Sunday, October 11, 2015

Home for Christmas (Sanctuary Island #4), by Lily Everett

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250074041, October 2015

It's October, and the Christmas romance titles are coming fast and furious now. This is a good one.

Libby Leeds "America's Favorite Cook," has a popular column in Savor magazine, about her life and adventures as a traditional homemaker on Sanctuary Island, off the coast of Virginia. It's cheerful and heartwarming, and unfortunately, complete fantasy. Libby spent part of her childhood there, but when her parents were killed in a car crash, Libby was sent to live with her Uncle Ray, in New York City. Ray and his father, Libby's grandfather, Dabney Leeds, have been estranged for decades, and it's the last Libby sees of Sanctuary Island.

But now her boss, Savor publisher Hugo Downing, has a Clever Plan, and he's acted on it before he tells Libby. Libby and her family, he informs her, have invited America's current favorite war hero, Army Ranger Sergeant Owen Shepard, to spend Christmas with them at their home on Sanctuary Island. The invitation includes the sergeant's young daughter, Caitlin, currently living with his sister Andie--the island's sheriff.

When she confesses the truth to her boss, he threatens not only to fire her, but to sue her for fraud. And since Ray is now in an expensive assisted living facility, suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, it's not just her own future that's at stake. Libby has to find a way to make this Christmas dinner happen.

And that means calling her grandfather for the first time in twenty years.

Her grandfather is surprisingly willing to help--indeed, to take over. She even finds, on arrival, that he has designated her cousin, Nash Tucker, whom she also hasn't seen since going to live with Ray, to pose as her husband.

Somewhat inconveniently, Libby and Owen Shepard have met on the ferry ride to the island, and charmed each other. Also, Nash is in love with Ivy Dawson, dispatcher for the sheriff's department and Andie Shepard's best friend.

This is a set-up that has so much potential to go wrong, producing a cringe-worthy story, but Everett handles it wonderfully. The secrets and lies create problems, but never because two putative adults refuse to talk to each other when they should, or because they leap to conclusions when they discover a withheld or confusing fact. Libby and Owen are both solid, sensible people who remind themselves there's lots they don't know about each other, taht there are probably reasons for their actions, whether good or bad.

We have likable, attractive, mature adults dealing with real conflicts and working through them. This includes Owen learning how to connect with the daughter whom he has in fact never met before, and who has good reason to feel insecure and suspicious. It also includes Libby pushing to find the real reasons behind the estrangement between her uncle and her grandfather.

These are real adults engaged in being decent people and trying to repair the damage done by past mistakes. It's a wonderful, warm story for the holiday.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.