Title: The Rain Sparrow by Linda Goodnight
Honey Ridge Series Book Two
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A stranger’s arrival in a small Southern town stirs up old secrets and new dreams in this beautiful story full of hope and haunting mystery, and with the power to win your heart
Renowned yet private, thriller writer Hayden Winters lives a life colored by lies. As he is deeply ashamed of his past, his hunger for an honest relationship and dreams of starting a family remain unsatisfied, and he can trust no one with his secrets. He’s determined to outrun his personal demons, but the charming old Peach Orchard Inn and a woman whose presence is as gentle as a sparrow’s song stops him in his tracks.
Carrie Riley is afraid of everything from flying to thunderstorms, and pretty much of life itself. But meeting the enigmatic writer staying at the inn emboldens her to learn everything about him. When they discover a vulnerable boy hiding at the inn, Hayden is compelled to help Carrie protect him. Soon they’re led to a centuries-old mystery that haunts Hayden’s sleep, and his only safe haven is Carrie. As the secrets of the past and present cause their lives to become entwined, all that’s left to come to light is love—if the grim truth doesn’t tear them apart first.
In The Rain Sparrow, Linda Goodnight once again weaves past and present into a compelling novel that is quite captivating. This second installment in the fabulous Honey Ridge series pairs up troubled novelist Hayden Winters with meek librarian Carrie Riley and their resulting romance is sweet and delightfully free from angst.
Hayden Winters is staying at the Peach Orchard Inn while researching his latest writing project when his path unexpectedly crosses with Carrie’s during a thunderstorm. Immediately following their meeting, Hayden begins experiencing incredibly realistic dreams about Thad Erikkson and Josie Portland. Josie and Thad’s struggles to overcome their political differences in post-Civil War Honey Ridge prove to be quite illuminating as Hayden tries to reconcile his dysfunctional past with an abusive, drug addicted mother. He finds a kindred spirit in eleven year old Brody Thomas, whose home life closely parallels Hayden’s experiences. Both he and Carrie offer Brody a safe haven when things at home become too difficult. Hayden’s feelings for Carrie are quickly deepening into love, but he does not know how a future between them is possible since he has been less than honest about his past.
A very private person who tries to stay as far out of the public eye as possible, Hayden channeled his pain from his childhood into a very lucrative career as a mystery writer. Although now in his late thirties, he has never quite made peace with the traumatic events from his childhood nor has he been able to completely cut his destructive mother out of his life. Hayden has carefully fabricated a fictitious history for himself that is far different than reality but after he meets Carrie, he begins to feel guilty for his dishonesty. He convinces himself someone as squeaky clean as she seems to be will never understand the horror of his past and Hayden continues to go to great lengths to keep his two lives separate.
Following a public humiliation years earlier, Carrie lets her fears rule her life. Unable (and unwilling) to give her heart to another man, she leads a quiet life and never takes risks of any kind. She is kind-hearted, very loyal and caring but she is also very insecure. But as she gets to know Hayden and spends time with Brody, Carrie discovers she is stronger than she gives herself credit for. She finds the courage to stand up for the two people who have begun to capture her heart while at the same time conquering some of the fears that have kept her from enjoying life to the fullest.
Hayden’s dreams about Thad and Josie are interspersed with the present and this part of the storyline offers a heartbreaking peek into the difficulties both Northerners and Southerners endured following the end of the Civil War. Thad served with the Union army during the war and following a tremendous loss he journeys to Tennessee to work in the grist mill that Josie’s family owns. He is immediately taken by the spirited young woman, but Josie has a hard time letting go of the animosity she feels towards northerners. She is also still mourning the loss of her fiancé, a confederate soldier whose fate is unknown following his disappearance during the war. As Josie and Thad’s lives become more deeply entwined, their uneasy truce gives way to a budding romance but will Josie’s loyalties to her friends and the Confederacy ruin their chance at happiness?
Despite some rather series subject matter, The Rain Sparrow is an uplifting novel of healing and love. The storyline is well-written and remarkably free of unnecessary drama or conflict. The characters are three-dimensional and vibrantly developed with true to life characteristics that are easy to relate to. This second installment in Linda Goodnight’s Honey Ridge series is just as engrossing and heartwarming as the first and can easily be read as a standalone (but I highly recommend The Memory House as well).