Monday, June 26, 2017

Wild West Fortune - Allison Leigh (HSE #2551 - June 2017)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: The Secret Fortunes (Book 6)

A COWBOY NAMED FORTUNE

In a small Western town with more horses than people, feisty city reporter Ariana Lamonte may have uncovered the scoop of a lifetime: not one, not two, but three secret Fortunes, hiding in plain sight. Exposing these heretofore unknown Fortune heirs could make her career. But it could also break her heart.

Falling in love with cowboy/military man Jayden Fortune was never part of the plan. When Jayden offered Ariana shelter from a storm, he didn't know who she was -- and she didn't know what she was in for. Trapped in a dark, damp cellar with the sexy-as-sin rancher, Ariana unlassoed her inner cowgirl, and now she's got a problem: her "secret Fortune" has become way more than just a story…

Good book. Ariana is a reporter who has appeared in several earlier books. She is writing articles about the Fortunes, especially the newly discovered ones. She is also planning to write a book about Jerome Fortune/Gerald Robinson. A chance encounter with Gerald's wife Charlotte gives her a lead to more Fortunes. Not one to let grass grow under her feet, she heads for Paseo to see what she can find. What she finds first is a deserted road, no town, and an approaching storm - and one cowboy rescuer. Jayden Fortune, former army and current rancher, can't leave a damsel in distress, so he takes her back to his home. They take refuge in the storm cellar as a storm rages overhead - and in the cellar.

The developing relationship between Ariana and Jayden, as she waits for the repairs to her car, is fun to see. Ariana may be a city girl, but she's also adaptable, and quickly gets involved in the day to day life of the ranch. I loved the part at the Ybarra's ranch, as she sees a community come together to help one of their own, and how it affected her. The heat continues to grow between them as do their feelings. But Ariana hasn't been completely open with Jayden about her plans, and when the truth comes out he feels angry and betrayed. A confrontation with harsh words sends Ariana fleeing back to Austin, while Jayden faces the truth of his feelings for her. A conversation with his mother reveals a not-so-surprising truth and he knows what he has to do. I liked his big moment at the end. He does a bit of groveling, but it's his heart that's on the line and he's nervous about if she'll forgive him. His efforts were pretty sweet and I loved seeing their happy ending.

The truth about whether Jayden and his brothers are Jerome/Gerald's is answered by the end of the book. There is also a scene with the Robinson siblings as they are discussing the search for other siblings. A discovery by Olivia reveals a shocking secret about their mother and may be a lead in for the next series of Fortune books. I hope so, because I still want to know Jerome/Gerald's reasons.

From Fortune to Family Man - Judy Duarte (HSE #2540 - Apr 2017)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: The Secret Fortunes (Book 4)

WHAT TO EXPECT…WHEN YOU WEREN'T EXPECTING

Kieran Fortune, vice president of Robinson Tech, knows his strengths. He's good with technology; he's good at making money and at making love. But he doesn't know one thing about parenting. And he's just become a father. To a toddler.

When the ever-so-sexy millionaire agreed to sign on as legal guardian to his best friend's daughter, he considered it a mere formality. But now Zach is gone and Kieran is…Dad. In a fit of desperation, he reaches out to Zach's ex-girlfriend. Dana Trevino is a serious-minded graduate student who is great with little Rosie. She is also Kieran's polar opposite and the very last woman he should be interested in. It isn't fair. It isn't right. It's also just about inevitable…

Good book. Kieran is a tech guru and a ladies man. He is also a good friend. When his best friend asked him to be guardian to his daughter, Kieran never expected to have to follow through on it. But when Zach dies, Kieran steps up, determined to be whatever Rosie needed. He's also feeling a bit overwhelmed, so he asks Zach's former girlfriend for help.  He doesn't expect to be drawn to her. Dana and Zach had been closer to friends than lovers, but she adored his daughter. She's more than happy to help Kieran whenever he needs it. She's not nearly as happy about her attraction to him.

