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Blackberry Summer (Hope's Crossing Series #1)

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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 ...

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Blackberry Summer (Hope's Crossing Series #1)

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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….

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  • Hope's Crossing
    Hope's Crossing  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thayne's series starter introduces the Colorado town of Hope's Crossing in what can best be described as a cozy romance. Hope's Crossing's new police chief, Riley McKnight, sees earnest single mom Claire Bradford as a nosy do-gooder, though Claire secretly wishes she could be as willing to take risks on her own behalf—such as approaching Riley, who sets her body sizzling—as she is to help others. Back in town after 15 years away, Riley has a very respectable law enforcement résumé, but some residents can't let go of bitter memories of his adolescent bad boy antics. He's also Claire's best friend's baby brother, and thinks of Claire as family rather than as someone to romance. Miscues aplenty ultimately resolve themselves in this gentle, easy read. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373775934
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Series: Hope's Crossing Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.04 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including four RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews magazine. RaeAnne loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at

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Read an Excerpt

"We are each of us angels with one wing. And we can only fly embracing each other."

—Luciano de Crescenzo

Lousy, stupid horoscope.

Claire Bradford stood with one hand on the doorway and the other clutching her coffee go-cup as she stared at the chaotic mess inside her store.

According to the stars—at least according to the horoscope in the Hope Gazette she'd scanned while standing in line at her friend Maura's coffee shop for her morning buzz after dropping the kids off at school—she was supposed to prepare herself for something fun and exciting headed her way today. She had been thinking more along the lines of a few dozen new customers at her bead store or maybe a big commission on one of her more intricate custom pieces.

Discovering that String Fever had been burglarized during the night didn't exactly fit her personal definition of either fun or exciting.

Beads covered the beige berber in a glittery, jumbled disaster as apparently someone had yanked out an entire vast display of tiny clear drawers and dumped their contents all over the floor. Her cash register drawer was open and the small amount of cash she kept on hand to make change was missing. Her office door had been left ajar, too, something she never did, and even from here, she could see a big, dusty, empty spot on her desk where her computer should be.

She could handle the material loss and her computer was automatically backed up off-site several times a day. The mess, on the other hand, would be a nightmare to clean up. Claire gave a tiny whimper and closed her eyes, dreading the hours and days of work ahead of her, re-sorting all those scattered beads into their hundreds of proper compartments. String Fever was hanging by a thread anyway in the uncertain economy. How could she afford the time and energy involved in setting things to rights again?

Chester whined beside her, his basset hound features even more morose than usual. He was uncanny at picking up her emotions. She scratched behind his acres-long ears. "I know, buddy. Sucks, doesn't it?"

She dug in her coat pockets to find where she'd stowed her cell phone so that she could dial 9-1-1. She had only punched in one number before the phone vibrated in her hand and suddenly the nuclear meltdown alert ringtone she had programmed for her mother sounded its death knell through the empty store.

Yeah, not much fun or excitement there, either. Rotten horoscope.

Chester whined again. He hated that ringtone as much as she did. Claire swallowed her groan and despite thirty-six years of better instincts, she hit the talk button to accept the call. Ruth Tatum had trained her daughter well. "Mom, I can't talk right now. Sorry. The store has been robbed. I'll call you back as soon as I can, okay?"

"Robbed? You've got to be kidding!"

"Really, Mom? You think I'd joke about something like this?"

"How would I know?" Ruth went on the defensive, as she did so well. "You've always had a weird sense of humor."

Yeah. That was her. Making up stories about her store being robbed just to go for the cheap laugh. "I'm not joking. The store really has been robbed."

"That's terrible! What did they take?"

"I don't know yet. I just walked in the door and barely had a chance to even react before you called. I need to go so I can call the police, Mom."

"Well, call me as soon as you can and tell me what's going on. Do you need me to come down there?"

Sure, like she needed to stick a couple dozen earring hooks in her eyeballs. "Not right now. Thanks for the offer, though. I'll call you later."

She hung up and quickly dialed the police.

"Hope's Crossing Emergency Dispatch. What is the nature of your emergency?"

She recognized the dispatcher as a neighbor and one of her frequent customers, Donna Mazell, though her voice seemed pitched a little higher than normal.

"Hey, Donna. This is Claire at String Fever. I need to report a crime. I just came in to open my store and discovered an apparent burglary."

"Oh, lordy be. Not another one!"

"Another one?"

"You're the fourth store in town to report a break-in today. We've got ourselves a genuine crime spree! The guys are going crazy trying to stay on top of everything."

