Saturday, November 3, 2018

An Unexpected Christmas in Sampson's Quarry (Sampson's Quarry #4), by Sophie Tucker

Lirios Publishing, November 2018

First off, this book, despite being number four in a series, really does work as a standalone.

Second, the dog does not die. In fact, the dog is just fine, all the way through.

Nancy Redmond has a lovely Christmas planned--in Colorado with her college roommate, not in Europe with her parents. She knows her car needs to see the local mechanic--an old high school classmate--as soon as possible, but right now, it only has to get her to the airport, with one stop on the way for a quick visit with one of her real estate clients.

Instead, of course, the car dies while she's at the client's house. The client isn't there, because a family emergency kept them from making it to their vacation home, and their message was sent while she was busy. She doesn't see it till she's there, and stuck.

And she forgot to charge her phone, and it's dying now.

Conor Galloway, the local mechanic, does get a call from one of Nancy's employees, who was alarmed by the call Nancy made, that got cut off.

So he arrives with his truck and his tools, and then the big storm moves in...

Yes, it's a cliche. But it's a cliche that is carried out very well, and very satisfyingly. Nancy's family is tiny (just her parents and her), snobbish (to her dismay), and cold. Conor's family is large, loving, supportive, close.

Very close.

Sometimes, with the best of intentions, a bit smothering.

They find themselves trapped at the very comfortable vacation cottage. They have food because Conor had one last charity meal to deliver to a financially struggling family--something he does every year--that turned out not to be home, with a strange note on the door. He still has that meal in his truck when he gets the call that Nancy and her car need him. The road is flooded, the airport is closed so Nancy couldn't leave on her Christmas trip even if she could get there, and it turns out her college roommate broke her leg and won't be able to go, either.

It's just Nancy and Conor, the dog he found on his way there, and the mysterious sounds they hear in the parts of the house they don't happen to be in.

On the one hand, quite cozy.

On the other hand, it's getting harder and hard to believe that these are just house-settling noises, especially when they hear singing, or the shower running.

The mystery in this story is small, and blessedly non-threatening, but the story and the characters are warm and satisfying. Nancy and Conor are both smart, capable, decent people, who each need a little push to step out, recognize their strengths, and go for what they really want.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher, and I am reviewing it voluntarily.