Sweet Laurel Falls (Hope's Crossing Series #3)

Sweet Laurel Falls (Hope's Crossing Series #3)

by RaeAnne Thayne

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Spring should bring renewal, but Maura McKnight-Parker cannot escape the past. Still reeling from the loss of one daughter, the former free spirit is thrown for a loop by the return of her older daughter, Sage, and the reappearance of her first love, Sage's father. Jackson Lange never knew his daughter—never even knew that he'd left the love of his life pregnant when he fled their small town—but he has never forgotten Maura.

Now they are all back, but Sage has her own secret, one that will test the fragile bonds of a reunited family. Thrown together by circumstances and dedicated to those they love, Maura and Jackson must learn to move forward and let go of the mistakes of their past for the bright future that awaits them and their friends in Hope's Crossing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373776702
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/25/2012
Series: Hope's Crossing Series , #3
Edition description: Original
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 83,032
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.20(d)

About 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 six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

Read an Excerpt

Forget Christmas vacation. This year, Maura McKnight-Parker wanted a vacation from Christmas. Wouldn't it be wonderful if she could just crawl into a warm cave somewhere and sleep through the holidays?

With a sigh, Maura took a final look around at the cozy nook where she had arranged several of the plump sofas and chairs normally scattered throughout her bookstore-slash-coffeehouse. Everything appeared ready for the Books and Bites book club Christmas party and gift exchange tonight.

Nibbles? Check. M&M's, spiced nuts and popcorn mix waited in holiday-printed bowls, and she had even dragged out her Christmas china and coffee mugs for said nibbles.

Decorations? Check. Not much to do there, since the halls of Dog-Eared Books & Brew had already been decked the week before Thanksgiving with artificial Christmas trees adorned in elegant blues and whites and silver. Snowflakes and gleaming ornaments in the same color scheme dangled from the ceiling, lightly dancing in the currents of air whenever anybody opened the front door.

Gifts? Yes. She had set up a little tabletop tree with handmade blown-glass ornaments for each of the book club members that she had commissioned from an artist with a gallery in town.

In addition to that pretty bit of swag, she had spent the past few days scouring shelves and boxes in her office and had filled gift bags for all the book club members, brimming with coffee and tea samples and some of the promotional bookmarks, notepads and other tchotchkes authors and their publicists were always sending to the store.

Despite a deep-seated wish that she could just hole up in her house for Christmas like a fox in a cozy den, she had worked tirelessly for days to make this party a success. If she were a scam artist, she would have called this baiting her trap. She had to convince her dearest friends and family members that she was indeed trying to move forward with her life after the hell of the past year. To accomplish that, she needed to put on a convincing show for them.

Maybe then, everybody would back off and give her a little space to find her own way.

"What do you think?" she asked April Herrera, who was taking a load of Books & Brew coffee mugs out of the small dishwasher behind the counter.

The assistant manager for the coffeehouse side of her business gazed at the setup with an enchanted look in her eyes that seemed at odds with her henna-colored hair, pencil-thin eyebrows and various diamond studs.

The silk long-underwear shirt she wore underneath her barista shirt and apron hid the various tattoos Maura knew adorned her arms.

Judging only by appearances, April ought to be wild and cynical. Instead, she was just about the sweetest person Maura knew. More important, she was smart and hardworking and intuitive about her customers.

"It looks super in here. Just perfect. You guys are going to have such a great time."

Maura tended to have a soft spot for rebellious girls, probably because she'd been one in another lifetime. "Are you sure you can't stay?"

"I really wish I could. Your book club meetings are always a hoot. Your mom cracks me up every time she comes in, and it's hilarious to watch Ruth and Claire together. Do they ever agree on a book?"

"Rarely," she answered. Or anything else, for that matter. Ruth Tatum worked in the bookstore, and she and her daughter had what could best be described as a complicated relationship. "You should really stay. You know everyone would love to have you again. Your comments on the last book were really insightful."