I liked both Kieran and Dana. I liked how he changed his life around to give Rosie the life he feels she deserves. I loved that he was hands-on, rather than just hiring a nanny and turning Rosie over to her. He'd been raised by nannies himself, and though they'd been good, they weren't his parents. There are some terrific scenes of Kieran and Rosie together as he moves from Uncle Kieran to Uncle Daddy to just plain Daddy. Dana is sweet and loving. With no family of her own, she loved becoming part of Zach's, though she feels a little guilty. Their relationship hadn't been as deep as so many had assumed. She's grateful that Zach's parents still want her in their lives and Rosie's.

I loved the development of their relationship. They had met a few times previously, but didn't really know each other. Kieran first sees her as quiet, serious, and nothing like the other women he knows. He's puzzled by the sparks of attraction he feels for her, and tries to subdue them. After all, she was Zach's girl and even though he's gone it just isn't right. But he desperately needs her help. It isn't too long before he realizes that he also wants to be with her for his own sake. This freaks him out a bit because he's always been the committed bachelor. This causes him to do and say some things to Dana that are meant to put some distance between them but end up being hurtful. Dana is equally attracted to Kieran, but considers him to be way out of her league. She sees him as rich, successful and gorgeous and she's just a former foster kid. She doesn't see her own beauty and the sweetness that appeals to him. Spending time together with Rosie brings them closer and they start feeling like a family. Dana knows she's falling for him, but she can't stop her feelings from growing, even though she's sure nothing will come of it. Kieran's own feelings are changing and he doesn't know how to deal with them. Though I wanted to shake him over the whole wedding invitation thing, I liked that he quickly realized how stupid he had been. His big moment at the end was sweet and romantic, and showed an unexpected bit of vulnerability in him.

There wasn't much said in this book about the Fortune-Robinsons' ongoing search for any other half-siblings from their father's frequent affairs. There is some inclusion of the reporter Ariana Lamonte, who is doing a series of articles on the new Fortunes. There is also a hint that she may have a bigger story in mind.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Twice a Hero, Always Her Man - Marie Ferrarella (HSE #2522 - Jan 2017)

Series: Matchmaking Mamas (Book 17)

She'd stopped believing in happy endings…

Widowed TV reporter Ellie King had given up on looking for heroes ever since her beloved husband was killed in a robbery gone wrong. Because she could have used one then, but there was no one around -- or was there?

…until a hero walked back into her life.

Detective Colin Benteen had been the first on the scene to comfort Ellie's husband, to hold his hand when it was clear his wounds were fatal. Now, years later, Ellie is interviewing the handsome officer when she realizes who he is -- a single parent (to his niece), all-around good guy and proof that once in a lifetime can happen twice! But Colin might not be the only one who needs convincing…

Good book. The matchmaking mamas are at it again. Their friend Connie wants their help finding someone for her daughter. Ellie's husband had been killed two years earlier and she feels that Ellie is just going through the motions of living. Maizie and company come up with the who, and fate drops the how into their laps. I loved Maizie's conversation with the station manager. What she doesn't know is that there is already a connection between Ellie and Colin. When Ellie arrives to interview Colin, she recognizes him as the officer who had been first on the scene at the robbery. She still feels guilty that she had never thanked him for all he did, but during the interview isn't the time to do it. She doesn't expect the first spark of feeling she's had since her husband's death to happen when talking to Colin.

Colin is a great guy. He used to be quite a ladies man, then his brother and sister-in-law were killed in an accident, making him the guardian of his ten year old niece, Heather. He never hesitated, but changed his entire life in order to be what she needed. He's also pretty humble, and isn't all that thrilled to be the center of attention in Ellie's story. He is intrigued by her, plus there is something about her that keeps picking at his brain. I loved the way that he indulged Heather by setting up a chance for her to meet Ellie. It turned out way differently than he expected, especially when he was called into work and Ellie offered to stay with Heather.

