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Much more than she bargained for
All Abby Cahill wanted was a quiet summer job in the beautiful Wisconsin woods. But the hospital where she's filling in turns out to be overcrowded, understaffed and decidedly stretched for cash. And as if she didn't have enough on her hands, the only vacancy in town for a "single woman with mutt" is at the farmhouse of wildlife biologist ...
Much more than she bargained for
All Abby Cahill wanted was a quiet summer job in the beautiful Wisconsin woods. But the hospital where she's filling in turns out to be overcrowded, understaffed and decidedly stretched for cash. And as if she didn't have enough on her hands, the only vacancy in town for a "single woman with mutt" is at the farmhouse of wildlife biologist Ethan Matthews, whose son is with him for the season, along with several newborn puppies.
Ethan is a handsome, solitary man who seems to need Abby as much as she needs him. But she shouldn't be needing him or anyone else—at the end of August she's got to go back to her job in the city teaching nursing. This is just a temporary arrangement, which is starting to feel too comfortable, too much like home.
Abby Cahill breathed in the crisp, pine–scented air, then stepped inside Blackberry Hill Memorial Hospital to start a new chapter in her life.
The retiring director of nursing, Grace Fisher–Edwards, met her inside the door with a broad smile. "I was afraid the tourist traffic would slow you down, but you're right on time." She ushered Abby down the hall to her office. "June can be a real bear around here."
Abby laughed. "On par with five o'clock rush hour in Detroit, except the scenery is much, much prettier."
"If you can see past the vehicles, that is." Grace snorted as she settled behind her cluttered desk and shifted a stack of files to one side. "During the summer, our population triples."
"And I think every last one of those tourists is on Main right now." Grinning, Abby searched through her shoulder bag for her notebook and a pen. "I sure wish I could've come a few days earlier, but our nursing students' graduation was on Saturday and then I still had to pack."
"You must be exhausted."
"No though I do look forward to settling into my new place." Abby sat back in her chair and uncapped her pen.
Grace's eyes filled with concern. "I gather you haven't stopped by the Hawthorne Apartments."
"Not yet." Abby flipped open the notebook, her pen poised over its pristine surface. "Meeting with you was my biggest priority, believe me."
"The manager tried to call you yesterday. He even called the hospital, hoping Erin or I would know how to reach you."
Abby stilled. "My home phone was disconnected yesterday morning, and I have a new cell. But there shouldn't be a problem—I've signed a lease."
"There was a fire over the weekend."
"Oh, my," Abby said faintly. "Was anyone hurt?"
"No, but half your building was gutted, leaving seven families homeless and now you, I guess." Grace pushed a piece of paper across the desk. "I've done some checking, but there aren't many apartments in this area. I'm afraid those displaced renters have already taken what little there was."
"I'm glad I left most of my things in storage for the summer." Abby considered the situation for a moment. "Maybe I can find a cabin to rent. Or even a motel, until the apartment building's livable."
"I'm not sure it ever will be." Grace worried her lower lip. "We've heard rumors for years about the owner wanting to raze the entire complex so he can put up fancy condos."
Dread settled in the pit of Abby's stomach. "What are my options?"
"Even vacation lodging is hard to come by during the tourist season. Most places are reserved months ahead. But I did find a few possibilities." Grace's dubious expression didn't bode well. "And you're sure welcome to stay with Warren and me. We leave on our wedding trip in the morning, but you could stay on through tomorrow night."
"You two just got married—what?—this past weekend. I'd hate to move in on you, especially with you getting ready to leave."
"I wish I could offer you more, but my house has been sold and the contractors start on Warren's place Thursday morning. Once they tear up the plumbing and old wiring, I'm afraid it won't be habitable until they finish in July."
"Please, don't even give it a thought. I'm only here for a few months, so I can make do with just about anything."
She scanned Grace's list. A motel along the lake with weekly rates. Several small resorts with cabins. A furnished house for rent.
But the bigger issue was her new job and the fact that Grace—the person best suited to groom her temporary successor—was leaving town tomorrow.
"I'd rather spend as much time as I can with you. I can figure out my housing problems later."
"Are you sure?" Grace sounded doubtful. "With your background, you should have no difficulty taking over. Erin tells me you were a top student when you two were in training together. And your article in the Journal of Hospital Nursing last year was amazing."
"Psychology of Patient Care in the Low Income Setting" represented three years of research and had taken her at least sixteen drafts. Reprints were now required reading in several nursing programs across the United States and would be included in a college textbook released next spring.
But that article—and the others she'd written—provided no more practical knowledge on running a nursing department than Wuthering Heights.
