With this historical romance, the prolific Garlock (Take Me Home, 2014, etc.) again uses midcentury, small-town America as her backdrop for a gentle tale of love lost and found.
Widowed during World War II, Clara Sinclair remains alone in 1954. She supports both her mother, who suffers from increasing memory loss, and her son, Tommy, now a surly teenager. After a string of bad luck, Clara is nearing a breaking point. Then racer Drake drives into town, with his mechanic and friend, Amos. Drake exhibits low-key chivalry from his first encounter with Clara, and the attraction between the two blossoms quickly. Both characters show maturity in every scene—she is 35, he is 42—skipping past coy meet-cutes and neatly avoiding the big misunderstandings that romances so often rely on. Here, the threats to their happiness are external: the two-bit femme fatale, the two-bit fat cat, and the two-bit criminal, each harboring a reason to pull the lovers apart. All are cartoonishly grandiose in their self-importance. No one would bet on their ability to defeat the power of love, and yet a series of dramatic scenes allows every villain a unique chance against the new couple. Though slow starting, the novel hits all the expected romance buttons, from the first kiss to the happily-ever-after. Yet Garlock is an accomplished enough writer that it doesn’t matter. The charm is in the telling, with historical details and light touches to make the town of Sunset, Missouri, seem real, not idealized.
A feel-good love story that comforts rather than challenges. Garlock excels at creating an experience her readers want, one that’s still heartwarming no matter how many times they've seen it.