Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ladd Springs (Ladd Springs #1), by Dianne Venetta

BloominThyme Press, November 2013

Ladd Springs in Tennessee has been home to the Ladd family for six generations. Now, though, the property is at risk from multiple directions. Ernie Ladd, the current owner, promised his sister on her deathbed that he would leave the land to her daughter, Delaney Wilkins, and Delaney's daughter Felicity--but Ernie can't forgive Delaney for having married the son of an old rival, even though the marriage did not survive. Hotel developer Nick Harris wants to buy the property for the latest addition to his hotel chain. Neighbor Clem Sweeney is taking advantage of Ernie's loneliness and sense of isolation--and has found a secret in the forest that, if he doesn't get caught, will make him rich.

And Ernie, even though he has plenty of money to do so, hasn't paid the property taxes in three years. If he doesn't do so soon, Nick--who is willing to pay a fair price and make provisions for the family in the deal--will wind up buying the property for back taxes.

The conflicts among the family spiral even further out of control when Delaney finds armed men trespassing on the Ladd property, seemingly having found something very, very interesting about a boulder in the woods.

The family and personal conflicts here are beautifully developed. Delaney's love for the land, Ernie's resentments and regrets, Nick's  vision of "Serenity Springs," and Clem's jealousy and greed are all palpably real. We get a gradual unfolding of the sometimes painful family history, as well as Nick's background, experience, and dreams.

It's a thoroughly enjoyable novel. Recommended.