"I can't. Sorry. I've really got to take off as soon as Josh gets here. This is my very first time night-skiing with the team."

"How's that going?" she asked.

"Excellent." The young woman's face lit up. "I think they're ready to put me on the schedule on a regular basis."

April was training for the ski patrol and also taking classes in hope of eventually becoming a paramedic. Maura didn't know how she juggled work and class and her two-year-old son, especially on her own. Maybe that was another reason she had taken April under her wing—she could certainly relate to being a young single mother just trying to survive.

"That's terrific. If you need me to make any adjustments to your work schedule here, just say the word. I'm flexible. And I'm happy to babysit Trek whenever you need."

"Thanks, Maur."

"Maybe you can come to the book club meeting in January, if it fits around all the plates you have spinning."

"Definitely!" April started to add something else, but a customer at the coffee counter rang the little bell, and she gave Maura a "later" kind of wave and headed back to take the order.

Personally, Maura couldn't wait for January, to finally turn that page of her calendar to a new year. Maybe once the holiday craziness was over, she could escape some of the pressure of trying to act as if everything was fine when she was frozen solid inside.

She grabbed one more bowl of spicy nuts and set it on a side table, then moved a bowl of plump, airy peppermints to another spot. Having dear friends and family members surrounding her in Hope's Crossing was both a blessing and a curse. She knew they loved her and worried for her. While she understood their concern and tried to be grateful, mostly she just found it exhausting and overwhelming.

Sometimes that ever-present concern made her feel as if she had been buried alive under an avalanche. It pressed down on her, heavy and suffocating, until all she wanted to do was scramble for an air pocket.

Even her little bungalow on Mountain Laurel Road wouldn't remain a haven for long. In a few days, her daughter Sage would be coming home from college for the holidays, bringing yet another pair of watchful eyes.

She could do it. A few more weeks of pretending, and then she could have the cold nights of January to herself.

After one last look around, she suddenly remembered she'd meant to grab a couple extra copies of this month's book club selection off the shelf, in case anybody forgot theirs and needed it for reference. She had several copies in the display near the front, she remembered, and hurried in that direction.

A light snow drifted past the front display window, the big, fluffy flakes reflecting the colorful Christmas lights on storefronts up and down Main Street. Hope's Crossing was a true winter wonderland and local businesses worked hard to make the town glow with an old-fashioned, enticing charm. Nearly every store had some kind of light display. Hers were LED icicles that appeared to be dripping.

The effort seemed to be working. Her store bustled with customers and, judging by the pedestrian and vehicle traffic on a normally slow Thursday night, the other businesses on Main Street were enjoying the same success.

An SUV snagged the last parking space in front of the cafe across the street and a few stores down from her. A man in a leather jacket and Levi's climbed out and snowflakes immediately landed on his wavy dark hair and the shoulders of his warm cocoa-colored coat. He looked sharp and put together.

Everyone would be arriving any second now and she should go put the finishing touches on the scene she had created, but for some reason she was drawn to the man she could still barely see.

Some indefinable aspect of him—the angle of his jaw or the way he moved—called to mind the image of her first love. Jackson Lange, sexy and dangerous, young, angry, ferociously smart.

She rarely thought about Jack anymore, except on the rare occasions when his unpleasant father came into the store. Why she would be wasting time wondering about him now when she had so much to do was a mystery.

The man walked around the other side of the vehicle to let someone out of the passenger side, a gesture she didn't see enough these days. She was curious to see his companion, but before she could catch a glimpse of the woman, the front door of the shop opened and Claire and Evie burst through, bringing the scent of snow and Christmas. Their mingled laughter chimed more sweetly than carols.

"I know," Claire said. "That's what I told him. But this is his first Christmas as a stepfather, and I swear, he's more excited than Owen or Macy. I've had to hide the present stash a half-dozen times, and he finds every blasted spot."

