Blackberry Summer, Hope’s Crossing series, Book 1

Author: RaeAnne Thayne

Publisher: HQN Books

Release Date: June 2011

Blue Ribbon Rating: 5

Format: PRINT

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Since her divorce two years ago, Claire Bradford's life hasn't been easy, but nothing prepares her for the events that follow a break-in at her bead store.  Especially when her best friend's younger brother returns to their hometown in Colorado as their new police chief -- much too gorgeous and sexy for his own good, let alone hers.  Chief Riley McKnight stirs something deep inside of Claire that has been ignored while she has dealt with her two children, a dog, an ex-husband and his new pregnant wife, in addition to a mother too unbelievable to disregard.

Riley McKnight jumps at the chance to replace the retiring police chief in his hometown.  He needs a change from undercover work and the stress of a big city.  Not that he's sure he will stay, which is why he told Hope's Crossing he'd give them two months to see if it would work out.  Little did he know that everything he had anticipated would be shattered by one snowy night and the actions of others, not to mention the allure of his childhood crush, Claire Bradford.
Eager to solve the recent burglaries, Chief McKnight follows up on a call of a suspected break-in at one of the homes.  The mayor's son and several other teenagers race away in their pickup from the home they had probably broken into, and Riley gives chase.  The road is too treacherous, snow-covered and curvy, so Riley slows down when he sees an oncoming car.  But the mayor's son increases his speed to get away, and the oncoming car goes over the side of the road into the reservoir below while trying to avoid a collision.
Claire and her children are in the car that went into the reservoir.  They're injured, and Riley races against time to get them safely out of the vehicle.  Meanwhile, the runaway pickup crashes, along with the hopes and dreams of many, when these two terrible accidents propel the emotional upheaval that follows.
Riley and Claire work through it all with family and friends, as well as exploring their feelings for one another.  It's not easy overcoming emotional obstacles in a small town, especially when your past affects your present and the future emerges without optimism, until the "Angel of Hope" reminds them all what's really important.
Can Hope's Crossing live up to its name and rebuild not just the businesses that were burglarized but the many lives affected by the choices made by a few?
The characters in BLACKBERRY SUMMER touched me deeply.  Claire is a self-sacrificing mother who takes care of everyone and everything, forgetting her own needs every step of the way.  Riley is a returning town bad boy, charming and irresistible while being evasive and self-deprecating.  Riley's character growth was the most intriguing because although it seemed natural, it was sometimes painful to see him become the man he needed to be for Claire.  Claire developed too, but there were moments when I wasn't really sure if Riley would realize his potential in time.  This and more increased the emotional captivation that catapulted me as a reader toward the end, still hoping they'd find a way around every obstacle. The well-rendered secondary characters added depth and conflict to an already impressive characterization.
From the moment I started reading this novel, I knew I had found summer bliss.  RaeAnne Thayne's writing is vividly enticing, pushing the plot forward while making you feel personally invested in the lives of her characters.  BLACKBERRY SUMMER is so warm and endearing with a genuine charm, realistically portrayed by an author who knows how to engage your heartstrings from chapter to chapter until the emotional end.  BLACKBERRY SUMMER is, by far, one of my favorite contemporaries, including its lovely message that's impeccably delivered, guaranteeing it Romance Junkies' five blue ribbon rating and more.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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