attacker, Lee Brightman, is being released from prison.

Into the Darkest Corner: A Novel , set in Lancaster and London, England, reveals Catherine’s story in alternating perspectives, from flashbacks of her time with Lee, to the present, as she struggles to move on. And then, when it all seems behind her, the nightmare begins again.

I was amazed at how Catherine’s friends chose to believe Lee’s stories and would not even hear her side of things. How could true friends be so oblivious? These reactions of friends spoke to how completely charming and believable Lee could be, making him even more dangerous. It would take something very compelling for one friend to finally change her tune.

Learning more about Lee and his past fills in the story to make a frightening picture of the dangers of love. As the ending finally came, I sighed with relief. But then there was one more gruesome surprise. My only complaint with the story was the sheer relentlessness and hopeless terror that filled the pages. The repetitive nature of the OCD descriptions were also a bit much. But I definitely could not stop reading this one.

This was definitely a story for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and tales with domestic violence, and a cautionary tale for those who believe that jealous and obsessive love is somehow normal. 4.5 stars.


REVIEW: THE RUNAWAY WIFE, BY ROWAN COLEMAN

71wmFcYDVWL._SL1400_In the middle of a dark and rainy night, Rose Pritchard and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie arrive at a B & B in Millthwaite, a small village that has special meaning for Rose.

Seven years ago, a man named Frasier McCleod had come to her home in Broadstairs, in Kent, in search of a painting by an artist he hoped to meet: a painting called Dearest Rose. Realizing that the man is looking for her father, John Jacobs, who abandoned her and her mother when she was just nine years old, Rose immediately feels a special connection to Frasier. And when he sends her a postcard a little while later, she clings to the memory and builds up a fantasy love interest. Someone to rescue her.

For Rose’s marriage to Dr. Richard Pritchard, beloved by all who know him in their community, is a nightmare of abuse, mostly emotional, but escalating to more brutal abuse in recent years. After one night when the abuse crosses a line, Rose flees with Maddie, heading straight to the one place where she might connect again with Frasier.

Rose begins to feel at home in this small village, and surprisingly, discovers that her father is also living there. Reuniting with him and introducing him to Maddie brings a feeling of new beginnings to her life. But will Rose and her father be able to make up for the years they lost? Can she forgive him for how he walked away? And what unexpected tragedies lie just ahead?

As for Richard, will Rose really stay away from him, since he has managed to control her so many times before? And hovering overhead throughout, as Rose gradually learns to redefine herself, is the knowledge that Richard will eventually find her. Will Rose discover that her growing strength is reinforced by the new community and family she has created? And will she find love again, or will she revert to poor choices?

The Runaway Wife delves into issues of domestic abuse, abandonment, and the creative spirit. The characters, especially Rose and Maddie, were well-developed and mostly likeable. An unforgettable story. 4.0 stars.