The lake is crystal blue, the hills roll for miles, and breaking news travels via the Methodist prayer chain. But don’t let the postcard fool you. Coldwater Cove, Oklahoma, leavens its small-town charm with plenty of Ozark snark.
For Lacy Evans, returning to flyover country is the definition of failure. She had everything she wanted—an award-winning design firm, a chic city condo, a handsome, aristocratic almost-fiancé. Then her boyfriend ran off with her receptionist and her clients' money. Now she’s out of business and crashing on her parents’ couch. When she slides into a booth at the Green Apple Grill, she's feeling lower than a worm's belly.
But Lacy’s old classmate Jacob Tyler is happy to see her. Coldwater’s football hero came back from Afghanistan short part of a leg and some peace of mind, but he’s counting his blessings, and Lacy could be one of them. Then there’s her ex, Daniel, wearing a sheriff’s badge and a wedding ring, but looking like young summer love. And a host of unlikely serendipities: the selfless do-gooders who sneak around taming curmudgeons and constructing second chances. The Fighting Marmots. The sprawling, take-no-prisoners Bugtussle clan.
Lacy thought she knew her hometown, and herself. She just wanted to get on her feet and keep running. But the longer she stays, the more she finds to change her mind. . .
“Readers of sweet romance will fall in love with Coldwater Cove. Lexi Eddings’s talent shines in this edgy, fresh story.” —Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author
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The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club
By Lexi Eddings
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Diana Groe
All rights reserved.
No one ever steps into the same river twice. Maybe not. But you get your feet wet all the same.
— Lacy Evans, who's never really been in trouble ... until now
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. At least according to Robert Frost," Lacy Evans muttered. "But he didn't say you have to like it."
She didn't usually talk to herself, but she'd been on autopilot for two bleary-eyed days. After driving halfway across the country, she tooled into Coldwater Cove, Oklahoma, at six o'clock on a Sunday morning.
The town was one step up from rustic, a hundred steps down from trendy. It was the last place on earth she'd ever thought she'd live again. But that was before her business partner ran off with half a million dollars in client funds and left her holding the empty bag.
It was too early to pop into her parents' house. Mom needed her "beauty sleep" until eight at least. Dad was probably puttering about in the kitchen, making his abominable coffee, but if Lacy tried to slip into the house now, his booming welcome would be loud enough to wake the dead in the cemetery next door.
Besides, after what had happened in Boston, she didn't deserve a welcome. So she drove around the narrow streets, looking for evidence that time had passed since she was home last.
Coldwater Cove was a quiet little place where Arkansas tossed a rumpled blanket of hills and hollows over the Oklahoma state line. The air that morning was so still there wasn't a single ripple on Lake Jewel, the blue eastern boundary of the town. The tired peaks of the Winding Stair range brooded over the lake, their velvety foothills bathed in an Ozark haze. Nothing ever seemed to change here.
In a weird way, Lacy was glad. If nothing was different in her hometown, it was almost like Boston never happened.
The lights were on in the Green Apple Grill on the Town Square. Her stomach rumbled, a reminder that she hadn't eaten since those stale Twinkies in Peoria. She pulled up in front of the hurt-your-eyes green door. There were still no parking meters on the Square around the Victorian gem of a courthouse, so she got out, locked her Volvo out of habit, and went into the Green Apple. A trio of bells tinkled over the door.
"Have a seat. Be with you in a minute." The rumbling baritone came from a guy on the other side of a half wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the place. His broad-shouldered back was turned to her. The grill hissed when he gave it a quick scrub-down with a damp rag.
Lacy slid into the nearest booth, hoping they still had Belgian waffles on the menu. Just thinking about melted butter and powdered sugar made her mouth water.
"Lacy? Lacy Evans, is that you?"
Jacob Tyler peered at her from the kitchen. Superstar halfback, homecoming king, voted most likely to succeed — he was Mr. Big Stuff when they were in high school. Lacy never expected he'd still be in Coldwater Cove, much less manning the Green Apple's grill.
"Hey, Jake. How've you been?"
"Can't complain. Besides, no one would care if I did."
Lacy doubted that sincerely. Jacob still had that devastating dimple in his left cheek and a megawatt smile. It was almost enough to make her forget the flotilla of broken hearts bobbing in his wake.
Almost. The last thing she needed was more man trouble on top of everything else.
"What can I do you for?" he asked.
"Coffee, and — please, God — waffles." They weren't listed on the plastic-covered menu affixed to the wall.
"For you, anything."