"What do you expect, honey?" Evie untwisted her scarf, hand-knitted in a heathery wool that dangled with beads instead of fringe. "He's a trained detective. It's kind of what he does."

The two of them had probably walked over from the bead store Claire owned, just down the street a block. Evie rented an apartment upstairs from Claire. For now, anyway. Evie was dating Brodie Thorne, her friend Katherine's son, and Maura expected their relationship was progressing quickly.

Claire's soft, pretty features lit up when she saw her. "Maura, honey, the store looks fabulous. I keep meaning to tell you every day when I come in for coffee, but you're never standing still long enough."

"Your mom did a lot of the work. It was her idea to hang all the snowflakes and the ornaments. Isn't that brilliant?"

Ruth had been working at the bookstore for months, but Claire still seemed baffled by it. Maura couldn't blame her. No one was more surprised than Maura when Ruth's offer to help out temporarily during those dark days and weeks in the spring had turned into a permanent arrangement that had worked out beautifully for everyone concerned.

"Ruth is a great employee," she assured Claire again. "Hardworking and dependable, with these wonderful, unexpected flashes of ingenuity, like the snowflakes."

"And here she is now," Evie announced.

Sure enough, a moment later Ruth walked in, along with Maura's mother, Mary Ella, and Katherine Thorne. With them was Janie Hamilton, a fairly new addition to town and another lost lamb Katherine had taken under her wing, and right behind them was Charlotte Caine, who owned the candy store in town.

Maura took a deep breath and put on her game face, that forced smile that had become second nature since her world had changed forever eight months earlier. "Welcome, everyone. I'm so happy you can all come."

She stepped forward to hug and brush cheeks with everyone as they all began to shed coats and scarves and hats like penguins molting in the spring. Everyone seemed to have on holiday party clothes: shimmery blouses, festive patterned scarves, dangling earrings and beaded necklaces.

She felt drab in her suede jacket, tailored cream shirt and jeans, though she was wearing one of her favorite chunky wood-bead necklaces she had made at String Fever last year.

"What about Alex?" she asked. "Isn't she coming?"

"Angie's picking her up," her mother assured her. "They texted me a few minutes ago to tell me they're running late. As usual."

"Whew. That's a relief. She's supposed to be bringing dessert, those delicious pumpkin spice cupcakes she makes."

"The ones with the cinnamon buttermilk icing? Oh, yay!" Claire said. "I guess since I'm not trying to fit into a wedding dress anymore, I might be able to let myself have one."

Maura could probably afford to eat five or six, since all her clothes fit her loosely now. Amazing how little appetite she had these days. "Everybody grab coffee or tea or whatever you're drinking from the counter. I've got us set up in the corner."

She ushered everyone over to the coffee counter in time to see April hang her apron on the hook. Josh Kimball had come in to replace her for the evening shift. He waved and grinned his charmer of a grin at her, and she managed to dredge up a small smile for his perpetual raccoon eyes, white in an otherwise bronzed face where his goggles blocked the sun while he was snowboarding.

"I'm off. I'll see you later," April said as she grabbed her coat.

"Thank you for everything. Good luck with the night patrol. See you tomorrow."

"You got it." April swung open the door just as a couple walked in—and suddenly all the air whooshed out of Maura's lungs.

It was the man she had seen a half hour earlier entering the cafe, the same impractical leather jacket, the same wavy dark hair, the same plaid scarf.

In the hanging track lights of her store, she could clearly see her mistake.

This man didn't simply bear a mild, passing resemblance to Jackson Lange.

He most definitely was Jackson Lange.

For one crazy second, her mind became a tangle of half-buried memories, the kind that came from being young and impulsive and passionately in love. The first time he held her hand in a darkened theater, shared confidences on a sun-warmed boulder high up the canyon, tangled bodies and mouths, the peace she found only with him—then the vast heartache and the sharp, gnawing fear after he left.

Someone was talking to her. Evie, she thought vaguely, but the words couldn't register past her dismayed shock.