This was the beginning of a pretty sweet relationship. There were a few bumps at the beginning as Ellie keeps putting off telling Colin about their connection, until such time as Colin figured it out himself. He didn't take it all that well, as he still feels guilty for not being able to save her husband, and thinks she hid the connection until she could get even with him. I ached for Colin and how he is still haunted by that night. Ellie is suffering from some guilt of her own. First, that she blames herself for what happened to him, something that she has been suppressing for way too long. I loved Colin's tenderness and kindness when she finally fell apart. She's also feeling some guilt over the feelings that are growing for Colin. I really enjoyed the slow and steady growth of their feelings for each other. There were some marvelous scenes that showed just how right they were for each other. I loved Ellie's arrival with the puppy for Heather, and how Colin used that as a way to keep Ellie in their lives. Ellie's nurturing heart was shown in the way she loved to cook for them. The Thanksgiving scene was great, especially her horror that they were going to go to a restaurant to eat. As they grew closer, Ellie's biggest fear was that she would lose Colin the way she lost her husband. I ached for her at the end, when she had to face her fears, and loved the strength of will she showed. The ending was a heartfelt expression of emotions on both their parts and I loved the honesty between them.

I also adored young Heather. Her love for her Uncle Colin was obvious, as was her appreciation of all that he had changed for her. He is equally smitten with her, and I loved his struggles with finding the balance between being the fun uncle and the responsible dad. I enjoyed her quick connection with Ellie and how much fun the two had together. She was also pretty realistic, with her occasional sadness over the loss of her parents, mixed with the natural resilience of being a kid. The scenes with her and the puppy were fantastic, and I could see how perfect they were together. I loved the story the author told at the beginning of how Pancakes came to be part of the story.

Where Azaleas Bloom - Sherryl Woods (Mira - Sept 2012)

Series: Sweet Magnolias (Book 10)

Single mom Lynn Morrow is determined to put food on the table for her son and daughter. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband has failed to meet his obligations time and again -- but it turns out that Ed is struggling with his own demons.

Enter contractor Mitch Franklin, an unlikely knight in shining armor. A widower with two grieving sons, Mitch once admired Lynn from afar. Now he sees in her not only the sweet girl who got away, but a woman desperately in need of support. While rushing to the rescue of Lynn and her children comes naturally to Mitch, he's also wise enough to encourage Lynn to find her own way…hopefully straight into his arms.

Good book. Lynn is in the midst of a crisis. Her soon to be ex-husband has missed child support payments and hasn't been paying the mortgage on the house. She's down to her last few dollars with little food in the house and no way to pay the bills. She is justifiably angry at Ed, but determined to protect his relationship with their children. This is especially difficult with their fourteen year old daughter, who is old enough to understand what is happening. She has one part-time job with friend and neighbor Raylene, but needs something else. While looking for a job in a bad part of town, she is spotted by Mitch, who offers her a job with him instead.

Mitch is a widower who lost his wife to a drunk driver a year earlier. He is slowly working himself out of the overwhelming grief he had felt at the beginning. Mitch and Lynn have known each other since they were kids. Mitch had had quite the crush on her when they were thirteen, but she was already fixated on Ed, so he never did anything about it. Now he can't help but want to make things better for her.

I loved Mitch. He is sweet and protective and he understands Lynn very well. I really liked the way that he didn't stomp on her pride in his eagerness to help, but instead made it possible for her to help herself. I really liked how they began with friendship that slowly grew into more. Mitch is careful to ensure that he is truly ready to move on after his wife's death before he tries to advance things with Lynn. I also enjoyed his interactions with her kids, especially taking Jeremy under his wing.

I liked Lynn's determination to take care of her family. There were times when her pride refused to allow her to seek the help she needed, but her children's welfare was always at the top of her priorities. I liked watching her stand up to Ed when she needed to.

