5 Stars Out Of 5
A beautifully written character-based book, part of a series, but still indepenfent
October 3, 2015
"In Firefly Valley" is the second book of the Texas Crossroads series by Amanda Cabot. Between the first two books we get acquainted with a trio of men and two close friends. The men were college buddies who kept in touch with each other for years after their graduation. In book one we met Greg Vange and Kate. In this second book, we meet Drew Carroll and Blake Kendall, Greg's friends who came to Texas from California to attend Greg and Kate's wedding. Lauren and Marisa were childhood friends who had grown up in Dupree, Texas. Marisa moved to Atlanta and became an accountant at a large city firm. She has returned now after being scammed by a man posing as a private detective, who had been her boyfriend until he disappeared with her money. Her mother, Carmen St. George, got her a job working as an office manager at Rainbow's End in Dupree. Drew met Lauren at the wedding. Blake met Marisa at the resort where he was staying. Dupree would be forever changed by these seemingly casual encounters.
The main plot involves Blake and Marisa. The moment they met, they felt an attraction. But Blake had a secret that eventually strained their budding relationship, while Marisa was dealing with past issues of trust and anger. Reacting to each other's past nearly destroyed their relationship before it had a chance to get off the ground. Intersected with this storyline are two subplots: Lauren was being courted by Drew whom Marisa believed to be all wrong for her best friend and 7-year-old daughter; and Marisa's father has suddenly returned to his family after he had deserted them eight years ago. While Eric began the process of proving his recovery from alcoholism to his wife and daughter, Marisa is resistant to reconciling with him. She doesn't believe he has changed. This becomes a stumbling block in her relationship with Blake as well as her family. There are also several threads running throughout the book which makes the reader wonder if a satisfactory resolution is possible. It all works together to keep the reader's interest until the conclusion of the story.
After reading both the first and second books of this series, I realized this author has a talent for creating living, breathing, well-rounded, easily relate-able characters. It didn't take long before I felt connected to the main players. Lauren is a widow whose young husband died of leukemia a year before. Fiona, Lauren's daughter, wants a new daddy. Drew, who'd made it big as Greg Vange's business partner, suddenly finds himself at loose ends. Greg sold his business and Drew is without work. He takes a good look at himself and doesn't like what he sees. When he seeks out God, together they get his life turned around. Then he meets Lauren, falls in love and realizes he has a way to put his new resolves into action. Blake is an author. His books have hit the best seller list repeatedly. At the opening of the book, he has a contract for another book. But for the first time ever, he has writer's block. Seeking a change of location in an attempt to stimulate his creative juices brings him to Rainbow's End. But meeting Marisa, becoming aware of her "daddy" issues, creates a crisis for him in more ways than one.
I could go on, but I hope you see my point. Amanda Cabot's characters make mistakes, refuse to admit when they are wrong, need help from their friends, realize flaws in their beliefs and thinking, seek out God's aid, make attempts at changes, are not perfect, and so on. These are all some of the dynamics that good character-based books use to draw us back to read the story a number of times. This author is a master at writing characters with flaws and heart. This particular "flavor" of weaknesses and strengths, conflict and resolution, is what I like to read. I believe many other readers enjoy this combination of traits too.
Second, besides great characterization, the author introduces a subtle underlying theme that may make the readers pause and ponder. Can people change who they are, fundamentally? The answer is complex--not an easy yes or no. How a person believes about that question depends on their worldview of humanity. Some use the old idiom that "leopards do not change their spots." Others believe change and even transformation is possible. This demonstrates an excellent use of a theme that drives a storyline forward toward some type of conclusion. In this case, it helps bring about a satisfactory ending. It worked so well I read the book twice before writing this review.
Finally, this is a faith filled story, something I thoroughly enjoy reading. There is no preaching here, just people who naturally include God in their daily lives. They pray and talk about Him as if He is a friend that walks with them daily. None of it is hard hitting or forced. God is just there. When people want to include Him, they do. When they don't want to include Him, they don't. The author demonstrates faith that's as natural as breathing. This is a factor that's important to me, so that's what I read. For all these reasons above, I highly recommend this book and the series. A third book is to be released soon. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing it as much as I plan to enjoy other books from this author.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Revell Reads (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.