Dear Ms. Atkins:
Apparently you wrote for Blaze and your bio says that you are known for your funny, touching stories. There isn’t much Blaze in this book but that’s not a bad thing. The story of an abused woman falling in love with the strong, silent type and being embraced by the small town she stumbles upon doesn’t tread new ground but it’s still a good story, particularly for those who like this particular trope.
Cara Price had hoped to use her ex’s entire prison sentence to get a degree and start a new life for herself and Beth Ann but his early release sets Cara on the road for Denver. She has a job and a place to live waiting for her courtesy of a domestic abuse helpline. Her young daughter, Beth Ann, isn’t happy leaving her grandmother’s home, her best friend, and having to adopt a new name. She’s beset with a tremendous guilt over something that happened with her father.
On her way from California to Denver, Cara’s car breaks down in New Hope, Arizona, and a one day stint at a local cafe helping out harassed cafe owner Jonah Gold turns into a few weeks. Jonah is in New Hope licking his own wounds. He sold out to his business partner whom he found sleeping with Jonah’s wife. He’s monitoring the sobriety of his feckless younger brother. He’s watching out for his aunt, Rosie, by working as a short order cook in her failing cafe.
Cara’s first emotional attachment isn’t to Jonah, but his aunt Rosie, , a crotchety older woman determined to maintain her promises to the dead husband who saved her. The backstory of Rosie and her beloved husband added a nice layer of poignancy to the story. Rosie always felt like she had never paid off the debt that she owed to her husband and because of that has acted in ways to her own detriment such as not selling anything or not changing the cafe they owned together and definitely not going to any hospital (which she blames for killing her husband).
The story is fairly predictable. Cara’s ideas for improving the cafe are wildly successful. Jonah has to learn to stop taking responsible for other’s actions, such as his brothers. Rosie has to give up her fear of hospitals.
There was a tenderness to the story that was reminiscent of a Lisa Kleypas contemporary but there was s somber note to the book overlaid with some suspense as to when Cara’s ex husband would catch up with her and what danger he would present. Everyone seemed somber all of the time. The tone could have definitely benefited from some dry humor or wry dialogue exchanges to lighten the mood.
This is a nice story but nothing earth shattering. I don’t think a reader would be disappointed when she read it but I also don’t think it is memorable either. C+