On Lavender Lane - A Shelter Bay Novel, Book 3

Author: JoAnn Ross

Publisher: Signet

Release Date: January 3, 2012

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4

Format: PRINT

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Celebrity Chef Madeline "Maddy" Durand travels frequently to promote her line of cookware, in addition to hosting two culinary shows on television.  Married to French chef and restaurateur Maxime, one would think Madeline's life was a veritable dream.  She might have thought so too...until the day the audience in her cooking demonstration discovers her cheating husband's sex video on their iPhones.  Embarrassed and overwhelmed, Maddy can think of nothing more than getting far away from her husband and New York as soon as possible.

Navy SEAL Lucas Chaffee had looked forward to a new start after active duty in Afghanistan.  He and his father had planned to start a home restoration business along the West Coast.  Before they could get their new business off the ground, Lucas found himself burying his father at sea, wondering what he would do now after the loss of this man he loved deeply.  Shelter Bay had good memories as well as great friends, so he stayed on while contemplating what to do next.

That's how the former lovers, Lucas and Maddy, land back in Shelter Bay at the same time.  Maddy comes home to her grandmother's herb farm.  Lucas takes on a remodeling project for Maddy's grandmother.  Will these former lovers get over their individual situations and joint painful past, plus discover a way to regain fulfilled lives with each other's support?

ON LAVENDER LANE is a reunited lovers romance, but it also contains the recognizable qualities of woman's fiction, including multiple story arcs.  In the beginning, there's more than one point of view, which can be confusing at first.  If you read mainstream fiction as well as romance, you won't mind how the story arcs stop and start.  I always want to skip ahead when this happens, so I think it really depends on the type of reader you are.  If you've read books one and two of the SHELTER BAY series, you'll enjoy familiar characters and have an advantage over those of us jumping in at book three.  ON LAVENDER LANE fulfilled my need to try something different and if you're considering this series like I was, I feel it's stand-alone enough to do so out of order.

I really enjoyed the cooking theme of this novel as well as the emphasis on sustainability.  It was a happy coincidence that my renewed interest in organic choices in my own kitchen coincided with requesting this ARC to review.  As an avid foodie, exploring varied aspects of the food industry throughout the book made me feel comfy-right-at-home.  A glass of wine or some herbal tea at hand completed my reading experience throughout the book.

I appreciated JoAnn Ross' knowledge that made the ecological sub-theme believable and accurate, but it was the ease in which every bit of it went so well with the characters' motivations that impressed me most.  The culinary detail within ON LAVENDER LANE sets the rhythm of the book so that you can smell, taste and feel what the characters experience.  This enhances a book based on a food theme in my opinion.

Shelter Bay seems like the ideal place to take a vacation—and to actually live there?  Simply sublime.  It's the small town feel melding with the sophistication of uptown ideas that creates a place which is quaint and classy at the same time.  It's also the kind of place where neighbors find support when times are tough.  Throw a couple Marines and SEALs into the mix and some of you may never want to go home. 

I really love it when an author makes the ambience of a location seem like a secondary character.  Sort of like a Gothic in reverse, where the location is pushing the inhabitants toward better living—ecologically, physically and emotionally.  It's a positive and responsible subliminal message pulsing beneath the plot.  Very motivating!

At four hundred pages, ON LAVENDER LANE will take you on a journey that starts off with embarrassment and sorrow and then begins to mend steadily, weaving in and out of several storylines.  Maddy and Lucas could have easily been crushed by their past, combined as well as individual, so the positive manner in which they face their fears and push forward make ON LAVENDER LANE an uplifting novel.  I think everyone will enjoy this book for different reasons, but you'll find it especially appealing if you have fond memories of the healing properties of good food and conversation in the cozy comfort of your grandmother's kitchen.  Bon Appétit!

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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