Dugan's THE SWEETHEART DEAL was so emotional that at times I felt wrung out and had to step away. There were tears and sobs but also smiles and a little laughter. Leo died too young from a freak accident. Along the way there were the what ifs? from his wife as well as her anger and despair. She tried to hold herself and her family of three boys together the best she could and did a fairly fine job of it. Family friend, Garrett, who had not seen the family in many years, came to help out and at times seemed to overstay his welcome. When not working on the addition that Leo had started and didn't get to finish, he was becoming friends with Kevin, one of the firefighters as well as being there for Leo's three sons. It sometimes felt awkward but most of the time just felt right. The feelings that Audrey and Garrett had for each other could have been a result of their grief, Garrett's promise to Leo many years ago - which blew up in his face in more than one way, or the need for a male role model for the boys. To me it seemed real and touching but the need for them to both discuss it with outsiders felt wrong to me. I liked the way both Audrey and Garrett handled Gannon and his dad since Gannon was causing her son, Andrew, a lot of grief but no one else seemed to see it even at school. There were nice family moments and also those when you could tell they needed space. Chris as the oldest had his teenage moments and some that were unthinkable to me. There was a lot of swearing going on which didn't sit right. Adults used swear words to the kids or other adults and kids used them with each other and the adults.
There were family and friends, secrets, memories and reminisces, lives changed, hurts, anger, highly charged emotions as well as some normalcy or what would be their new normal. There were a few loose ends and an abrupt end to the story. While there could be a happily ever after in the offing we don't know that for sure. An epilogue would have been nice to give better closure and give us a little better idea of the future.
Dugan is a new to me author and I hope she pens many more books in the future especially if this is her caliber of writing.