Title: Willowleaf Lane
Author: RaeAnne Thayne
Series: Hope’s Crossing
Genre: Contemporary romance
Rating: 3.5 stars
Candy store owner Charlotte Caine recently turned her life around. She grew up with six older brothers and had always been on the chubby side, but it wasn’t until the age of twelve when her mother died from cancer that she began to really put on weight as a method of coping with life. Fast forward fifteen years or so, and another life altering event–one of her brothers losing an eye and part of his arm fighting overseas–inspires her to eat smarter, exercise, and lose eighty pounds. Life seems sweet, if a little lonely–most of her friends have starred in the first four books in this series, after all, and therefore are well on their way to their own HEA. Charlotte’s dating experiences so far have been less than stellar. But she doesn’t mind…much.
Spencer Gregory broke Charlotte’s fifteen-year-old heart, and she’s never gotten over it. Unfortunately for her, the ex-baseball player and new widower is back in town. He and his twelve-year-old daughter Peyton have moved to town for six months so Spence can take over the new recreation center and hopefully repair his public reputation, which has taken some major hits in the past year or so. He’s immediately taken with Charlotte and her new look, and doesn’t quite understand why she seems so bitter toward him. He’d like to show her that he’s changed, but should he, if he’s just moving back to Portland again afterwards?
I really enjoy the setting of these books–especially when the characters all gather at Claire’s bead store, String Fever. It never fails to make me want to pull out the jewelry making supplies again and make a bracelet–or seven. (And possibly even a pair of matching earrings to go with as well.) I like Thayne’s writing, and frequently find much to identify with in her characters. However, the books in this series tend to be hit or miss for me. This one, unfortunately, was more on the “miss” side.
I think the main issue with this novel is that it just didn’t feel as if it was all there. More than once I read something that made me stop and search back through what I’d already read, sure that I’d missed something. I hadn’t. For example, it isn’t until page 159 that we find out that Charlotte is a virgin. This doesn’t have to be a huge deal, of course, but the way that it was written made it seem like 1) she thought it was and 2) it had been brought up before. I was so sure that it hadn’t been brought up previously, though, that I did a search for the term. Nope, first mentioned on page 159. It became important to the H/h, though…until it was forgotten about again. The topic felt unfinished to me. Later on, Charlotte overhears a conversation between Spence and a former friend. She’s in a dark room next door, and no indication is given that the other two should–or even could–know she’s there. Yet as soon as we see the scene from Spencer’s point of view, he figures that she must be listening in. Why? I have no idea. Again I went back to see if I’d missed something, and again, I couldn’t find anything. It was odd. And Charlotte’s half dozen brothers? We only see one of them, even though it sounded like the rest lived nearby. They come up frequently in her thoughts and conversations, but we only see the one. For a small town, and especially a fictional small town in this genre, this felt odd. Unfinished.
Adding to my overall impression–finishing it, as it were–the story ends very abruptly. The hero and heroine are at their big moment, revealing all, taking a chance on love at last, and…that’s it. Over. Finis. Now I’m not saying that every story needs to end with the wedding/baby/riding-off-into-the-sunset-together epilogue, but this felt like it ended on their very first date. Technically, I’m pretty sure it did…and I need more than that to believe in their “happy ever after”.
In at nutshell: a nice story, but felt incomplete. Still, I enjoy this series and hope that I’ll find a better connection with the next Hope’s Crossing story. 3.5 stars.
(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)