Hope's Crossing, Colorado, had a population of only five thousand year-round residents, although those numbers swelled in the wintertime to ten times that with skiers and those who owned vacation homes or condos in the canyon near the vast Silver Strike Ski Resort. Still, Claire knew the town's police force consisted of only eight officers, supplemented by deputies from the county sheriff's department when the need arose.

"Can you spare somebody to send here?"

"Oh, sure. No problem. The new chief is just down the street at Pinecone Property Management, but I think he's wrapping things up there. I'll give him a holler and tell him to head over to the store first chance he has."

"Thanks, Donna."

"Tell me they didn't take those gorgeous Czech crystals you bought for Genevieve Beaumont's wedding gown."

Her stomach took another dive. "Oh, I hope not. It took me two months to import those through Customs. I don't know if I'll have time to get more and finish the design before the wedding."

"Keeping my fingers crossed here. I'll call Riley right now and tell him to head over there when he's done over at the real estate office."

"Thanks, Donna."

"You bet. Give me another call if somebody doesn't show up in the next ten, fifteen minutes or so. And don't touch anything."

"Yeah, I watch television. I know that much. I'll wait outside with Chester until Riley can get here."

"It's freezing, darlin'. You can't wait outside in this weather and neither can that dog. He's not as young as he used to be. The chief won't care if you grab a chair inside and sit down until he can make it, just as long as you keep Chester close so he doesn't go mucking around the crime scene."

Too much restless energy zinged through her for her to sit calmly and wait for the police, so she remained standing in the doorway, horrified all over again that someone would be so malicious. Stealing from her was one thing. They could have the money and her computer, she didn't care about that. But why make such a mess? This blatant vandalism was intended to gouge and wound—causing trouble for trouble's sake, something she had never understood.

Why would someone want to be so hurtful? And why her? She tried hard to be kind to most people she came in contact with. Sure, she had a few disgruntled customers at the store who seemed to think it a crime that she expected to make at least some profit for all the resources of time and energy she poured into String Fever. But she couldn't imagine any of them being so vindictive as to trash her store just for the fun of it.

She forced herself to do a little of the circle breathing her best friend, Alex, was always trying to convince her to practice and shifted her gaze out the wide store windows at Hope's Crossing's Main Street. The morning seemed gray and cheerless, a dreary sort of day.

Even though it was mid-April, spring took its dear sweet time arriving in the Colorado high country.

The weather forecasters were predicting a late snowstorm would be moving in later that evening. The ski resort would appreciate a few more inches for the diehard skiers who opted to spend their spring break hanging on to the last struggling days of winter instead of heading to the beach. By this time of year, she was heartily sick of more snow, but at least a little fresh powder would cover the tired, gray piles out there.

Despite the cold and the promise of a storm, she could see a pretty good Monday morning crowd at the Center of Hope Café across the way. She'd noticed the same story at Dog-Eared Books & Brew.

Of course, none of those shoppers would be heading her direction anytime soon, not with the Closed sign still firmly turned in the doorway.

The thought had barely formed in her mind when the door behind her opened with a musical chime. Claire opened her mouth to explain the store was still closed and then shut it again, her spirits sinking even more.

Her fun and exciting morning only needed this, she thought as she watched her ex-husband's new wife burst through, looking pert and cute and glowing with pregnancy hormones.

"Hi, Claire!" Holly Vestry Bradford chirped, beaming the smile her orthodontist father had worked tirelessly to perfect as she unbuttoned her red wool peacoat and stamped snow off her black UGGs.

Chester grunted and plopped onto his belly, never a big fan of Holly's.

"Um, this really isn't a good time," Claire began.

She wasn't at all in the mood to be sociable right now, especially not to Holly, who seemed to bring out the worst in her, despite her best efforts.

"Oh, my word!" Holly exclaimed. "What happened in here?"

Claire had made a firm policy for the last two years—since Jeff moved out and put an official end to their marriage that had been broken for much longer than that—to be as gracious as she could stand to Holly. "I think we were robbed," she said, without a hint of the sarcastic retort she wanted to make.

"Oh, no! Have you called the police?"

"I just did. They're on the way."

"Oh, Claire. I'm so sorry."

She didn't know which she disliked more: the sense of invasion from the robbery, contemplating the endless work putting the store back in order, or being on the receiving end of Holly Bradford's pity.

"I'm sure everything will be okay. My insurance should cover any losses. But I have to ask you not to touch anything, okay? We can't mess up the crime scene."

"Crime scene. That sounds so scary! Right out of CSI: Miami! Where's Horatio?"