The development of their relationship was slow and sweet, with a hint of fire lurking under the surface. I liked the way that Mitch made his interest clear without pushing Lynn to move faster than she was ready for. Lynn was surprised by her attraction to Mitch, and a bit wary of her feelings at the beginning. There was one stumbling block that had to be dealt with, but I thought that Mitch handled it very well. When Ed decided to use Lynn's relationship with Mitch during the divorce proceedings, I ached for Mitch and what he decided to do. There was also a little bit of drama with Mitch's sons, but again, maturity and communication went a long way toward resolving that issue. I loved the ending and seeing Mitch and Lynn get the future they wanted.

The drama of the divorce was well portrayed. The problems faced by Lynn are all too common. I loved seeing Helen's reactions to Ed's antics and her determination to protect Lynn and the kids. The mystery of what Ed and his lawyer were up to was interesting, and had me considering several possibilities. What it turned out to be never crossed my mind. There were times I detested Ed and others when I felt sorry for him. In the end, I felt that Lynn handled everything quite well, including her dealings with Ed's mother. I also ached for the two kids, most especially for Lexie. Her feelings for her father were affected by his actions and she was torn in how she wanted to treat him. I liked the way that Lynn helped her to accept her feelings, but also to look at things from other perspectives.

Also running through the book was a continuation of what is happening with the three senior Magnolias. In the previous two books we had seen that Frances is having health problems that have begun to escalate. I hurt for her and her fears and frustration, and ached for Liz and Flo as they helped her deal with them. Their problems were lightened somewhat by Flo's revelation of what she has been up to. Helen's reactions are just what is expected, and seeing the two of them resolve the strain between them was both funny and heartwarming.

As always, the deep friendship among the Magnolias and their support of each other through thick and thin is a force to be reckoned with. I loved Lynn's acceptance into the group and how each of them helps her in their own way. I hope that there will be more books in the future, when the younger generation, who have already shown Magnolia values, are ready for stories of their own.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Catching Fireflies - Sherryl Woods (Mira - Aug 2012)

Series: Sweet Magnolias (Book 9)

When bullying threatens to destroy a teen's life, painful memories resurface for dedicated high school teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician J. C. Fullerton. With the support of the Sweet Magnolias, they bring the town together to ensure that a promising student's future isn't ruined. And to establish once and for all that bullying has no place in Serenity, South Carolina.

Both J.C.'s and Laura's passion for the cause is deeply personal, and their growing feelings for each other are just as strong. But with so many secret hurts to overcome, can these two vulnerable lovers find the strength to believe in happily ever after?

Excellent book. A teacher and a pediatrician are brought together in a sweet romance when they combine forces to deal with a case of bullying at the high school. Misty is a junior, smart and hard-working, so when she starts skipping class, Laura is worried. JC is equally worried when Misty comes to him asking for a note that will let her get out of going to school. Since she won't tell him what's happening, he makes her promise to talk to someone, and have that person call him. Though she talks to Laura, the lack of real information has Laura and JC determined to discover the truth.

I really liked Laura and JC. Both are deeply caring people who want the best for those around them. Laura has seen the bad side of love in the past and doesn't do much dating. JC has been burned himself and considers himself too bad at relationships to indulge again. That doesn't stop various people from doing their best to find matches for them (JC's nurse is especially persistent). From the moment they meet, there are sparks between Laura and JC, though they both try to resist and deny. It was fun to see them both try to deny the attraction even as they found reasons to get together. It was hilarious to see the whole town get involved, commenting on sightings of them together. I really loved JC's bewilderment at the way he can't stay away from Laura, and how his feelings are changing. The support they showed for each other during some really tough times was sweet and heartwarming. I loved JC's big moment at the end.

