Dear Ms VanEperen,
I hadn’t read a contemporary in a while and since I’d been meaning to try one of your books, I picked “Willow Spring.” The second-chance-at-love plot is also a favorite of mine, so with no vampires or werewolves likely to pop up anywhere, I fired this one up on the old Ipaq.
Overall, I think this is a nicely done story. There’s nothing that’s horribly bad, the writing is smooth, the characters are believable and the plot, while nothing new, is standard. Alana Freemont has grown up and matured in the eight years she’s been away from her small hometown in the hill country of Texas. She’s a good mother, a polite woman, excited to see her old friends and concerned that her seven year old daughter is taking the death of Alana’s husband badly. Alana’s hopes that a new place with the possibility of new friends might help Melanie open back up seem well founded. Melanie acts like a child — and I think that’s a good thing. She’s polite to strangers yet can get a little cranky if cooped up inside too long. She’s thrilled about moving to a big ranch, getting a pony and having a pool. I’m not usually keen on lots of scenes with small children yet Melanie charmed me.
I also liked Bill Everly, Alana’s lost love. He was surprised at her return, had to work out his anger and hurt that he thought she’d left him high and dry all those years before yet was more than willing to try for a second chance with the woman he’d never stopped loving nor thinking about. He’s taken the loss of his parent’s wealth well, is a steady worker, wants to make it on his own and has paid his dues by earning his degree part time over the years. He’s also concerned about his sister’s abusive marriage yet is hampered by a restraining order placed by his often drunk brother-in-law. And the boy is good to his momma, which says a lot about what kind of husband he’d be. The only problem I had with him was his way to easy acceptance of the Big Secret that Alana drops on him with only a few pages to go in the book.
Yep, that was a major issue for me. I knew what the secret was. You dropped enough subtle hints throughout the story that it shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone to guess it. And the fact that Alana started up her relationship with Bill, got courted, engaged and the book’s almost over before she finally tells him was ridiculous. She’s already made an attempt to totally manage Bill’s life (which, thank goodness he gently informs her he won’t just give in to) then she avoids this little time bomb for weeks all the while dithering about knowing she should tell him. He’s already mad that she made no attempt to contact him for eight years and then this? I think these two might have some serious issues to deal with in the coming months. And it’s enough of an issue for me to give this story a C grade.