"As you know, it's been a while since I worked in a hospital." Abby managed a light laugh. "I may have been teaching nursing for years, but I'm going to need every bit of advice you can offer."
"And I'll be glad to give it. But first, I really think you'd better take a few hours to look for a place to stay." Grace glanced at her watch. "Come back at, say, four o'clock?"
"But my orientation—"
"Don't worry. I'll still be here when you get back and we can stay as late as we need to." Tapping the files on her desk, Grace gave her a grandmotherly smile. "Last month, we revised the facility–wide policy and procedure manuals, and they'll explain every last detail of running this place. Coupled with the files I've pulled together for you, you'll have everything you need to know."
Updated policy and procedure manuals. Complete files. The words were a balm to Abby's left–brained soul. She felt the tension in her shoulders ease. "Sounds like this should be a smooth transition, then. Thanks."
"Everyone is looking forward to having you here." The hint of admiration in Grace's voice was unmistakable. "And though you'll only be here for a short while, I know you'll be a great asset."
Three months, to be precise, until the new permanent director of nursing arrived. Surely she could handle a small, quiet hospital like this one for three months, and the experience would be perfect research for her next article.
Abby smiled. "I can't tell you how much I've looked forward to enjoying the slower pace up here."
"Slower pace?" Grace repeated, a faint, enigmatic smile on her lips. "I think we'll have a lot to discuss before this day is over."
After two hours of fruitless searching, Abby realized just how right Grace had been about this busy resort town.
It had all seemed so simple while she was packing. After the graduation ceremony, a formal tea at her mother's Rosewood Lakes estate and a quiet farewell gathering at her father's country club, she'd savored every moment of the beautiful drive north to the quaint Wisconsin town of Blackberry Hill.
She hadn't been prepared for the bumper–to–propeller traffic during the final two hours of the trip or the crowds attending the Blackberry Hill Arts Festival. Not to mention there wasn't a single place to stay within fifty miles.
Every possibility on Grace's list was filled, along with three others she'd found in the local newspaper.
Scooping her hair away from her damp forehead, she tugged at the collar of her limp cotton blouse and knocked on the door of her last resort: an old house with a sagging front porch at the end of Bailey Street.
A minute later the door swung open to reveal a bony and bent eighty–something man with a scowl on his face.
"I'm not buying anything," he snapped.
"I'm here about the room," she said as he started to close the door. "Please—is it still available?"
The man in front of her was as charming as his advertisement.
She'd seen the scrawled note tacked to the bulletin board of the grocery store downtown, hidden beneath a flyer advertising Lawn Care—Good Rates.
"Efficiency available by the month. Private entrance. No smoking. No drinking. No guests of the opposite sex. No pets. No noise. One month rent deposit. Hubert L. Bickham, 234 Bailey Street."
Hubert L. Bickham's scowl deepened as he studied her from head to foot with narrowed eyes. "I don't allow any hanky–panky. No trouble." He jerked a thumb toward the side of the house, where she'd seen exterior stairs leading to the second floor of the small one–and–a–half–story house. "Those stairs go right past my bedroom, and any noise wakes me up. So no tromping up them stairs at all hours, missy."
Despite the heat, the frustration and her need to get back to the hospital, Abby had to struggle to keep a straight face.
No one had ever accused her of leading a wild life.
She held up her hand in a Scout salute. "I swear."
He chewed at his lower lip. "You got the deposit?"
"Ain't a big town, if you're lookin' for work. You got a job?"
"Blackberry Hill Memorial Hospital. I'm the new director of nursing. The interim director, I should say," Abby added carefully.
He appeared mollified at that. "Grace's job."
"Exactly. Last month I leased one of the Hawthorne Apartments near the hospital but—"
"Fire, first floor." He folded his arms across his thin chest and gave her a long, skeptical look. "They checked you out before letting you sign?"
"They did," Abby assured him. "Credit check, work history. Everything."
He thought for a while, searching her face. "I suppose you can have the room, long as you understand the rules and pay on time."
Suppressing the impulse to kiss his whiskery cheek, she quickly read the contract and signed her name, then wrote a check for two months' rent. "You won't regret this. I promise."
He appeared to regret it within minutes— glaring at her from his front window as she lugged her suitcase and several boxes up the sidewalk and around to the stairs. He thumped on his ceiling with—she suspected—a broom handle when one of the boxes slipped from her grasp and hit the floor.
Her new landlord appeared to have a major personality disorder. The apartment was cramped and dark. Yet she wouldn't inconvenience Grace and she'd just bought herself time to find a better place. How hard could that be?
Two weeks later she knew. Finding a better place wasn't hard. It was impossible. And working in an idyllic north woods town certainly didn't give her tranquility. Not when she was overseeing the nursing staff of a hospital that had been on the brink of closure less than a year ago.