The romance was wonderful, but there is more than that. The case of bullying that brings the two together is an eye-opening look at one of the toughest issues kids today face. When Laura and JC discover what the problem is with Misty, it calls to them in a deeply personal way. Both had had experience with bullies in their own youths, affecting their lives even now. I loved the honesty and depth with which the issue was handled. Misty, who is having other troubles at home, tries to deal with the problem on her own. She gets some support when her best friend gets involved, but swears that friend to secrecy. Fortunately that friend is a daughter of a Sweet Magnolia and finds a way to keep her promise and still help. I hurt for Misty and everything she was going through. As the truth comes out, Laura and JC are assisted by the Magnolias and others as the issue of bullying is brought into the spotlight. I loved seeing Misty come out the other side, not unaffected, but stronger for surviving.

I loved seeing so many of the Sweet Magnolias and their husbands in this book. Their willingness and desire to do whatever necessary (loved Helen!) made resolving the issue even more successful. They were especially critical in support of Laura when the mother of the bully got involved. I also loved seeing the husbands checking out JC and making sure he knows that he's being watched. There are some terrific scenes that had me laughing out loud - margarita nights were especially good at that. Others had me cheering as they banded together. I loved Frances's speech at the rally, while JC's brought me to tears.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An Amish Garden - Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Tricia Goyer, Vannetta Chapman (Thomas Nelson - Mar 2014)

Rooted in Love by Beth Wiseman 

Rosemary Lantz is doing her best to run her family’s household. She excels at all her tasks except one: gardening. Saul Petersheim has pursued Rosemary for years, but Rosemary keeps turning him down.  What Saul doesn’t know is that she has good reason—something no one can know—especially not him.

Good story. Rosemary and Saul had dated when they were teens, until Rosemary abruptly broke things off. Now she takes care of her widowed father and her three brothers, and dreams of what might have been. Saul has never given up on the love he felt for her and keeps asking her out. When Rosemary's dad and Saul are injured in an accident, Saul insists on helping out, in spite of his own injuries, hoping for another chance.

I loved Saul. He's true in his love for Rosemary and doesn't give up, even when it seems hopeless. His sense of honor insists on him helping out because he was the one who caused her father's injuries. It was a bit amusing to see that he didn't handle his own injury too well.

I had a bit more trouble with Rosemary. She doesn't treat Katherine very well because she's jealous of what appears to be the other woman's perfect life. I admired the way that she has taken care of her family since her mother's death, especially since she is often overwhelmed by it all. But she is also a little bitter about having missed out on the husband and children she wants. She is still in love with Saul, but doesn't treat him very well. The reason she broke things off haunts her, and she wonders if it was worth the loss of the man she loves.

I got pretty frustrated with her because she was so inconsistent with her treatment of Saul. I was glad to see her talk to her friend about what happened and that it gave her the motivation to actually talk to him about it. When she finally got up the courage to do so, it was to find that it had been a misunderstanding of what she heard. If she had only taken the time to talk to him about it, so much time wouldn't have been lost. However, I liked Saul's philosophical look on the lost years.

There was also a secondary story involving Rosemary's dad, Wayne, and Katherine. Rosemary's treatment of Katherine nearly ruined the blossoming of their romance. I ached for both Wayne and Katherine and their unhappiness. I was happy to see Rosemary see her mistakes and try to fix things.


Flowers for Rachael by Kathleen Fuller  

Rachael Bontrager’s flower garden is beautiful, but at twenty-four, she’s  lonely. Gideon Beiler fell in love with Rachael almost at first sight. After her grandfather has a stroke, her days are filled with caring for him, and one day Rachael finds her garden in shambles. However, she won’t accept Gideon’s offers of help. Will she realize she doesn’t have to do everything on her own and that God is in control?

Good story. Rachael has come to Ohio to take care of her ill grandfather. When she isn't caring for him she is working in her garden. She's rather lonely because she doesn't allow herself much time away from Eli. However, she is intrigued by neighbor Gideon, though he doesn't seem to share her interest. Gideon is rather shy and awkward around women. His one attempt to ask one out ended badly and he hasn't tried since. He has fallen hard for Rachael, but has no idea how to proceed.