That was Jake Tyler's gift. He made a girl feel special. Only trouble was, he made all the girls feel special.
While he went to work on her breakfast, Lacy took a deep breath and enjoyed the sensation of not moving. When she pulled a tablet from her backpack, her hand shook a little. She chalked it up to lack of sleep. She refused to think of it as residual panic.
I'm OK. The people I borrowed all that money from have no idea where I am.
When she powered up her tablet, Bradford Endicott's face grinned up at her from the screen saver. She quickly deleted him, wondering why it had taken her so long. She was so over feeling anything for the guy but loathing. Deciding her belly was fluttering because she was just hungry, Lacy flexed her fingers and scanned the to-do list.
The first item to tick off was finding a place to live. Her stuff, such as it was, was on a truck en route from Boston. She had two days to call in a delivery address.
Lacy so didn't intend to spend any more nights in her parents' spare room than she could help. Granted, she deserved to suffer for being so stupidly gullible, but being reduced to the status of a perpetual twelve-year-old might be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
Her savings were far from bottomless, but it would be cheap to live in Coldwater Cove. If she was careful, she'd have a month or so to figure out what to do with herself. She'd be broke inside of a week in Boston.
More broke than she felt on the inside.
"I was sorry to hear about your troubles," Jake interrupted her thoughts. "So, how you holding up?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know. That business about the guy back in Beantown who absconded with your money."
It wasn't her money. It was their clients' money, deposits on special pieces, for design and renovation work yet to be delivered. And Bradford wasn't just any guy. He was her partner. She and Bradford had been all but engaged. Trusting him was the biggest mistake she'd ever made. She frowned at Jacob. "How did you —"
"Remember where you are, Lace," he said. "Your mom tells her hairdresser, who confides in her sister, who lets it slip to the UPS guy, yada, yada, yada. Then once something makes the Methodist prayer chain, it's better than going viral on YouTube." His smile faded. "Seriously, though, are you OK?"
She'd lost her business, her condo, and her professional reputation, but she was better off than Bradford Endicott would be if she ever laid eyes on him again. Lacy wasn't a naturally violent person. But if Belize ever honored the extradition request for him, she'd be more than happy to bloody his nose. Then she'd testify against him for ripping off their high-end design clients and running off to Central America with all the firm's liquid assets. And Ramona, their stiletto-wearing, hair-flipping, sure-to-rock-a-bikini assistant.
"I'm fine," she assured Jake. She wished she could assure herself. Switching off the tablet and stowing it in her pack, she couldn't think about what to do next. At least, not until she got some real food in her. "I didn't make it to the ten-year reunion. What've you been up to? I expected to see you in the NFL."
"College football convinced me my future lay elsewhere. Two concussions in as many months was too much. Not much point in a football scholarship if you get your brain rattled every week trying to keep it. I need all the gray matter I got."
"You did OK in school."
"Yeah, but only in classes where the answer was a matter of opinion."
Jacob smiled again and a shock of dark hair fell forward on his forehead. Lacy itched to push it back for him, but she scrunched her fingers in her lap instead. She should be immune to his brand of self-deprecating charm.
That's how vaccines work, isn't it? You take in a little of the virus, get comfy with it, and then you're safe from the full power of the real thing.
Still, her chest constricted a bit at his lopsided grin.
"Did a hitch with the Marines after that," he said.
"Oo-rah." He came around the half wall with a cup of coffee in one hand and a plate of steaming waffles in the other. She noticed his slight limp for the first time. And the fact that below his camo shorts, his left leg was titanium from the knee down. He caught the direction of her gaze. "Ran into an IED in Helmand province."
Afghanistan. According to Mr. Curtis, their high school history teacher, the land of the Khyber Pass was a place where plenty of countries had had their rears handed to them over the last millennium or so. "Jacob, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I was one of the lucky ones." He set down the plate of waffles and coffee in front of her. A shadow passed behind his dark eyes. "Most of the guys in my unit didn't make it back."
Lacy buried her nose in her cup and wondered how to change the subject. Out of nowhere, she blurted, "So, did you ever get married?"
"Once. Didn't take. You?"
"Almost engaged. Once. Ditto." She forked up a bite of waffles. Deciding that carbs were better than men, Lacy sank into powdered-sugar bliss.
"Saving yourself for me, huh?" Jacob said as he settled into the booth opposite her.
"You've uncovered my evil plan." They laughed together. They both seemed to need it.
"Are you home for good?" he asked.
"I don't know." It was more like she was home for bad. Coldwater Cove was her penance. And her sanctuary. And the slow-paced, backwater vibe of the place was likely to drive her batty if she stayed longer than six months.
