Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: The Inn at Rose Harbor

The Inn at Rose Harbor
By Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Ballantine
Release Date: August 14, 2012

Debbie Macomber makes her debut with a new publisher and returns her readers to familiar territory in the first book of a new series.
Just after New Year’s Day, Jo Marie Rose bought a bed-and-breakfast in Cedar Cove. Still grieving for her husband Paul Rose, a soldier killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in late April of the previous year, she has come to Cedar Cove against the wishes of her family, who want her to stay in Seattle. She and Paul had all too brief a time together, but she believes that she will never love again with the joy and intensity they knew. However, the inn gives her a sense of peace that persuades her Cedar Cove is where she needs to start to build a new life. Since she buys the inn in turnkey condition from a couple who restored the 19th-century home, she is open for business almost immediately. The only significant change she makes is to rename the inn in her husband’s memory.

Her first guests have returned to Cedar Cove reluctantly. Joshua Weaver left twelve years ago when he joined the army shortly after he graduated from high school. His relationship with his stepfather was never cordial, and it grew worse after his mother’s death. When his stepfather accused Josh of stealing from him and kicked him out of the house shortly before graduation, their estrangement was complete. Josh came back just long enough to attend his stepbrother’s funeral five years ago, not even staying overnight. Now the project manager for a construction company, he is in Cedar Cove only because Michelle Nelson, a neighbor and social worker, has contacted him with the news that his stepfather is terminally ill and needs help. It is only a sense of duty that brings Josh home, and he is eager to take care of business and leave as soon as possible.

It is also duty that brings Abby Kinkaid to Cedar Cove. Her older brother is getting married, and his bride is from Cedar Cove. The family, who moved from Cedar Cove a decade earlier, is gathering for the wedding, and Abby knows she has to join them. She has always believed that it was the accident that changed her life irrevocably that forced her parents to move to Arizona. Abby grew up in Cedar Cove, a happy, outgoing girl who shared all the typical activities with her best friend, Angela White. But during Christmas vacation when the two were college freshmen, they were involved in an automobile accident. Angela was killed. Abby was driving, and she felt guilty for her friend’s death, a feeling exacerbated by Angela’s family’s anger and bitterness toward her. Abby believes the whole town holds her responsible for the accident, and so she cut off all contact with friends in Cedar Cove. The guilt she carries has shaped her life, turning her into a very different person from the joyful girl she once was. Even now, ten years after the fact, she refuses to stay at the hotel where the other wedding guests are. Her only idea is get through the wedding, drawing as little attention to herself as possible, and then return as quickly as she can to her home in Florida, about as far from Cedar Cove, Washington, as one can get.  

The themes that link the stories of Josh and Abby are obvious. They are both in need to forgive and to heal in order to move beyond their pasts. In Abby’s case, it is self-forgiveness, but that can be the most difficult of all. They both find far more than they expected in Cedar Cove. The strength and warmth Josh finds in Michelle helps him to forgive his stepfather and begin a new life with Michelle. Abby finds friends who celebrate her return, eventual absolution from Angela’s family, and reconnection with a man from her past. The inn at Rose Harbor promises to be a place of healing and new beginnings not only for Jo Marie but also for all who visit.

Fans who have loved Macomber’s Cedar Cove books will be happy to see that the new series has all the warmth and sense of community that made the original Cedar Cove series so beloved. Old friends such as Grace Harding, Olivia Griffin, and Peggy Belden make brief appearances. I suspect others will show up in subsequent books. If this first book sets the pattern, this series will be the same hybrid of women’s fiction and romance that characterized the other Cedar Cove books. There is even a curmudgeonly, ex-military handyman, Mark Taylor, who promises to add interest and perhaps unanticipated romance to Jo Marie’s new life. Nobody is better than Debbie Macomber at writing books that show hope and love triumphant over the staggering blows life throws at people. There is little new about this new series other than the publisher, but Macomber’s sales suggest more of the same is exactly what her fans want.

Are you a Debbie Macomber fan? What do you think accounts for her huge popularity?


Kathleen O said...

I am looking forward to this new series. I think what Debbie Macomber does best is gets into the heart of the people she writes about. These people are people you may know, people who have been hurt or in pain of a lost love or are running away from life. But she also celebrates Love in all it's passion and romance. She writes aobut families, the highs and the lows of what we all go through with one another. How they sacrifice for the people they love, even though it hurts them in some way. This is something I can relate to...
I am a fan of a series of books. I love that I can go back an visit them like old friends.

PJ said...

I'm looking forward to a return visit to Cedar Cove for this new series. I've been a loyal Macomber reader since the release of her first book for Silhouette in 1983.

As Kathleen said, she has a way of getting into the hearts of the people she creates. They're the people next door, the ones we encounter in our every day lives that are much like us, the readers. We relate to their struggles, their pain, their joy, their failures and triumphs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Macomber a couple years ago. It only took a few minutes of conversation to understand why I've enjoyed her books for so many years. She exudes the warmth, compassion, hope and joy that are a trademark of so many of her stories.

quantum said...

I recently read 'The forgetful bride' which I found both anusing and moving at times.

Thinking about Macomber 'getting to the heart of her characters, the people next door', I think that when Caitlin gives her airline ticket to a stranded soldier or is teased about her childhood 'wedding' I could, with a stretch, imagine one or two people that I know in a simillar situation!

I should probably spend time in Cedar Cove before visiting this new series. It's great to have this review and assesment as a guide though.

Janga said...

Kathleen, that's a great description of what Debbie Macomber does with her books. I'm a fan too. They leave me with the feeling that I've had a warm hug.

Janga said...

PJ, I thought the idea of blending new characters with the attachment readers already have for Cedar Cove was smart marketing and good writing. It's lovely to hear that Debbie Macomber lives up to the image she projects.

I don't know how the writing of TIARH fit with her personal loss, but I thought of her when I read some sections and whispered a prayer for her and her family.

Janga said...

Q, I think you could read TIARH withour having read the Cedar Cove books. The only thing you would miss is knowing the story of some characters, but that knowledge is not essential to understanding the stories of Jo Marie and her guests.

"Amusing and moving" are great adjectives for Macomber.