New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sharon Sala brings new meaning to family in her small-town Southern romance No one is alone Dori Grant is no stranger to hardship. As a young single mother in the gossip-fueled town of Blessings, Georgia, she's weathered the storm of small-town disapproval most of her life. But when Dori loses everything within the span of an evening, she realizes she has no choice but to turn to her neighbors. As long as there is love to give Everyone says the Pine boys are no good, but Johnny Pine has been proving the gossips wrong ever since his mother died and he took over raising his brothers. His heart goes out to the young mother and child abandoned by the good people of Blessings. Maybe he can be the one to change all that...
Oh my gosh, I loved this. I was a bit confused to begin with. The cover is very contemporary, but when I started reading I thought this might be a book from the 50's. The characters' speech patterns are "redneck" for sure. Once I got into the flow of the dialog, I never looked back and didn't even notice it anymore. I'd be reading and would suddenly realize that I had tears running down my cheeks. Then I'd be laughing...then more tears. This was what a good read should be. I was rooting for Dori and the Pine boys from the beginning.
Dori has a young son (Luther Joe) and lives with her grandfather. Johnny is raising his two young brothers (Marshall and Beep) after their dad went to jail and their mother died. Both of them have had a hard life, but they are working to keep their families together and growing strong.
A horrible tragedy one night leaves Dori and Luther Joe with no place to go. The neighbors walk away, leaving her in shock. Johnny steps up and invites her and the little guy into his home. Those neighbors who said they'd pray for her, well, they think this means that he's the father to the baby and tongues start wagging even harder than they did prior.
As a reader, you know something is up with Dori's past. And it was as bad as I thought it was going to be. But Dori is a survivor and she intends to make her life with the baby a good one. I loved her spirit.
One of the first times tears came to my eyes is when Beep, Johnny's seven-year-old brother gets beat up. Trust me, you will cry, too. And then Beep will mention his great dislike of raisins and you might just laugh!
All the characters need each other for different reasons, and I loved them. Ruby Dye, the owner of the Curl up and Dye beauty shop, is going to be the thread that keeps this series going. And I loved her, too.
Ms. Sala nails small town living. She understands there are good and bad people everywhere. The good ones come out and HELP when a neighbor needs a hand and they don't even ask if they should do so. The bad ones? Well, in this book all the bad ones get what's coming to them. And I laughed out loud at some of the paybacks for them.
This book was a joy to read. The romance was sweet. Justice was served. And I want more. We are left with a hint as to who the next story will be about when Ruby sees someone getting off the bus in front of her shop. I can hardly wait.
*Thank you, Sourcebooks and NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this book.
Interview with Ms. Sala:
I had the pleasure of asking Ms. Sala a couple questions recently. She's a joy, that's for sure:
Where do your characters come from? People you meet?
Oh, I suppose there is a subconscious aspect of someone I might know to almost any character I create, but remember... I dream the stories, so I always consider them people I know from my dreams.
Have you lived in Georgia? You seem to have nailed the small town feel.
Never lived outside of Oklahoma but I grew up a farmer's daughter, lived five miles from a tiny town, population five hundred counting dogs and skunks, and rode a school bus to school and back. I knew every person in that town and they knew me, my family, and how many chickens my grandmother was raising. There were no secrets in that town and people were nosy as all get out, but when the chips were down they were the first people on your doorstep with a hug, a hot pie and a prayer for your well-being. I live in a city now, but the old saying is true... you can take a girl out of a small town, but you will never take the small town out of the girl.
Who will be featured in the next book in this series?
All I can say at this point is that the hero is a returning veteran from the current war. He has lost himself and left everything he believed in in the blood and sand of a country on the other side of the world. He's coming back to the only place he was ever truly happy as a child in the hopes of saving himself and his sanity.
Sharon Sala, who has also written under the name Dinah McCall, has 85-plus books in print, published in four different genres-Romance, Young Adult, Western, and Women's Fiction, and her Young Adult books have been optioned for film. She has been named a RITA finalist seven times by Romance Writers of America, and in 2011 they named her the recipient of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her books are New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly bestsellers and published in many different languages. She lives in Oklahoma, the state where she was born.
“Nothing means a damn thing if I don’t have my baby.”
“And now we get to my suggestion. Do you like Johnny Pine?”
“Yes, of course. He’s been wonderful to us.”
“No, I mean, could you like him as relationship material?”
“That possibility exists,” she said.
“Good. Now let me talk to Johnny.”
She handed the phone back to Johnny.
“Now he wants to talk to you.”
She took the baby and Johnny took the phone.
“I have a suggestion that could bring an end to your troubles.”
“Do you like Dori?”
“Well, sure. She’s great.”
“Do you like her enough to consider a personal relationship with her?”
Johnny looked at Dori, then cupped her face and ran his thumb down the side of her jaw.
“Yes, I like her enough to consider a personal relationship.”
Dori shivered beneath his touch as she realized Butterman was asking Johnny the same question he’d asked her.
“Put the phone on speaker,” Butterman said.
“Just a minute,” Johnny said and then pressed a button. “Okay, you’re on speaker now.”
“Here’s the deal,” Butterman said. “You two are very young to have such adult responsibilities. You’re both trying to take care of your families on your own, and now DFCS has their nose in your business and is threatening you with removing the children from your custody, right?”
“Right,” they said.
“So this would end tomorrow if you were married.”
Johnny took a quick breath, started to speak, and then found himself staring at Dori instead, waiting for her reaction.
Dori already knew Johnny cared for her because he’d told her. What he didn’t know was that she was very attracted to him.
“Well? Did both of you faint or what?” Butterman asked.
“I’m game if she is,” Johnny said.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep our boys,” Dori said.
Butterman chuckled. “Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. If it were me, I wouldn’t waste any time. Go get the license and find a preacher, and your trouble with Miss Carter is a thing of the past. I assume I am invited to the wedding.”