"Think you'll start your own business or will you need a job here?" Jake asked.
Hadn't Boston proved she wasn't much of a businesswoman? "Since I'm not independently wealthy and I'm kind of addicted to eating and sleeping indoors, yeah, I need a job."
"I hear Wanda's looking for someone over at the Gazette. She'd jump at the chance to have you."
Lacy nearly choked on the waffle. She used to write part-time for the Coldwater Gazette when she was in high school, covering ball games and board meetings alike. Back then, everyone figured she'd become an investigative journalist like her uncle Roy. Instead, she shook off the dust of this little wide spot in the road and followed her passion to a design school in New England. She specialized in fusing Old World antiques and architectural features with industrial kitsch. Her work won awards, the important hang-on-your-brag-wall kind.
But that was before Bradford Endicott ran off with their clients' deposits and she had to liquidate everything to try to make it right. From the displays in their trendy Back Bay showroom to the equity in her condo and every last nickel in her IRA, everything she'd worked for was gone. Even after all that, she still had to sign a usurious note with some semi-unsavory characters for a balance that would eat her alive if she didn't find a way to pay it off pronto.
Even though she wasn't cut out to be a businesswoman, she'd never considered that she might have to dust off her reporter hat.
"I don't think I can work at the Gazette again. It would feel like going backward. Besides, my uncle Roy says small-town papers are a license to steal," Lacy said between waffle bites. The local rag filled its pages with puff pieces that ended with "a good time was had by all," and then charged the earth for advertising space. It was an insult to her uncle's journalistic soul. Since Lacy adored Uncle Roy, she thoroughly endorsed his opinion. "It's like Chinese food, only in print. After you read the Coldwater Gazette, your brain is hungry again in an hour."
"Yeah, well, it might pay the bills. Things change and sometimes you have to do whatever comes to hand." A hard edge cut through his tone. It hadn't been there before. Jake shrugged. "It was just a thought."
While she polished off the waffles and made appreciative noises at appropriate intervals, Jake filled her in on what had happened with some of their other classmates. Quite a few had moved on, but more were still in Coldwater Cove than she expected. There'd been marriages and shacking-ups, splitting the sheets and reconciliations. Kids had been born, houses built. Businesses had bloomed or withered. Everyone had been filling up their lives with people and things.
All Lacy had to show for her twenty-nine trips around the sun fit neatly into a relatively small shipping pod. She figured her worldly goods ought to be somewhere in Ohio by now.
"Everyone will be happy to see you back," Jake assured her.
She smirked. "On the theory that misery loves company?"
"After you've seen Kabul, Coldwater's not so bad," he said. "Besides, it's not the back of beyond it used to be. We've got cable and Internet on top of the Gazette to keep us up to speed. And whatever news they miss turns up on the Methodist prayer chain."
She took a swig of coffee. It wasn't as bitter as the brew she was used to. She'd become accustomed to coffee that gave her taste buds a smack. "Never figured you for a Methodist."
"Getting your leg blown off will make you rethink a lot of things."
Lacy nodded, but Jake looked away, signaling that was all he had to say on that topic. If she waited long enough, he'd probably tell her more. All her life, people had told Lacy the most amazing things, surprisingly personal things, simply because she was willing to sit in silence and wait for them to fill it.
But she didn't want to invade Jake's head. It didn't seem polite after he'd made her waffles and all.
The bells over the door jingled and a guy in sheriff's office khaki came into the Green Apple. Coldwater Cove was too small to have its own police force, so the county boys did double duty. He took off his hat. The tight brim hadn't done his dark-honey hair any favors, but Lacy's stomach lurched in recognition anyway.
It was Daniel Scott.
Back when Lacy was in school, it seemed every girl in Coldwater Cove had a not-so-serious fling with Jacob Tyler at one time or another. It was like a rite of passage.
You go through it and get your heart bruised. Sadder, but not much worse for the wear because even though Jake has moved on to the next girl, he's so darn likeable, you're still his friend.
Lacy was glad she'd gone through her "Jake phase" in fifth grade when their courtship consisted of holding hands during school assemblies. Once their budding "true love forever" ended abruptly after a new girl moved to town, Lacy's dad had mended her broken heart by signing her up for riding lessons. She stopped pining for Jake almost immediately. At ten or eleven, girls love horses more than boys anyway.
But Daniel Scott ...
For one breathless summer before Lacy headed east to study design, Daniel was her soft, warm night and endless sky. Even though she was the one who moved to Boston, he was the one who got away.