She'd talked to Grace for hours on her first evening in town. The older woman had even stopped in at the hospital the next morning before she and Warren flew south. She'd run a tight ship and had left her office in perfect order, but every day brought new challenges given the tight budget and shortage of nurses.
"Bad day, professor?" Erin Reynolds, the hospital administrator, smiled sympathetically as she watched Abby pore over the nurses' work schedule on her desk.
"Interesting." Abby grinned back at her.
After graduating together with bachelor's degrees in nursing, they'd gone their separate ways—Erin had eventually gone back to school for a degree in hospital administration, while Abby had chosen graduate school and a career in teaching at the college level.
They'd kept in touch through Christmas cards and occasional emails, though, and Erin had been the one to let Abby know about this temporary position.
"I just need a magic wand and a few more nurses," Abby continued. "Marcia's home with strep throat. Carl's on vacation until Monday. Gwen agreed to pull a double shift today, but I'm trying to avoid that, because she works tomorrow, too."
Erin came farther in and wearily rested both hands on the back of a chair. Five months pregnant, she was as lovely as ever with her short, glossy dark hair and delicate features, if somewhat drawn and pale. "Any luck with the ad?"
"A half dozen calls and several applications."
"Good." Erin stifled a yawn. "I've asked Madge to run it in the Green Bay and Milwaukee papers this weekend, too."
Erin was just two years older than Abby, and they'd hit it off from the first time they'd met. Now, Abby looked at her old friend with growing concern.
The hospital was in the midst of renovation and expansion efforts that hadn't been going smoothly. With the three children Erin had adopted before marrying Dr. Reynolds last winter, her job and her pregnancy, she looked ready to drop in her tracks.
Dr. Jill Edwards, on the other hand, was due the month after Erin, but she barely showed yet and seemed to have boundless energy. Though without other children to contend with, she probably got much more rest.
"So, is it true you and Connor have never had any weekend time alone?" Abby asked.
Erin and Connor had flown to the Bahamas in late January for a beachside wedding with all three children as attendants. "Not even on your wedding trip?"
"We had adjoining rooms."
"Not quite the same," Abby said. "I'm thinking you need some absolute peace and quiet. This weekend."
Erin snorted. "I don't think that'll happen. Our sitter is off on her senior class trip this week. Connor's on call this weekend and he's also covering Jill's practice while she's out of town. He'll probably end up sleeping at the hospital, so it'll be just me, the kids and my round–the–clock morning sickness. I can't believe the nausea has continued past the first trimester."
"So this could be a weekend to pamper yourself. Maybe I could take the kids—"
"You?" Erin's eyes were round. "Are you feeling okay?"
"How hard could it be?" She'd gone out for pizza a couple times with the Reynolds crew, and she'd also been to a few of the boys' baseball games. The three kids all seemed, well, manageable enough for an afternoon.
"This is so sweet of you. A whole weekend to myself just sounds like heaven."
Abby had meant to volunteer for a few hours, but she couldn't resist Erin's gratitude. "Whatever I might've said about lacking maternal instincts, I could do it. I'm a nurse, after all. We're nurturing types." Was she? Her ex–fiancé, Jared, sure hadn't thought so. "And heaven knows, I owe you," she added. "Coming up here is the perfect opportunity for some practical experience before I start teaching again."
Abby ignored a sudden vision of her landlord Hubert's reaction to all of this. "You could sleep in. Relax."
"As much as I'd love it, I'm afraid the kids are really energetic. I swear, sometimes they could wear out the patience of a saint."
The children had been adopted shortly before Erin's first husband left her for another woman. All three had come from troubled backgrounds, but Erin had already done wonders with them. Surely she was exaggerating.
"And I'm not exaggerating," Erin added dryly. "No matter what I tell them, they'll push the limit with anyone new—that's why Haley is still our one and only babysitter. The others refuse to come back."
"If I can handle this hospital job, I can handle three kids. And if things get really wild, you're only a phone call away," Abby added firmly.
"Well " Erin hesitated for a moment, then dissolved into laughter. "Deal. Though I'll understand completely, if you decide to give them back early."
"Not a chance. The boys, Lily and I are going to have a great time."
What exactly, did one do with three kids under the age of eleven to make sure they had a "great time"?
Connor dropped them off after supper on Friday. Abby took them to a movie, for pizza, then finally to the video store on Main Street.
There, eleven–year–old Drew had argued for renting some sort of video game for the xbox he'd brought along. Eight–year–old Tyler had begged for a different game, one Drew said was dumb. And ten–year–old Lily had shyly asked for an old worn–out Harry Potter movie she'd seen at least a million times, according to Tyler.
