Title: Willowleaf Lane by Raeanne Thayne
Hope’s Crossing Series Book Five
Imprint: Harlequin HQN
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Sometimes going back is the best way to start over
Candy shop owner Charlotte Caine knows temptation. To reboot her life, shed weight and gain perspective, she’s passing up sweet enticements left and right. But willpower doesn’t come so easily when hell-raiser Spencer Gregory comes back to Hope’s Crossing, bringing with him memories of broken promises and teen angst. A retired pro baseball player on the mend from injury—and a damaging scandal—he’s interested in his own brand of reinvention.
Now everything about Spencer’s new-and-improved lifestyle, from his mission to build a rehab facility for injured veterans to his clear devotion to his preteen daughter, Peyton, touches Charlotte’s heart. Holding on to past hurt is her only protection against falling for him—again. But if she takes the risk, will she find in Spencer a hometown heartbreaker, or the hero she’s always wanted?
Willowleaf Lane by Raeanne Thayne is a wonderfully heartwarming and engaging romance with delightfully charming characters and a lovely small town setting. This fifth installment in the Hope’s Crossing series can easily be read as a standalone story.
Charlotte Caine is the type of heroine that it is easy to like. She is kind, generous and an all around nice person. Charlotte’s weight loss and dedication to exercise are inspiring and realistic. She is still trying to overcome her insecurities and she is actively working to change how she views not only herself but her perceptions of how others see her. Even though she is reluctant to get involved with Spencer because of events in the past, Charlotte is eventually able to let go of her preconceptions of him and see the person he has become.
Spencer Gregory is a work in progress and I loved watching his character evolve throughout the story. He is very protective of his daughter, Peyton, and although frustrated by her attitude, he is extremely patient with her. As he soon discovers, Spencer’s good memories of growing up in Hope’s Crossing have been overshadowed by his dysfunctional childhood and watching him rediscover his friendships is quite satisfying. What I admired the most about Spencer is his willingness to own up to past mistakes and make amends for his wrongdoings.
The relationship between Charlotte and Spencer is slow growing and a true delight to watch unfold. Charlotte has good reason to distrust Spencer and although it takes some prodding, she does finally reveal what went wrong between them years ago. Their romance is sweet and unhurried with a simmering undercurrent of desire.
In addition to Charlotte and Spencer’s romance, there are a couple of compelling storylines involving secondary characters. The first subplot revolves around troubled pre-teen Peyton and her issues are handled with a great deal of sensitivity. The other story arc involves Charlotte’s brother Dylan and his recovery from a devastating war injury. Since this storyline is still unresolved, I am hoping Dylan’s book will be next in the Hope’s Crossing series.
Willowleaf Lane is a fast paced and engrossing novel. There is a great deal of substance to this fabulous story and Raeanne Thayne deftly tackles some serious issues with compassion and very little angst. It is a thought-provoking addition to the Hope’s Crossing series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.