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. . .
Lacy had looked at half a dozen semi-depressing places that afternoon before meeting with Mrs. P. She saw duplexes with linoleum floors that looked as if someone had been flamenco dancing in football cleats on the them. Big dogs were invariably chained in the neighbors’ backyards. This apartment was miles better than those and besides, this place spoke to her.
“I’ll take it.”
“Good.” Mrs. Paderewski smiled. A bit of her bloodred lipstick had smeared on her upper incisors, making her look like a middle-aged Polish vampire. “Oh, I almost forget. Is $25 pet rent, too.”
“I don’t have a pet.”
“Well”-Mrs. P. waddled back to the kitchen-“now you do.”
She followed as the piano teacher opened a door next to the refrigerator. Lacy had thought it was probably a pantry, but to her delight, the small space housed a stackable washer and dryer.
And a litter box.
A large Siamese glared down at her from the top of the dryer. How the cat had gotten all the way up there, Lacy had no idea. It yowled a greeting, which might be roughly translated as “Get your citified butt out of my apartment. I was here first.” The cry was punctuated by a sharp hiss.
Lacy stepped back a pace. “I don’t want a cat.”
“You want apartment?”
“Then you want cat,” Mrs. P. said, folding her arms over her ample bosom. “Is package deal.”
“What if I’m allergic?”
“Are you?” Mrs. Paderewski arched a pencil-thin brow at her.
Lacy’s dad always recommended the truth. “It’s easier,” he’d say. “We forget lies. Tell the truth and you don’t have to remember what you told someone.”
“No, I’m not allergic,” she admitted.
“Well, there you go. Is settled.”
“But I can’t have a cat. I’ve never had a cat.”
It was a bit like being Republican or Democrat. Either you were a dog person or a cat person. Lacy’s family was filled with dog people.
Lacy looked around the apartment. It was charming, clean, and since it was located on the Town Square, she could indulge in the fantasy that she was still living in the thick of things like she had in her Boston loft. Everything else about the place was perfect.
How bad could a cat be?
She counted out her deposit and the first month’s rent in crisp Benjamins. “What’s the cat’s name?”
“Don’t know. Last tenant called her ‘eff-ing cat.’ Is not nice.” Mrs. Paderewski tucked the money into her cleavage. […] “So I call Effie. Is nice name. She like.”
“Effie,” Lacy repeated as Mrs. P. made good her escape.
The cat growled menacingly. What Effie would really like was to be left alone.
“You and me both, cat,” Lacy told her. “You and me both.”
Lexi Eddings is a new-to-me author, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. What I discovered was a story with character, humour, romance, a bit of suspense, and a wonderful theme of forgiveness and second chances – although I did have one or two reservations, which I’ll get to later. Most of all, I loved the eponymous Coldwater Warm Hearts Club: a group formed by Coldwater residents who are committed to performing acts of kindness for people who are unable or unlikely to return the favour. They don’t enter the novel until almost halfway through, but the way in which they help Lester, the homeless Vietnam vet, was one of the highlights of the novel for me.
Lacy has pretty much hit rock bottom at the beginning of the novel – although she still manages to approach life with a certain amount of self-deprecating humour. Not only has she lost everything she had built up in Boston, but she’s had to take out a considerable loan from the O’Leary brothers in order to avoid facing jail time. Unfortunately they’re, um, *ahem* not the sort of lenders who accept payment by check (if you know what I mean).
But Lacy’s not the only one in Coldwater plagued by her past, and there are three other characters whose struggles form part of the story line in one form or another:
The first is Jake Tyler –a charmer with a devastating dimple and a megawatt smile, now owner of the Green Apple Grill. He had a reputation in high school as a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” kind of guy, but losing part of your leg and most of your unit in Afghanistan has a way of changing a guy’s perspective on life. It can also linger in the form of PTSD, something he’s trying to deal with quietly, by himself; not always successfully.
The second is Daniel Scott, the guy who was Lacy’s boyfriend for one breathless summer before she left for Boston. He has a ring on his left hand, but he’s also made a grave mistake – one that cost him his home and may have cost him his family as well.
And then there’s Lester, the homeless vet who’d rather be on the streets and free to imbibe than at the Samaritan House where the price of a bed is sobriety. But Jake has a bit of a soft spot for a fellow vet, and with his encouragement, the Coldwater Warm Hearts Club band together to help give Lester the second chance he needs.
As Lacy becomes involved in the lives of Coldwater’s residents, she begins to realise that the real problem with her life in Boston was that she was too busy investing in things rather than people; she had acquaintances, colleagues, and associates, but no real friends. Lacy gets her own opportunity to practise putting others first, but warm fuzzies still won’t solve her cash problem…
I loved the small-town warmth and quirks, the humour, and the theme of second chances, but there were two little things that didn’t sit so well with me. Although this isn’t a Christian romance, Jake makes reference to having ‘found faith’; and yet he occasionally indicated a willingness, even a desire, to ‘go to bed’ with Lacy. He makes it clear (to the reader) that he’s in it for the long haul now – and for more than just sex – but it was Lacy (a non-believer) who recognised that allowing that intimacy would give him a part of her heart she would never get back, and drew the line. (And good for her, I say!)
The other thing I wasn’t keen on was Jake’s dismissive attitude towards his previous marriage, or the idea that Daniel Scott would be fair game if the ring came off his finger. Thankfully, the concern I had about the direction Daniel’s story was going to take wasn’t realised, but his story also felt disconnected from the rest of the novel. It took centre stage for only two or three scenes, with him as the point-of-view character, and then kind of dropped out, although he still plays a role in other aspects of the story as a secondary character. I couldn’t help wondering whether his story would have been better off as a separate novella (which would allow room for a little more development, too).
In spite of those reservations, this was an enjoyable read on the whole, and I’ll be interested to see what comes next in the series, when Lacy’s absent brother returns home.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 27 September 2016
Author’s website: http://lexieddings.blogspot.com.au/p/mainpage.html