Jack had vowed never to step foot in Hope's Crossing, with the fierce, unwavering determination only an eighteen-year-old young man could claim.

Yet here he was.

Yeah. Like she needed one more thing to make this Christmas really suck. This was definitely the cherry on top of the fruitcake—for Jackson Lange to come into her store with his undoubtedly lovely wife to have a cappuccino or maybe browse through one of the nonfiction sections. Travel, maybe, or her small but adequate architectural design shelf.

And in the middle of her book club meeting, for crying out loud.

She could just ignore him. If she ducked behind a bookcase, with luck, he wouldn't see her. He probably had no idea she owned Dog-Eared Books & Brew—why would he possibly know that? She could send one of the clerks over to escort him to the farthest corner away from the book club—or better yet, have Josh come with all his delightful snowboarder muscles and throw him out in the cold. She'd never heard of a bookstore having a bouncer, but there was always a first time.

Too late. He turned just at that moment and his blue-eyed gaze met hers. She saw definite recognition there. Oddly, he didn't seem at all surprised to see her, almost as if he had come looking for her. That was impossible, of course. In nearly twenty years, he hadn't made the smallest effort to find her. Not that it would have taken much work on his part. She hadn't gone anywhere.

The years had been unfairly kind to him, she saw, had taken a teenage boy who had been brooding and angry and undeniably gorgeous to all the other teenage girls and turned him into a sexy, potent male, with intense blue eyes, a firm mouth and the resolute jaw-line that just might be the only thing he shared with his father.

"Are you all right?"

She managed to look away and saw her mother studying her with concern. "What?"

"You've gone pale, darling. And I asked you three times if you made these delicious truffles. What's the matter?"

