Everything is pitched just a mite too high in this first novel that was originally self-published: an Oprahratic weeper about a Florida woman's recovery from her life of ill-gotten wealth and comfort. Avery Baldwin is a successful realtor whose relationship with her Babbitish developer husband Ken Kessler hits the skids when Avery realizes how blithely Kessler Properties is trashing Florida's wetlands and wildlife habitats—and when memories of her childhood North Carolina vacations (in the hamlet of the title) tug her back to her old sweetheart Mars Marshall, who "released" Avery from loving him 30 years ago after his loutish father had sexually assaulted her and been slain, ostensibly by her best friend (Mars's daughter) Sylva, in what was then declared self-defense. This is the kind of novel in which a close friend comforts Avery as follows: "The separation may have caused your relationship with Mars to escalate out of proportion, especially in the eyes of naive teenagers and considering the intensity of first-love." Well, okay. Undaunted, Avery returns to Crowfoot Ridge for an emotional reunion with Sylva and an even more fervent one with Mars, now married (shades of Ethan Frome) to wheelchair-bound Beverly, a plucky soul who understands (everybody understands everything here) the needs of her husband's former girlfriend, and even considerately perishes, leaving Avery and Mars together. It's probably needless to say that long before the story, uh, climaxes, "Longing exploded into lust without containment and passion consumed them." And, just in case the sexual tension isn't high enough, the Marshalls own a tame parrot named "Pecker" (we—re not making this up). Danielle Steel could not have improved on the ending, in which even the acquisitive Ken (remember him?) more or less reforms, and all the loose ends of Avery's past are braided neatly together.
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