In Cronk’s inspirational debut novel, a woman moves back to her old hometown to pursue a dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast inn.
Samantha Jarrett is still healing from the recent death of her husband, Roger, when she loses her job as an executive assistant at a small college in Ohio. She returns to her hometown of Freedom, Ind., where she and Roger had once wondered what it would be like to run an inn. To that end, Sam wants to purchase the old Foster house, a prized historic home where elderly June Foster lives; Foster’s family owned a prominent food business in town. More than a few folks in Freedom covet the house, but Mrs. Foster chooses Sam to be the new owner. Sam soon moves in to renovate the place she calls Sweetland of Liberty, but she’s unknowingly made an enemy of her former classmate Ellen Madison, a scion of one of Freedom’s oldest families, who wanted the home for herself. Ellen plots to have the B&B shut down and send Sam packing for Ohio, but she doesn’t know that Sam also relies on her faith in God to help keep the business alive. Cronk’s prose is simple and straightforward (“Sam daydreamed about what life might be like a year or two from now when surely everything had smoothed into a calm routine, and she had a chance, at last, to relax on her own porch, in her own life”), and Sam is a sympathetic heroine, whether she’s getting grief from city fathers over a sign ordinance or baking granola for her guests at midnight. Ellen is a fine villain, and her scenes crackle with tension. The short, snappy chapters will keep readers turning pages, and a climactic courtroom scene offers several surprises. In fact, the author hits such a high note with the scene that it’s a letdown that the book doesn’t end there; it’s as if the story is traveling 100 miles an hour and suddenly hits the brakes to coast. This is a small quibble, however, in a terrific debut, which also includes a separate list of the recipes mentioned in the story.
A lovely Midwestern tale that’s as cozy and charming as a B&B.