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Monday, May 30, 2011

Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne

Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (376 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Poppy

Claire Bradford needed a wake-up call.

What she didn’t need was a tragic car accident. As a single mom and the owner of a successful bead shop, Claire leads a predictable life in Hope’s Crossing, Colorado. So what if she has no time for romance? At least, that’s what she tells herself, especially when her best friend’s sexy younger brother comes back to town as the new chief of police.

But when the accident forces Claire to slow down and lean on others—especially Riley McKnight—she realizes, for the first time, that things need to change. And not just in her own life. The accident—and the string of robberies committed by teenagers that led up to it—is a wake-up call to the people of Hope’s Crossing. The sense of community and togetherness had been lost during those tough years. But with a mysterious “Angel of Hope” working to inspire the town, Riley and Claire will find themselves opening up to love and other possibilities by the end of an extraordinary summer…

RaeAnne Thayne is one of my favorite Harlequin authors, so I snapped up this book the moment it was offered. With her usual evocative, descriptive writing she’s created a community of people who are real and endearing.

Claire is learning a new way of life since her husband (and high school sweetheart), Jeff left her for his younger secretary, Holly. They’re starting a new life (she’s pregnant), and he and Claire have two children from their marriage, so Claire is staying in town for their benefit and has learned to be civil. Truthfully, the new wife is a wonderful change from the nasty ones we typically see. She’s sweet, if a bit dingy, and seems to be genuinely nice (husband stealing aside).

The story revolves around a tragic accident, during which Claire is badly injured. Her best friend’s baby (“I prefer younger”) brother, Riley feels responsible. Riley’s also had a long-time crush on Claire, and now that she’s not married, it’s trying to rear its head. Riley isn’t one for commitment, though, and doesn’t want to ruin his friendship with Claire, no matter how much his body heats up when she’s near.

Claire is clueless about Riley at first, but starts feeling a little warm herself. Once she gets over being a little weirded out by lusting after a younger man that she’s know since he was practically in diapers, she’s all for trying out a relationship.

The strength in this story is its characters. Ms. Thayne has truly outdone herself with the group of people she created. They’re all unique and real and they’re what kept me reading when the plot hit some bumps. When I got frustrated at the back-and-forth between Riley and Claire (boy oh boy, did I want to smack Riley upside the head), I’d remember how much I enjoyed the community and kept on turning pages. When the story dragged a bit, I’d think about Claire’s customers or her dog, Chester or even her annoying mother and keep on reading.

If you enjoy a character-drive story with a warmth that’s not just romantic, then I recommend Blackberry Summer. It’s romantic, to be sure, and has plenty of heat ... but it’s far, far more than that. I suspect there will be more books set in this town with these people. I hope so. They’re a bit like family to me now.