Was she ever this young when she was twenty-five? Claire wondered, then answered her own rhetorical question. No. By then, she'd already been married for over a year, had given birth to Macy and had been working two jobs to put Jeff through medical school.

"I'm sorry things are in such disarray." She tried on a smile and found she still had one or two in reserve.

"Maybe you can come back later today after I've had a chance to start cleaning things up."

"Don't you worry about that. I didn't need anything urgent. I guess Macy probably told you about our crazy shopping trip to Vail, didn't she?"

"She might have mentioned it." Twenty or thirty times. Her twelve-year-old daughter adored her stepmother. Why wouldn't she? Holly was the big sister Macy had always wanted. She was fun and young and hip. Holly had read all the Twilight books and had MySpace, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Claire tried hard not to resent their bond. Macy loved her mother, too, although sometimes she didn't act very much like she did as she tested her wings on her way to adolescence.

"That girl is a shopping maniac!" Holly gushed. "Jeff just cut us loose with his credit cards while he and Owen went snowboarding and Macy helped me buy a whole new maternity wardrobe. When we got back home and I started opening all those bags, I realized what I really need now are some killer accessories to distract people from my big fat belly."

Right. Although she was five months along in her pregnancy, Holly could still probably fit into a size 4 pair of jeans, at least if they were low cut.

"You know you look beautiful, no matter what you're wearing. But new jewelry is always nice." Particularly when it was handcrafted out of the pricey Venetian glass beads Holly liked, the ones that netted String Fever a healthy profit. "I'll be glad to help you with some ideas after the store opens later today, if you don't mind coming back."

"No problem. I've got nothing else on my schedule today."

Oh, that she could say the same. Claire summoned another smile. "I'll try to call you after the police clear the store for me to reopen."

"You're so sweet to me. Thank you so much, Claire."

Before she quite knew what she intended, Holly grabbed her in a hug and Claire had no real choice but to endure it and even hug her back a little before she quickly eased out of the embrace.

She didn't really dislike Holly. The situation was just so awkward, living in the same town with her and Jeff, bumping into each other all the time, sharing concentric circles of friends.

No matter how much Jeff claimed Holly had nothing to do with his unilateral decision to leave the marriage and no matter how much Claire knew she bore equal responsibility for the problems and the distance that had grown between them those last few years, Jeff had started living his little cliche—dating the young, beautiful receptionist in his orthopedic surgery practice— just a few weeks after their divorce was final. He'd married her six months after that and now they were starting their own family.

Whether Claire liked the situation or not, they were all three coparenting the children. When Owen and Macy were with their father, Holly was a major influence in their lives and for the sake of her children, Claire couldn't afford to be bitter or spiteful. Nor could she move away from Hope's Crossing, not when she had a business here and not when Macy and Owen needed their father in their lives more than just on weekends.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Holly asked. "Maybe I should stay with you while the police come. You know, for moral support."

"That's really not necessary," she started to say, but the last word was barely out when the bells on the door chimed out again. She and Holly both turned at the sound and despite everything—especially whatever shred of good sense she had left—the day suddenly seemed far less bleak.

The town's brand-new chief of police stood in the doorway, dark-haired and gorgeous and almost ridiculously male looming over the glittery beads strewn across the floor. He wore jeans and a light blue dress shirt and tie and beneath his unzipped official Hope's Crossing Police Department parka, she saw a badge flash on one hip and a handgun at the other.

The chief took a long look around at the carnage and shook his head slowly. "What am I going to do with you, Claire? I turn my back for fifteen years or so and just look at the trouble you get yourself into."

In spite of everything, she had to laugh. Apparently Riley hadn't lost his uncanny ability to tweak that weird sense of humor her mother had been talking about. He stepped toward her, his arms wide, and without even thinking, she walked into them.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Great detective romance

    It kept me reading. I wanted to find out what would happen in the end and how it would end. I found the struggles each individual character was dealing with thought provoking. The romance took a little long to get going but I did like the way it ended. I would not recommend it for teens because of a steamy scene that goes a bit too far. Most of it however is about surviving under difficult circumstances and learning to gain confidence in who you are. I really like the idea that through service, you are able to heal and come together as a community. It is so true.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2011

    Loved it!

    I couldnt put it good!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2013

    A new series by RaeAnne Thayne about the town of Hope's Crossing, Colorado and the people who are the "heart" of the town...