"Saw the out-of-state plates and —" Daniel stopped mid-step. His eyes were as green as she remembered them, not muddy like a moss green, but vibrant like a spring morning.
"Lacy," Daniel said.
That was it. Just her name. It'd been over a decade since she'd seen him, yet something inside her hummed with remembered longing. A slow-motion scene where they ran toward each other, arms outstretched, scrolled across her mind.
Down, Lacy. You are so seriously sleep-deprived. And Bradford Endicott should be enough to make any girl swear off men completely.
Instead of a slow-mo sprint, Dan walked over to the booth where she and Jake were sitting. They started the round of small talk again. It was basically the same ground she'd covered with Jacob, only Daniel didn't sit with them. A question tromped around on the tip of her tongue, but she bit it back.
The bells over the door jingled again. A group of folks dressed in church clothes filed in for the breakfast special before Sunday School.
"Gotta go." Jake slid out of the booth to take care of his customers.
"Me too." Daniel put his hat back on, and when he looked down at her, one side of his mouth lifted. She would have given her last penny for the thought behind that half smile. "It's good to see you, Lacy. Welcome home."
His lips parted as if he was about to say something else, but then he turned and walked away. Still looked pretty incredible doing it, too, but Lacy didn't need to ask that other question anymore.
She'd seen the ring on his left hand.
Excerpted from The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club by Lexi Eddings. Copyright © 2016 Diana Groe. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club is quite a mouthful for a title and the story is absolutely delightful. This is by new to me author Lexi Eddings and focuses on returning daughter Lacy Evans going home to the town she didn’t want to have to come crawling back to and especially not as a failure. Having made a big mistake in the romance department with her ex-boyfriend and having to pay restitution to their business clients to avoid jail time, Lacy has come back home to hopefully stay under the radar. Meanwhile, her high school sweetheart Daniel has moved on without her however, former high school heartthrob Jacob has returned from Afghanistan as a war hero (missing part of his leg) and he wants to get reacquainted. She and Jacob strike up a friendship, Jacob hoping for more and Lacy trying to find her place in the world again. What I really liked about this book is the author put comments from the other townspeople of Coldwater right before every chapter. By doing that we really get a sense for who these other characters are that surround Lacy and Jacob just from a sentence or two. The author really takes on the sensitive issue of PTSD and along with Jacob we see how debilitating and scary it can be to try to handle it on your own. There is a blossoming, swoon worthy romance that I was really rooting for along with a thread of unease that is just in the background. The author includes some recipes in the back of the book that the people in the story enjoyed and they sound mouthwatering. I hope to try some soon. Overall, I really liked these characters, the town, and their plights and I very much look forward to continuing the series in April with the next release. This is pretty much a clean story and Lexi Eddings is going on my authors to watch list. I received a copy of this book for free from the author/publisher. I was not required to give a positive review and all the views expressed are my own.
I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of this story are the bits from the newspaper that would occasionally appear at the start of the chapters. They give a fun little peek into the quirkiness of Coldwater and endear the residents to the reader even more. Small town life often has its own rhythm and this one is no different. Lacy is not a perfect heroine and she has a lot of self-evaluation that she needs to do. Her time away from her hometown has changed her in ways that might not have been all that great. After life pushes her down a little, being back with a slower pace and extra time on her hands means she's looking at who she is (and who she wants to be) a little more closely … and looking at an old classmate a bit differently as well. For the most part, Jake may seem to have himself all figured out but he has more scars from the war than a missing leg can account for. The opportunity at a relationship with Lacy is throwing things a little off kilter for him – mostly in a good way, but it’s also shining a light on some things that he’s not looked at all that closely. Unfortunately to move forward he has to look at his past as well. And it could prove painful. There are also some great secondary stories involving Lacy’s old flame Daniel & his family and an old Vietnam vet whose life has spiraled out of control for years. All of the plot lines, major and minor, deal with quite a few deep issues – addiction, PTSD, homelessness, abuse … they aren’t easy things but they are important and Eddings does a fantastic job of addressing them well. It's the start of a new series and I’m really liking what I’m seeing here. Can't wait to see what comes next! *** I voluntarily read a Review Copy of this book. All opinions stated are solely my own and no one else’s. ***
