About the Book:
New York Times bestselling author Linda Goodnight welcomes you to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, and a house that's rich with secrets and brimming with sweet possibilities
Memories of motherhood and marriage are fresh for Julia Presley—though tragedy took away both years ago. Finding comfort in the routine of running the Peach Orchard Inn, she lets the historic, mysterious place fill the voids of love and family. No more pleasure of a man's gentle kiss. No more joy in hearing a child call her Mommy. Life is calm, unchanging…until a stranger with a young boy and soul-deep secrets shows up in her Tennessee town and disrupts the loneliness of her world.
Julia suspects there's more to Eli Donovan's past than his motherless son, Alex. There's a reason he's chasing redemption and bent on earning it with a new beginning in Honey Ridge. Offering the guarded man work renovating the inn, she glimpses someone who—like her—has a heart in need of restoration. But with the chance discovery of a dusty stack of love letters buried within the lining of an old trunk, the long-dead ghosts of a Civil War romance envelop Julia and Eli, connecting them to the inn's violent history and challenging them both to risk facing yesterday's darkness for a future bright with hope and healing.
On the one hand, this book has "series romance" written all over it, from the (Honey Ridge) after the title, to the setting in a bed and breakfast (what a stage for new characters to come and go) to the parts of the plot that did not wrap up neatly. On the other hand, this story stands well by itself and frankly, the loose ends, the unanswered questions, make it much more realistic than those books where not only do he and she live happily ever after, all questions are also answered.
Julia's son disappeared one day, and as of the start of this book, there had been no trace of him found. Her marriage crumbled and she became depressed. She and her sister purchased an old plantation home and have turned it into a bed and breakfast. At this point it ranks higher on the charm scale than on the profitability scale. Eli just got out of prison and has just been contacted by his son's great aunt. It seems the mother of his son has died, and the aunt is too old to raise him. She wants Eli to take on the job. On the way there, Eli's car breaks down, he meets Julia, and things go from there. Taken by itself, this part of the book would be a pretty standard good but not great romance full of hometown charm, an ex-husband who makes you roll your eyes and a bad guy boyfriend for the flakey younger sister. However, this thread is not the whole story.
The rest of the story is set during the Civil War, and it too is a romance. By the end of the book there are several parallels between the two stories but they come together as the letters of the Civil War couple are found by the modern couple. Sections are dated so it is easy to tell which story you are reading in each chapter.
I looked up Linda Goodnight and found that she generally writes short inspirational romances. While it is metioned that characters go to church and pray, we don't hear sermons and prayers are short. It is a clean romance with no bedroom scenes or suggestions that they happened. One of the heroines is married and though she has romantic feelings for her hero, her marriage is respected by both of them.
I don't give many A's and I'd guess that most I give aren't to romance novels, despite the number of them that I read but this book is exceptionally good so I'll give it an exceptionally good grade, A.
Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy availble via NetGalley.