    I have always enjoyed reading books written by RaeAnne Thayne. I feel as if I know the characters and what they are experiencing by her descriptive passages and I am feeling their joys and sorrows along with them. So far, I have read 5 books in this series, no idea if it is only five books or more to follow. The first book, Blackberry Summer is about Claire Bradford, the mother of two, divorced (her ex-husband remarried, expecting another child with his new wife who was his young receptionist in his orthopedic practice still living in town?, her friendships with the women at String Fever (her bead store) and the McKnight family. Growing up, Claire's best friend was Alex McKnight, and through her life Riley McKnight, the little brother tortured and tormented them. Both families had similar childhood issues due to their fathers. Now Riley is back in town as the new sheriff (leaving behind his job as an undercover detective in Oakland. A tragic set of circumstances begin on a snowy night, touching everyone's lives. Claire, her children, and another young friend barely survive a car crash into the reservoir and only due to Riley following the suspects from a burglary, is he in the right place at the right time to save them but what happened to the truck that he was following and who was in the truck? As the questions are answered, Riley's feelings for Claire have grown since his youth and Claire begins to see Riley through "new eyes" but Riley was always a "love 'em and leave 'em" guy. He knows Claire deserves better and tries to reconcile his feelings with his past. As we turn the pages, other members of the McKnight family and the women of "String Fever" take more of a role which leads us to the following books. I wish I had read the books in sequence. The character development and the storyline would have flowed better for me. Unfortunately, I read the fifth book first and read the others as I was able to buy them. I loved the fifth book which fed my desire to find the earlier books. A thoroughly enjoyable read...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2014

    "We needed this. A reminder that no matter how difficult ou

    "We needed this. A reminder that no matter how difficult our own journey, sometimes the only thing that can ease our path is to stop for a while and gather strength by lifting someone else's burden" (page 342)  

    BLACKBERRY SUMMER is the first book in the Hope's Crossing series by RaeAnne Thayne.  This light romance fosters a sense of community, friendships, and helping others that raises it above the average romance novel.  This town has a curiously secretive "Angle of Hope" who steps up to meet people's needs just when they feel down.  Anything from paying heating bills, providing a good second hand car, to a get well gift basket appear to show people that someone else does care about them. 

    Claire is a divorced single mom who runs a beading shop in town.  When she and her kids are injured in a car accident because the police chief is chasing a ring of thieves, she finds that her fierce independence is threatened because she needs help after her injuries.  Riley is the new police chief who has just returned to his hometown.  Riley and Claire grew up together as friends  but now that friendship is growing into something else, but each of their pasts seem to be hindering their new found feelings.  How will the accident and the town's gossip mill affect their blooming romance?

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The characters evoked many emotions and drew me immediately into this story of romance and community. I enjoyed the bead crafting and the atmosphere of small town relationships.  Looking forward to continuing this series to find out about more people's lives in Hope's Crossing, Colorado. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2014

    What a great book

    What a great book. I loved the small town, the homey feel and the great story. This was my
    first by RaeAnne Thayne, but it won't be my last.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014


    " Alright " pads there

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2014


    It is at 'rye' result one. I found it a couple days ago.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2013

    Sent review on paperback version earlier...

    You sent a hardback and paperback request for the same book. I have already reviewed the book in paperback.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013

    Great summer read!

    My sister and I have both read this series this summer and we love it! It's well written, interesting and the characters really get to you - you care what happens to them and can't wait to start the next book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013


    A good mystery. Enjoyed.


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  • Posted July 5, 2012

    Good story.

    Good story.

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  • Posted May 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Set in Hope's Crossing, Colorado. Claire Bradford is the owner

    Set in Hope's Crossing, Colorado. Claire Bradford is the owner of a successful bead shop. She is a single mom with two kids living a predictable life. She has no time for romance. At least that is what she keeps telling herself. So why does her best friend's younger brother Riley seem so darn sexy and hot? He has returned to be the the new chief of police of this boring little town when he was some big shot on the police force in California. It just doesn't make sense.

    A string of robberies leads to a tragic accident that forces Claire to accept help from her friends, even from Riley McKnight. The accident ends up affecting the whole town. Things get ugly when it is found teenagers are involved in the robberies and it starts to rip the town apart.

    A mysterious "Angel of Hope" inspires a small group and then the whole town to plan an event to help bring everyone back together. A bit of romance also starts to blossom making for a very interesting summer.

    Dollycas's Thoughts
    I was swept away by many things in this book. The friendships of the people who visit Claire's shop, the long term relationships of the people of Hope's Crossing, seeing someone you have known all your life differently after time has passed, and the effect the "Angel of Hope" has on this town.