The title of this book review should be “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Back Cover Blurb.” When I read the blurb, I moaned to my husband, “If the book reads like this, it’s going to be a long, painful read.” Ah, but instead between the covers lay a tender, sweet story, a story of coming to terms with life’s difficulties and moving on to better things. It’s a story of looking beyond oneself, and the blessings that come from reaching out to others. Lacy has returned home after a betrayal that has left her emotionally and financially drained. She feels like returning to the small town of Coldwater, Oklahoma is a giant step backward. Jacob has returned to Coldwater after sustaining severe physical trauma while serving as a marine in Afghanistan, leaving him to cope with PTSD. Jacob, once the local love ‘em and leave ‘em heart throb, is now looking for someone with whom he can have a deeper relationship, someone who can see him rather than his injury. Lacy is not ready to put herself in a position to be hurt again, not ready to trust. Will their friendship stand up to their insecurities; is there hope that it may develop into something more? Then there is Daniel Scott, Lacy’s former boyfriend and Jacob’s former best friend. Daniel struggles with his relationship with his wife who is fighting in the only way she knows how to help him overcome his addiction. He struggles with his relationship with the abusive father of his childhood, now an alcoholic, homeless Vietnam vet whom the Coldwater Warm Hearts Club has taken under their wing. Will Lacy’s reappearance make reconciliation with his wife more challenging? How will it impact what little remains of his connection to Jacob, the friend who kept him from making what might have been the biggest mistake of his life? Those who read my reviews will be accustomed to their being about books that strictly adhere to the standards set forth for Christian fiction. So, I feel obligated to mention that while The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club does have faith based themes, it would better be described as a sweet romance. There is just a bit of language that one would not find in Christian fiction. While sex outside of marriage is alluded to, there are no steamy, explicit sex scenes. I do not believe fans of Christian fiction will feel as if they have compromised by reading this sweet story. Lacy is a seeker, Jacob is rediscovering his faith. Thankfully God gives each of us grace as we work toward maturity in our faith. I thank Lacy Eddings and Kensington Books for providing me with a copy of The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club in exchange for my honest opinion. I have received no monetary compensation for this review.
The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club by Lexi Eddings is the first book in her new Coldwater series. This was a nicely done romance that also touches on the hero’s issues with PTSD (he was a wounded war hero, having major flashbacks). Lacey Evans is returning home to Coldwater, after losing everything she owned to the betrayal of her partner and now ex boyfriend, who took all the money and ran. Lacey had left Coldwater quickly after her graduation and made a successful career as a designer, and now with herself in financial ruin, she finds herself where she never wanted to return. Arriving in Coldwater in the early morning hours, she stops at the local eatery for a bite to eat, before going home to her parents. Jacob Tyler, our hero, runs the Green Apple Grill and recognizes Lacey immediately. Lacey is surprised to see Jacob cooking, and equally shocked to see that he is wearing a prosthetic leg, having lost part of his leg in war torn Afghanistan. Jacob has learned to accept his disability and has done well running the grill, but underneath it all, he has his own secret issues in the form of flashback nightmares at night. What follows is a slow built romance the will find two friends, with their own problems, learn that living in Coldwater isn’t so bad, and love is has a way of sneaking up on you. Lacey rebuilds her life, finding that she is content to stay in Coldwater. Jacob senses that Lacey is the woman for him, who also comfortable with his disability. But both of them are also gun shy on relationships; Lacey with her ex and Jacob with the fiancée who left him after his injury. I thought Jacob and Lacey made an engaging couple, as I found myself rooting for them to get past each of their own issues. There was also a side story of Lacey’s former teenage boyfriend, Daniel, who is now the sheriff, as he trys to convince his separated wife to give him another chance. Another nice feature was the warm Hearts Club that helped those in need. The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club was a nice sweet romance, with a small town background and a couple trying to overcome issues to find love.
Coming home under a dark cloud and with heavy debt Lacy Evans is not sure where her future will lead her. Having done well in Boston till her partner absconded with half a million dollars and having tried to make restitution has left her feeling a bit bleak, in debt and questioning her ability to judge people. Back in her hometown after some time away she begins to make a life for herself. She makes new friends and meets up with some old ones. Both her fifth grade and high school sweethearts are still in town but one is married and the other, Jacob Tyler, has returned from military service minus one leg. Jacob has changed from high school heartbreaker to a much more serious man. He has become religious, is a business owner and gives back to the community. He also has rather sever PTSD. Add into the mix a club that has formed to give back and finds that in doing so they feel they are benefiting more than they receive, a prayer chain, gossip aplenty, a couple of people dealing with PTSD and another couplethat are dealing with addictions and there is plenty to keep this book moving. If you are looking for a cozy, clean, small-town romance then this might be the book for you. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC of this book in exchange for my hones review.