Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bonus Review: Love on Mimosa Lane

Love on Mimosa Lane
By Anna DeStefano
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date:
January 21, 2014

Kristen Hemmings, an assistant principal at the elementary school in Chandlerville, Georgia, has found a real home in the suburban town northeast of Atlanta. Kristen has made friends in the community, she is invested in seeing her students develop their potential in all areas, and she is looking forward to being promoted to principal. She manages to conceal the scars she carries from growing up with her critical, emotionally distant diplomat father and without the mother who abandoned her for the last in a long line of lovers. Kristen has been fascinated with Law Beaumont since he moved to Chandlerville with his family three years ago, but she is content to watch him from a distance because in the beginning he is married and more recently because she recognizes the threat he poses to her policy of no dramatics and limited emotional involvement with men, however attractive they may be.

Law Beaumont, bartender, musician, athlete, and former bad boy, moved to Chandlerville with his wife and daughter shortly after he was released from prison, determined to make a new start and to save his marriage. The last proved impossible, but as long as his daughter is in Chandlerville, Law will be there too, trying to protect her and ensure her stability and happiness. He has all he can handle with two jobs, caring for Chloe, his eight-year-old daughter on the two days he is allowed with her, and coping with a vindictive ex-wife devoted to destroying his reputation and peace of mind. Thoughts of Kristen Hemmings may keep intruding, but for many reasons, he can’t afford to do more than think about her.

Kristen asks Law to coach Fin Robinson, one of Chloe’s classmates, a troubled foster child with a heartbreaking past and an attachment disorder. The window for saving him from a destructive future is narrowing, and Kristen is convinced that Law, a gifted soccer coach, will be able to reach young Fin. Law refuses at first, but he feels compelled to talk to Fin. When he sees himself in the boy, he can’t resist trying to help him. Their shared concerns about Fin and Chloe, who is having difficulties dealing with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s secret alcoholism, and the lies her mother is telling about her father, draw Kristen and Law closer. As they allow themselves to move beyond a careful friendship to greater intimacy, Law’s ex-wife loses all control. Chloe and Fin suffer collateral damage, and the story seems headed for a tragic ending rather than an HEA. But love finds a way to meet all the challenges.

As she has in her two earlier Seasons of the Heart novels, Christmas on Mimosa Lane (2012) and Three Days on Mimosa Lane (2013), DeStefano combines richly layered characterization with contemporary problems and a small-town setting that portrays a community with heart but also with its share of troubled souls and shattered lives. In addition to an emotionally powerful romance between two complex people with complicated pasts, this third novel in the series looks at the effects of divorce on children, the sometimes volatile situation between former spouses, and the foster care system. I was particularly impressed that the author showed both the damage the system can do to children who are moved from home to home to home and the selfless, heroic efforts of the best foster parents to love their foster children and make a lasting, positive difference in their lives. Love on Mimosa Lane is about romantic love, but it is also about the love between parent and child, between friends, and within a community that cares for its own.

If you are a fan of small-town romances but sometimes feel that the towns are just too good to be true, DeStefano’s Mimosa Lane books are the perfect antidote. Chandlerville experiences all the problems that are being faced in most real small towns. It is a town with its share of self-indulgence, shallow values, and mean spirits, a town that is not exempt from violence, substance abuse, and materialism, but it is also a town with a core of decent people who want to protect their children, care for their neighbors, and nurture the real sense of community that exists there. In other words, it is a town in which the reader can believe.

My only quibble with the books is that Chloe and Fin and their classmates thought and behaved in ways that seemed older and more sophisticated than typical third graders to me. Still, that is a small complaint in what I found to be a compelling story with engaging characters. I recommend this book. I think DeStefano is something of a buried treasure.

“Buried treasure” is a term All About Romance began to use in the last century to refer to authors whose books readers rave about and who readers believe should be swelling the ranks of rising stars and bestseller headliners. Do you have buried treasure authors among your favorites?


irisheyes said...

I have CHRISTMAS ON MIMOSA LANE on my Kindle. I'll have to check that out and see if I've found a new author. Thanks for the review, Janga.

My buried treasure would be Cheryl St. John. I love her historicals. Lots of emotion and story tucked into the pages of her books. I also love her characters. They always seem so real, yet unique - not the same old same same old you find in the western genre.

Janga said...

I'll be interested in what you think, Irish.

I have enjoyed the St. John books I've read. I really should check out her back list.