In the concluding volume of Edwards’ (The Changeable Child, 2013) trilogy, a newly divorced mom returns to Berger, Missouri, handling fortune, revelations, and romance.
Jeanne Marie Dingle O’Connell, 26, is astounded to hear from mother-in-law June O’Connell that Jeanne’s soon-to-be-ex-husband, Jake, philandering son of a wealthy St. Louis–area family, misrepresented Jeanne as a fortune hunter throughout their marriage. Recently discovering this deception, June, now dying, says that Jeanne, mother of young twin sons and a daughter, will receive a significant portion of her estate. The novel then jumps to Jeanne in Berger. She has just bought her childhood farm and now sets in motion a philanthropy project—funded by the foundation established with June’s legacy—to foster business and the arts in this small town. She also reconnects with various relatives and townsfolk, including Sean McAdams, who had been a few years ahead of her in school and, among other entrepreneurial activities, is now serving as her farm manager and temporarily living in the farm’s guest apartment. Jeanne strives to keep the extent of her fortune secret and also holds back her attraction to Sean, particularly challenging given his wonderful way with her children. She enjoys several annual town events, learns from her mom the truth about her own parentage, and finally, by novel’s end, overcomes her wariness to embrace a new life of love and commitment. While it’s enjoyable to see unlucky-in-love Jeanne go home again with fortune in hand and find a much better (if rather too good to be true) lover to boot, Edwards often gets bogged down in conveying past and present character back stories (some seeming like reviews from past books) via rather lengthy expository conversations. Potentially dramatic scenes, including Jake’s reappearance, largely take place off stage and are merely anticipated and/or recounted later. Jeanne’s mom also detonates the parentage bombshell without much warning or development. Nevertheless, Edwards still serves up some appealing small-town charm and romance within this at-times oddly crafted tale of escapist fiction.
A fairy tale wrap-up to a small-town series.