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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What the Heart Wants by Deborah Grace Staley

What the Heart Wants by Deborah Grace Staley
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Contemporary
Heat Level: Sweet
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Rated: 5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Candi Heart is layers of mystery in a very appealing package.

A lethal combination for Sheriff Grady Wallace.

With a nickname like "Candi Heart" and a plan to open a frilly lingerie and perfume shop called Heart's Desire, Lark Hensley knows she may raise some eyebrows by moving to quiet little Angel Ridge, Tennessee. She hopes no one remembers that the women in her family were once accused of being seductive witches by townsfolk, and that decades ago her moonshiner grandpa committed a deadly crime. Lark has questions she can't answer and secrets she doesn't want to share, especially with Angel Ridge Sheriff Grady Wallace, even if Grady is hard to resist.

Grady falls hard and quick for the new mystery woman in town, though he's determined to find out what she's hiding. Angel Ridge's one-woman Welcome Committee, Dixie Ferguson, has taken a liking to Candi Heart, and Dixie's instincts about newcomers are rarely wrong. But maybe not this time . . .

Grady never intended to follow the Wallace family tradition of lawmen, but when his father died young, rebellious Grady grew quickly into the role of staunch town defender. Candi Heart may not have meant to bring trouble to his town, but she has.

Someone does remember her family. That someone wants her to leave . . . or to die. An unknown driver tries to run her down. Her shop is broken into. Rumors begin to swirl.

Suddenly Grady is caught between his duty and his heart's desire for Candi Heart.

What the Heart Wants is a contemporary romance built nicely around a local mystery. “Variety is the spice of Life,” Dix from the diner tells us – and that is just what Staley supplies in this third of her Angel Ridge series.

The best of this is that Candi – the lead – is so dramatically different from the heroines in the previous Angel Ridge novels. "Candi Heart" plans to open a frilly lingerie shop right in little old Angel Ridge Tennesee, and name it ‘Heart's Desire.’ Candia, aka Lark Hensley, realizes full well this won’t slide unnoticed (or unremarked) by the locals… but she also didn't expect to find the likes of the local Sheriff Grady Wallace.

There’s more of a mystery at the center of this Angel Ridge romance than earlier books of the series. Between the stronger, less predictable plot, the overall zippiness of strong-minded Candi, all combined with the still utterly charming setting; ‘What the Heart Wants’ may be Staley’s best yet.

Spiritual and ‘from the mountains’ Candi leaves the secrets of her past behind. She meets Dix at the diner first thing, checks out her new shop – and runs afoul of the law, straight away. No complaints about the speedy pace of this story!

Tall gun-totin’ and too-observant Sherriff Grady manages to be a teensy bit intimidating, even if he likes his doughnuts. Staley leaves us in some little doubt about the attraction between the two – for sure there is more than a measure of curiosity. Miss Estelee knowing about Aunt Ruby and her ‘gifts,’ tips us off about some of the more unusual details about Candi/Lark. The fast friendship with Dixie, the efforts to make Candi a little less countrified – all are unique and a delight. They slow down the details of the romance though, so I found myself reading with greater speed than usual – and regretting having to set the book aside, even for a moment.

With all the goin’s-on in this one, you might worry our Miss Staley forgot the little touches – but that’s far from the truth. From the gingerbreading on the old Victorian house to how Grady’s mama can’t recall anything so newfangled as a cell-phone number, this one has all the charm one could want.

This is a must-read in my book, and it’s a story I know I will read again.