By Susan Mallery
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
February 25, 2014
Susan Mallery takes her readers back to Blackberry Island for the third installment in this popular women’s fiction series set on a fictional island in Washington’s Puget Sound. The first two novels in the series focused on female friendship: childhood friends estranged and reunited in Barefoot Season and new friendships that develop into intimate, healing relationships in Three Sisters. The third focuses on the relationship between two sisters and, to a lesser degree, between the sisters and their mother.
Nina Wentworth was still a child when she realized that she had to be the responsible one in her family. Her mother, Bonnie, a perpetual adolescent, loves her daughters, but, lacking self-discipline and any sense of responsibility, she is incapable of being the parent her daughters need. It falls to Nina to mother her younger sister Averil, to see that her mother’s flightiness doesn’t force them to close the doors of Blackberry Preserves, Bonnie’s antique shop, and to keep their house from falling in around them. Once Nina had dreams of leaving the island, becoming a doctor, and building a life with Dylan Harrington, the only son of Blackberry Island’s only doctor. But Dylan left alone, and Nina switched to nursing because it only required her to be away from the island for two years. Now her life has become rather bland and routine, but change is on the way. First, Dylan returns to join his father’s medical practice and to remind Nina of all they once shared, and then Kyle Eastland, a Navy pilot, lays siege to Nina’s heart—and other body parts.
At Nina’s urging, Averil did leave Blackberry Island to explore a larger world. Averil should be happy. She has been married for five years to Kevin Stanton, a man who loves her deeply, and she has a job writing for a magazine for teenage girls that many other young journalists envy. But Averil finds her life unsatisfying, and she feels pressured by Kevin’s desire for a family. She still thinks of Blackberry Island as home. Quitting her job and leaving her marriage a question mark, she returns to the island to find answers and her lost self.
When Bonnie returns from her buying trip, the three women are once again together, confronted with the complicated mix of love, resentment, and misunderstanding that defines their relationship to one another. Mallery once again proves that she is as deft at writing about women’s journeys of self-discovery as she is at writing heart-melting romance. While Evening Stars has strong romantic elements, the heart of the story is family dynamics, particularly the roles assigned early that shape the women girls grow up to become and the power to change old roles and to reclaim one’s dreams.
Mallery ends her Blackberry Island series with a story that should please her fans and win her some new readers. If you like women’s fiction that includes romance threads that end with HEAs, I definitely recommend this book.
I prefer optimistic endings even in the women’s fiction I read. Perhaps that’s why most of my favorite women’s fiction writers also write or have written romance. Do you prefer at least the promise of a happy future, or are you satisfied with endings that leave you with less resolution?