(Hope’s Crossing, Book 2)
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Evie Blanchard is a woman in retreat. Six months ago she left behind a life that had been fulfilling but also filled with devastating loss and moved to Hope’s Crossing, a small Colorado town, where she works at String Fever, the local bead shop. She finds making jewelry satisfying, and she develops meaningful friendships among the women who patronize the bead shop. She particularly values her friendships with the shop owner, Claire Bradford (Blackberry Winter), and Katherine Thorne. Although she sometimes thinks of her former life as a pediatric physical therapist, she can no longer pay the price of emotional involvement with her patients. The quiet, risk-free contentment of her new life is exactly what she wants.
One day that contentment is threatened when Brodie Thorne, a wealthy businessman in Hope’s Crossing, asks her to be in charge of physical therapy for his fifteen-year-old daughter Taryn, who sustained a serious head injury in an automobile accident in which another teenage girl was killed. Taryn’s lack of cooperation with her therapists at the rehabilitation center where she is being treated has led to the decision that she may make more progress at home. Brodie is determined that his daughter have the best care his money can provide, and his mother thinks that includes Evie as her physical therapist. Evie turns Brodie down, but when Katherine begs her to reconsider, Evie agrees to work with Taryn on a temporary basis, setting up her program and approving a physical therapist to replace her.
There is a strong attraction between Evie and Brodie. Both of them resist it initially, and even after they surrender to it, they clash on Taryn’s treatment. Evie’s methods bring about marked improvement in Taryn who makes progress with mobility and language skills. But when Brodie discovers that Evie’s has encouraged visits from the young man he holds responsible for his daughter’s injuries and her friend’s death, the developing relationship between them ends amid anger and accusations. However, Taryn’s courage proves the catalyst that frees them all from guilt and fear and offers the promise of an HEA.
I like small town stories, and I read a lot of them. I consider Thayne’s Hope’s Crossing series a standout in the genre. First, the town is not idealized. People know one another and are involved in one another’s lives to a greater degree that would be common in an urban setting, but Hope’s Crossing and its citizens have their share of problems. Marriages break up, kids get in trouble, and tragedies strike without discrimination. Second, Hope’s Crossing and its people are not generic. This is a specific place, and the characters are individuals. Because the characters and their problems seemed rooted in reality, I believed in them and cared about them.
Evie’s running away from her home and her job after the death of her adopted daughter may seem weak, but people handle grief in different ways. And Evie’s love for Taryn and the work she does with her proves her heart is bigger than her fear of being hurt again. Brodie is a flawed hero. Not only is he a father who was sometimes too busy for his daughter before her accident, but his guilt and his love for Taryn lead him to behave like a jerk at times. But his need to blame someone for what happened and his determination to protect his child from anything or anyone he perceived as harmful to her were understandable given the man he was and the accident and all that followed it. Thayne resists the temptation to turn Taryn into a suffering saint. She has the typical teen’s self-absorption. She is angry and frightened by her condition, and she feels guilty about one friend’s death and another’s vilification. Sometimes she can be a brat. But she is also capable of empathy, courage, and self-sacrifice, and it’s a delight to watch her begin to grow up.
Woodrose Mountain will join Blackberry Summer on my keeper shelf. And I have Sweet Laurel Falls marked as a must-read on my book calendar. It is a reunion story (my favorite trope) featuring Maura McKnight-Parker, the mother of the teen who died in the accident that injured Taryn. I look forward to revisiting Hope’s Crossing when this third book is released in October 2012.
Do you like books with small-town settings? What are your favorites?