Posted August 22, 2011
This book was fun though a bit sporadic. It went in a few directions that I hadn't expected it to go. The plot was nice and fun, but didn't get very deeply into backgrounds or emotions. I think there was just so much plot that were wasn't as much room for depth. Abby is a fun, independent woman. Ethan is a great dad and a sweet man once you get past his gruff exterior. I enjoyed this book, though it was a much lighter read, focusing more on the adventure of the outdoors and cruelty to/protection of animals than the actual romance.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 5, 2011
When Abby Cahill is evicted from her rented room, she lands at Ethan Matthews' farm. But she's not looking for an attachment and the solitary biologist who seems to shun others. He on the other hand, finds himself more attracted to the city-raised nurse than he cares to admit. In fact, it's beginning to feel a little too much like home.
R.N and teaching nurse, Abby Cahill, takes a summer job as Director of Nursing in a Northern Wisconsin hospital in the small community of Blackberry Hill, a quiet town, when not inundated by summer tourists. She's more comfortable in teaching but wants to brush up on her nursing skills before moving on to a job in California. The thirty-two-year-old is getting over a canceled wedding and being jilted by her fiancé, and she has no plans to settle down. She does, however, need a place to live. The apartment complex she'd rented before arriving in town has burned and she has to find accommodations fast. She rents a seconded story room from a crotchety older man, but things don't work out well there.
When Ethan Matthews arrives at the hospital injured from an auger accident, he's told his wound is more serious than the hospital can handle, and they call for an airlift to a larger facility in Green Bay. Ethan resists because there will be no one to care for his ten-year-old son, Keifer, who has come to spend the summer with him. Abby steps in and promises to look after the boy. Things don't go according to plan, and en route to Ethan's remote farm, Abby's car gets mired in the mud. Worse, there's no cell signal, so she and Keifer have to trudge through a thunderstorm to get to the farmhouse. Abby knows chores need to be done, but she knows nothing about life on a far, and Keifer is little help. They manage, however, to rescue a newborn litter of pups and bring them inside for shelter.
The next day, Ethan arrives in time to rescue the city-bred Abby from another mishap. Ethan is a loner, and he's not looking forward to sharing his farm with Abby, but when she's evicted from her rental for being too noisy, he and Abby decide they can mutually help one another. She gets room and board in exchange for cooking dinner and looking after his son when he's out. The arrangement suits both of them; neither is looking for an attachment, but when accidents begin to happen, they must work together to find out who-or what-is behind the mishaps. As they spend time together, each of them tries to hide their feelings for one another.
Home at Blackberry Hill is one of Harlequin's Heartwarming series and is thoroughly enjoyable with likable, well-drawn characters and an interesting plot. This is a sweet romance, however, there's plenty of emotional feelings to warm the heart of any reader. Some of the scenes were a bit choppy. I also found the ending just a bit hurried, but Ms. Rustand's compelling characters and flowing prose made up for any shortcomings in the manuscript. If Home at Blackberry Hill is typical of Harlequin's Heartwarming line, I highly recommend you give it a try.
Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
Posted August 5, 2011
Home At Blackberry Hill by Roxanne Rustand. Originally published as A Temporary Arrangement
ISBN-978-0-373-36435-0 Third book in the Blackberry Hill Memorial Series.
Abby Cahill went to college with Erin Lang Reynolds. Erin is the Administrator at Blackberry Hill Memorial and needed a summer replacement for Grace who recently married and has retired. Abby worked as a nurse for three years and has been teaching and writing since then. After a broken engagement and a new job waiting for in California this fall she takes it. Arriving she finds her short term apartment has burned down and being a tourist town in summer she has a tough time finding a place to stay. When she does find somewhere the man it a bit crotchety and every noise bothers him. After a she offered to babysit Erin's three kids she gets evicted .
Ethan Matthews is being told he needs to go to the Green Bay hospital because his arm is cut up so bad he needs more specialized care to heal right. He only has his son, Keifer, for the summer. When he sees no way out of going it ends up Abby offers to take Keifer.
Abby finds herself stuck in mud, facing a wolf, animals out of their pens and on the loose, she needs to get to the animal shelter to save a dog before the next day, she has a ten year old she just met and it seems someone cut the chains on the animal gates intentionally and we can't forget Rufus the dog just have seven puppies. Then someone is trying to make Abby look bad at work when she is leaving in a few months anyways.
This was a really good series. I personally would suggest reading all three books to have the full picture even though they are all stand alone as well.
Almost a Family Book 1, A Man She Can Trust Book 2, Home at Blackberry Hill Book 3
Book received from NetGalley for review