Customer Reviews

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Sweet Laurel Falls 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
beckymmoe More than 1 year ago
I think this one is my favorite of the series so far. I really liked the way that Maura's grief was dealt with in this book--both how the author wrote about Maura and the other characters' reactions. It was really well done. Jackson and Maura's courtship was perfect for both where they were in life and their history--I really enjoyed reading it. I was a bit disappointed with Sage's "problem", though--first, it was may to easy to figure out what it was, and second, I wasn't crazy about the person who ended up being the cause of it. It seems to take the whole small-town-everyone-is-connected-somehow bit just a tad too far. The solution at the end of the novel also has me torn--it could be a good idea, or it could cause waaaay to many problems down the road, but either way it deserves more than a minute and a half discussion in a hospital room. Still, I am liking this series quite a bit and anxious to see what will happen next in Hope's Crossing.
judiOH More than 1 year ago
this is the third installment of this series by raeann thayne. this series started with an auto accident that has had a profound impact on several families. this family has lost a daughter, and the single mom just can't get past it. enter a lost love that never knew he had a daughter. the tender treatment of a love that never died, has the future looking brighter for the people involved. this is a must read if you truly love romances!
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
4 STARS Sweet Laurel Falls is a Hope's Crossing book 3 Okay was I on a emotional roller coast with this book. I admit to sharing some tears and smiling in other parts of the book. RaeAnne characters were real to me and I cared what happens to them. In other Hope's Crossing books we learn that someone is going around and helping people and the notes are signed Angel. In this the 3 book we find out who started it but others are copying the Angel. Maura McKnight-Parker had lost her teen daughter less than a year ago to drunk driving accident. She is puting on a good job to others that she is coping alright. When she is not ready to let her daughter go just yet. She is getting settup to host another Christmas Book club in her book store when a old boyfriend Jackson Lange from over 20 years ago shows up in her store with her other daughter Sage in tow. Maura had never told anyone who the father of her baby was. She never told Jackson that she was pregnant. Never told her 19 year old daughter Sage. Jackson was at Sage's Collage giving a lecture and after Sage went up to him. Sage told him that they were from the same little town and she saw his father around town. Jackson asked who her parents were to see if he knew them. She told him that she never knew who her father was but told him Maura was her mother. He figured out fast that he was the father. Jackson hated his father and the small town of Sweet Laura Falls. He left for collage and never came back to his home town untill now. He was upset to find out he was a father all these years and did not know. He was going to stay at least threw the holidays and get to know his daughter. It has been a rough year on Sage too. She really missed her younger sister even though thier was a 4 years between them they were close. Thier is not much of anything to complain about this book except I did not have tissues handy. I will definately be reading more books by RaeAnne in the future. 09/25/2012 PUB Harlequin Imprint HarlequinHQN
jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Sweet Laurel Falls by RaeAnne Thayne ISBN: 9780373776702 Maura McKnight-Parker wanted a vacation from Christmas. She runs a book/coffeehouse and is open to book clubs to meet. Hope's Crossing is the type of town that belongs in a snowglobe. Everything is in place and it looks so magical especially when it snows. The straw that broke the camel's back is when her grown daughter, Sage brings her father into the bookstore on the night of the Christmas party. Maura has had a tough year, she buried her younger daughter. They head to her office and she admits that Jackson Lunge is her bio father. She had tried to contact him when he went away to college. She's not seen him in twenty years and it's been quite a shock to her system. He's now an architect and he does lectures at college and that's where Sage had a conversation with him. He now plans to stick around for a few weeks to get to spend time with his daughter as it's the slow time of the year for him. He also sees his father at the bookstore, being mean and rude and when he sees him he becomes ill and falls. Harry agrees to be attended by EMT's and the hospital. Jackson thinks things would go back to normal if he just left. They each daydream about their sensual sex life as teens, the places they shared their lifes together. When a crises hits someone in town the angel of hope pays a call, either by giving them cash or a much needed gift, or food. The angel is about to be uncovered as Jackson has seen the person in action. Tempers flare as Sage informs them both she is taking a semester off from college. He has a plan that might work for them all and it's accepted. It helps them all out but it brings them all closer to one another. He's going to bid on the new town project, open an office in town and Sage can work there til the next semester to even see if she likes that type of career. Sage is hiding major secrets and her parents both have feelings for one another but won't even 'go there'. They each have enough going on in their lives to not further complicate matters... There are more turmoils ahead that can ruin many others lifes. Love the butterfly envelope and the significance... Love this series and can't wait to read the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! May be my favorite so far. Love, family values, and so much. The best thing: no sex scenes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Annie97 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the 1st one so much I had to get all of the series. Hope another follows shortly. Well written without all the extended sex. Romance is nice, the crazy sex is not enjoyable reading.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
Stories from Hope's Crossing, Colorado continue with Maura, who lost her youngest daughter to a car crash just a short time ago. Now her 19 year old daughter has returned for vacation from college, with Jackson Lange, Maura's first love.  Jackson has just found out that he is Sage's father, but Maura had never told him about her.  Sage has her own secret as Maura and Jackson try to reconcile their problem pasts.  Life is also complicated by Sage's new found grandfather, Harry Lange, the most hated man in Hope's Crossing. I really enjoy these light romances that always have lots of serious situations and thoughts within the stories.  One thought that stuck out in this book for me was: "It was a philosophical point he would have to ask Reverend Wilson next time he saw him on the golf course. Hypothetically, of course.  If people helped others because they craved that feeling of satisfaction and delight, was it really selfless?  How could an act be considered altruistic if, in a roundabout fashion, somebody was just fulfilling a need inside themselves by helping someone else?"  This story also deals with grief, forgiveness and reconciliation.  I've come to feel that the characters are good friends and neighbors.  Looking forward to reading about more of the citizens of Hope's Crossing in the next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joy. Book three is Joy, finding it after such sorrow and loss. Finding and re-inventing family after the loss. What a wonderful book.
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Did not allow preview, tried to correct beginning sentence. This is third book in series, I had typed second and asked if you could correct it or if you could e-mail me back the review for me to correct but no one has answered the e-mail. Not sure why you are asking me to review two books in both hardback and paperback.