Saturday, June 16, 2012

Week-End's Minis XVIII: Larkspur Road by Jill Gregory

Larkspur Road by Jill Gregory
published by Berkley in May 2012
Fifth grade teacher Mia Quinn expected a tranquil summer in her hometown of Lonesome Way, Montana, sewing for her quilting group’s exhibition fundraiser and caring for her rescued dog, Samson. But all her plans for a relaxing break are thrown out the window when Travis Tanner—the boy who broke her heart in high school—returns to town with his ten year old adopted step-son.

A former FBI agent, the boy Mia once knew is now well over six feet of male muscle—and he still has the power to make Mia lose her train of thought with just a glance. When Travis asks her to tutor his troubled son, Mia quickly discovers that the sparks between them are hotter than ever. As danger comes to Lonesome Way and family secrets come to light, will Travis and Mia realize that love can be even better the second time around?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Lonesome Way series, Book #2

What do you need to know? Back in high school, Travis Tanner and Mia Quinn were the golden couple, the one that everyone thought would make it for sure... Until after prom night when Travis dumped Mia without explanations and walked away to college. He did later regret his decision, but it seemed too late... and even now, he's paying the price for it. At his brother's wedding with Mia's best friend, Mia wouldn't even acknowledge him.

A year later, Travis finds himself at crossroads, reconsidering his career with the FBI. After the death of his partner, Travis feels he's burned-out. On an extensive leave, he wants to come home to the ranch in Lonesome Way, Montana, and is considering making some permanent changes. The notion is further reinforced when he barely recognizes the sullen 10 years old boy that his adopted stepson has become from the joyous, happy kid he's raised. When his ex-wife calls him because she's at wits' ends with Grady who's been acting out, mouthing off at her new husband and has failed fifth grade, Travis immediately jumps at the opportunity to reconnect with him.

Mia was looking forward to a quiet summer where she could work on her quilt and get it ready for the quilting group exhibition's fund-raiser. That was before finding out Travis was back in town and she got roped in to tutor his son, before her 16 years old niece showed up inexplicably to her house - wanting to spend the whole summer with her, and before her estranged and loner aunt fell off the stairs and hurt herself. She's trying to make sense of everything - uncovering old and new secrets, but all she knows for sure is that Travis still has the power to make her heart beats very fast...

Why this book? I was browsing the aisles at the bookstore and the cover just caught my eyes. It looks so peaceful :) I had never read Ms Gregory before, but I was aware of this series because I've stumbled across the blurbs when looking for new releases. Since there was a 25% off, I went ahead and bought the book :)

My thoughts? Hmmmm, frankly, Larkspur Road was not a bad book, but it wasn't a wowzer either. It's actually a hard book to grade for me because it had some really good elements, but unfortunately, it suffered from one major flaw.

The good elements include likable characters and a very set-up, both relationship-wise and setting-wise. I actually thought the first couple of chapters were the best since readers were being introduced to Mia, Travis and Grady and all the connections. As I said, Mia and Travis were likable characters. I think one point in their favor is that they felt real and were very balanced. They didn't really have major conflicts with their lives. Yes, Mia was conscious of her biological clock ticking and the fact that she was a bit lonely, but it wasn't an obsession for her. As for Travis, he wanted to make some changes in his career and he did take the steps to. They were regular people that readers could relate to, could understand :) I also really enjoyed Travis' relationship with Grady, he was definitively a good father. He listened, encouraged and talked with Grady, making sure Grady knew he was there for him. He also stepped up when he was in disagreement with his ex-wife's decisions. He really considered Grady as his son, despite not being married to Grady's mother anymore and really stepped up and put his foot down when he was in disagreement with her decisions. I think that spoke highly of Travis' character and what a good man he was.

As I mentioned, I also very much liked the setting of the book. Yes, Lonesome Way could be considered as small-town, but it wasn't the focus here. I don't feel like Larkspur Road was marketed as a small-town contemporary romance which was a good thing in my opinion :)

The problem I had with Larkspur Road is I feel that not much happened... which actually is not the truth. However, nothing was developed, nothing was fleshed out, so that's why I feel that way. In a sense, it's almost like Ms Gregory spent too much time setting everything up at the right place and the right moment, but she ran out of time to develop them. So they happened, but none of it was fleshed out, it was all on the surface. For example, the romance between Mia and Travis. It's obvious that the two still have feeling for each other, but Mia is still holding a grudge against Travis and rightly so. And then, they run into each other a few times and voila, they are a couple again. I appreciate that Travis gave Mia an explanation about dumping her all those years ago and it really made sense and was realistic... but that was it. There was no further groveling from Travis, no working on the revelation from Mia's part - they were just back together. Same thing about Mia's estranged aunt. One or two gestures from Mia and decades of resentment and anger evaporate and the old lady is telling Mia everything. I also think the sense that nothing was happening was exacerbated by the timeline. If I read correctly, Larkspur Road spans about 3 to 4 weeks, maybe less. And I find it difficult for all these changes to happen in such a short timeline. So for me, this lack of development and events really killed the book ^_^; And it's really unfortunate, because it started out really well.

One last thing I'd like to add is I thought the whole storyline with Mia's niece was superfluous. I would have liked that storyline to not be in the book and therefore, Ms Gregory would have more time to focus on the others. It's not that it was bad, but it just didn't bring much to the book.

In the end, it's as I said earlier. Larkspur Road was not a bad book, but not a great one either.... but in the plus column, I would like to add Ms Gregory's writing :) She has a very nice style, a bit reminiscent of Jodi Thomas in the sense that it's very peaceful and I definitively will read more of her, given that her books have a bit more depth :)

My Grade? C.