    If I was ever lucky enough to win the lottery or come into a great deal of money I would want to be just like the "Angel of Hope", helping people anonymously with things they need. The way the angel inspired the people of Hope's Crossing was really uplifting.

    The characters in this story are so engaging and well developed. You want to be part of everything they are doing.

    I haven't read Harlequin in quite awhile because they were started to feel the same story just with different names but that is definitely not the case with this story. This book is about so much more than the romance. Claire needs to break out of a life she has trapped herself in. Riley has so many reasons for coming home and for staying away as long as he did. Claire's mother has issues that need to be dealt with. Claire's ex-husband and his new younger, pregnant wife live right in town. Thayne interweaves and blends all their lives together wonderfully along with many other residents of the town of Hope's Crossing. I love the way she writes and her descriptions of people and places were a delight.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2012

    if you like romance, this is it!

    this first story in the hope's crossing series is a romance between claire and riley. claire is a divorced woman with a daughter. her ex's new wife wants to be friends with her. she finds that weird and uncomfortable. riley is the new chief of police. they have a history. as the story unfolds, you realize that history is repeating itself to a certain degree. as riley and clair work their way to believing in their love for each other, there are many twists and turns, including a serious car accident that involves claire and a few teenagers in hope's crossing. this affects everyone in this little town. a most wonderful romance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012

    Highly recommend It

    This book was so good I couldn't put it down until I finished it. I would recommend it to anyone.

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  • Posted November 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    When you're putting your faith in a fortune cookie, assume your life has hit a new low.

    That's exactly where Claire Bradford's faith is placed when she's walking into her bead shop one morning and can think of nothing except how she's going to finally make her business go. Then she realizes that she's been robbed. She doesnt even hesitate to call in her best friend's little brother - town troublemaker turned chief of police - Riley McKnight.

    This can't be right. The fortune cookie said 'fun and exciting'. There is just no way.

    Then things get worse.

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  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    great read

    small community of caring people. 4 breakin's in town and on a snowy icy night the
    local cop is in a chase to catch who he thinks is the burglar. many car accidents happen
    and afterwards the town helps one another heal. some have died, some have broken bones, etc
    and the angel of hope pays a visit. they do not know who it is but they leave things for the
    ones hurt to help them over the crisis. good heartwarming story of not only friendship but
    caring loving people helping one another. hope there are more in this series.

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  • Posted August 10, 2011

    Enjoyable Romance

    I'm sort of torn over this book. There were parts I loved, and parts I didn't really like much. In fairness, I'm not really a romance fan. I guess I should say I'm not an UST/angst fan. There seemed to be a lot of that in this book. The constant pining made me want to tear my hair out. I just want them to make up their minds and get on with it.

    That being said, there were some really fantastic parts of this book. I loved the sense of community in this small town. The author did a really great job of making me feel like I was a part of a small-knit group. The women had really great interactions with each other. I also loved the concept of the benefit at the end of the book. It was truly uplifting. The ending seemed a bit abrupt, but I didn't feel that took away from the book overall.

    If you are looking for angsty romance, you will probably love this book. I could have done without that, but I did enjoy the rest of the book. It will be a great beach read I think. It's pretty light and predictable, but it is still a fun read.

    Galley provided by publisher for review.

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  • Posted May 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is an engaging police procedural romance

    In Hope's Crossing, Colorado, single mom of two kids (Macy and Owen), a dog (Chester) and a pain in the butt mom (Ruth), Claire Bradford owns struggling String Fever beads shop. She loves her town with the only blight being her ex Jeff with his new wife Holly. Someone broke in to her shop in a robbery and also vandalized it by knocking the beads all over the floor and destroying the daughter of the mayor's customized wedding dress. The police dispatcher Donna tells her she is the fourth victim.

    New Police Chief Riley McKnight arrives at Claire's shop. When he was in high school he had a crush on her that has continued with years of Claire fantasies, but she was and still is BFF to one of his older sisters; besides which back then he was a troubled teen after his dad walked out. He still wants her, but knows he better ignore his desire. All the robberies were shops protected by TopFlight Security, but the system failed. Claire is hurt in an accident while the anonymous enigmatic "Angel of Hope" inspires people to be all they can be. Still this benefactor and love may not be enough for Riley and Claire.

    This is an engaging police procedural romance due to the super strong townsfolk; as the key support cast contains diverse personalities, but behave like a town in financial difficulty. The whodunit takes a backseat to the romance with Riley and Claire knowing the zillions con reasons to not become involved and the one pro reason arguing for involvement.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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