Gideon and Rachael have become friends, though each wants more. It was fun to see Gideon's sister get involved and try to help him along. The idea she came up with was pretty sweet and he pulled it off well. It certainly got Rachael's attention as she tried to figure out who was doing it. His shyness almost ended things before they began, but an assist from Eli got things going again. Gideon was still afraid he was relegated to friend, until a crisis with Eli gave him a chance to show Rachael how much he cared. Rachael has spent so long doing everything herself that she has forgotten how to accept help from anyone. Between his help with Eli and then when her garden is damaged by hail, Rachael finally learns that a burden shared is much easier to bear. The ending was really sweet, with Rachael delivering her own floral message.


Seeds of Love by Tricia Goyer 

Sadie Chupp finds her greatest joy in the greenhouses in her Montana community. A company is interested in buying her heirloom seeds, but they are the only thing she has left from her deceased parents. Eli Plank is a traveling bachelor who believes he can help Sadie, but a misunderstanding leaves her heartbroken. Will she trust him again, and let the seeds of a new relationship take root?

Sadie moved to Montana to escape her overwhelming grief over the loss of her parents and the sometimes smothering attentions of her older siblings. She plants the heirloom tomato seeds that are all she has left from them, hoping to continue the tradition. She meets Eli, a newcomer to the community, who is a traveling writer. Eli has enjoyed his travels, but something about the community feels right to him.

Sadie and Eli are drawn to each other and connect over her garden. Nurturing the garden does the same to their feelings. I loved seeing Eli's desire to ease her grief as they worked together. There are some sweet scenes as they cope with several issues. A misunderstanding drives them apart, but a marauding bear and destroyed garden helps bring them back together. Then a message from the past brings peace to Sadie and hope for her future.


Where Healing Blooms by Vannetta Chapman 

When Widow Emma Hochstetter discovers a run-away teenager in her barn, and the bishop asks her to provide a haven for a local woman and her two children she finds her quiet life has been interrupted.  Then, her mother-in-law, Mary Ann, reveals one of her garden's hidden secrets, something very unexpected.  Will Emma continue alone or will she accept the gifts God has given her?

Good second chance story. Emma and her mother-in-law have both been widowed within the last year. Mary Ann finds great comfort in her garden, though she can no longer work it the way she used to. That is left to Emma, whose own children are grown with families of their own. She is left feeling a bit at loose ends, wondering what purpose she has now. Also plaguing her is the return of a former beau, whose presence in her life brings back memories of what they once had. Danny left the community as a young man, wandering the country and experiencing life in other towns. He recently returned to the family farm, where he now writes and watches over Emma and Mary Ann.

Then Danny and Emma find a teenage boy hiding out in her barn. Mary Ann and Danny suggest they give him refuge, a place where he can feel safe and wanted. Then the bishop asks them to open their home to a woman and two children escaping from an abusive situation. Suddenly Emma has a full house again and a feeling of usefulness. There's also a reawakening of the feelings between herself and Danny. When Mary Ann reveals a long kept secret of her garden, a world of possibilities is opened, if only Emma has the courage to take it.

I liked the close relationship between Emma and Mary Ann. There was love and respect and a deep understanding of who they are. I liked the way that Mary Ann had of making gentle suggestions to Emma, helping her to look at things from a different perspective. I loved Danny's patience as he waited for Emma to be ready to accept his love. I liked their plans for the future.

Midnight Promises - Sherryl Woods (Mira - July 2012)

Series: Sweet Magnolias (Book 8)

When Elliott Cruz first courted struggling single mom Karen Ames, it was a romance worthy of any Sweet Magnolia fantasy. The sexy personal trainer made it his mission to restore Karen's strength -- physical and emotional -- and to charm her children.

Now, a few years into the marriage, colliding dreams threaten to tear them apart. Elliott's desire to finance the business opportunity of a lifetime with their hard-earned "baby money" stirs Karen's deep-rooted financial insecurities. It's the discovery that their brother-in-law is cheating on Elliott's sister -- and thinks it's justified -- that puts their irreconcilable differences into perspective. Will their own loving fidelity be a bond so strong they can triumph against all odds?

Good story about trust, communication, and belief in each other. Elliott and Karen have been married for a couple years. Their courtship had been difficult, as Elliott had had to overcome Karen's fears and wariness. Their marriage has been going well, as they settle into life as a blended family. Elliott adores Karen's two children and Karen herself. His goal in life is to make sure they never want for anything. When he is given the opportunity to be part of a new gym for men, he jumps at the chance - but doesn't tell Karen about it. To say that she isn't happy about it would be a vast understatement. Karen's first marriage ended when her husband walked out, leaving Karen with a mountain of debt she had known nothing about. Now her two biggest hot buttons are secrecy and money. When she finds out about Elliott's plans from someone other than Elliott, she is furious and terrified. Confronting Elliott doesn't really calm all her fears.

I liked both Karen and Elliott, but each of them had their issues that contributed to the stress between them. Karen's biggest issue is her fear of financial difficulty. Having barely survived the results of her first marriage, she is determined never to fear for the ability to pay the bills again. I understood her point, but her obsession with it got to be very annoying after a while. Especially since Elliott is nothing like her first husband. Elliott is a kind, loving and protective man. He is also a product of his upbringing in a traditional Hispanic family, where the man was the head of the household and made the decisions. Though he wants to believe that he is better than his father had been, there are some things that he just doesn't realize he does. Keeping the gym plans secret was one of those things. He didn't want to worry Karen about it until he had all the information ready to show her because he knew what her reaction would be.

I liked seeing how Karen and Elliott worked to resolve their differences. It wasn't easy, and both had some hard lessons to learn. Karen's constant fear was caused by what she went through with her first husband, and she had to fully accept that Elliott was not going to do the same. Though her heart knew it, her head would frequently create doubts in her mind. She was also oblivious to the fact that her doubts hurt Elliott's pride. Though Elliott is well aware of Karen's phobias about debt and keeping secrets, he still has a hard time being fully open about his plans. He is confident about the prospects for success, but has difficulty finding a way to share that confidence with Karen. He is also suffering from what he sees as a lack of faith in him. Elliott also wants to adopt her children and doesn't understand why she is dragging her feet.

The problem with the gym was the catalyst for Karen and Elliott to realize that since their marriage their lives had gotten extremely busy and they had lost their ability to communicate openly and honestly with each other. Thanks to the interference of several friends, they started making a concerted effort to remedy that, and things started to improve. When Elliott's sister began having problems with her marriage, Elliott and Karen realized that though they may have their own issues, their love for each other was never in doubt. Something Adelia says to Elliott about their father also makes him aware of the mistakes he had been making in his own life, and opens his eyes to the changes he needs to make. Thanks to some prodding from her children, Karen also realizes that she has been letting the past influence her future, and that she's the only one who can change that. By the end of the book, their marriage has made it through the rough patch and emerged stronger because of it.

The problems Adelia is having with her marriage show the differences in outlook between Karen and the women of the Cruz family. Adelia has been raised to be a peacemaker and to go along with whatever her husband says. But his constant affairs have become unbearable for her, and when it also begins to affect their oldest daughter, Adelia realizes that she has had enough. I loved seeing her start to regain her self-respect and to stand up to her husband. I got very irritated with the way that even the women blamed Adelia for the breakdown of her marriage. It was great to see Adelia and Karen grow closer, as Adelia discovers that Karen is a better source of support than her own family. Even Elliott needed an occasionally smack upside the head when it came to his family.

I loved catching up with other residents of Serenity who have appeared in earlier books. The deep friendships showcase the support that is always there for those who need it. I loved seeing Frances, Flo and Liz, the "senior Magnolias" and what they were up to. I ached for Frances and her fears, and loved seeing how everyone rallied around her.