Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Saving Laurel Springs

A book review with a little help from the cats.

Spoiler Alert: Lin Stepp’s new novel, Saving Laurel Springs, ends happily. However, quite a few twists and turns and misfortunes surprises happen before the happy ending arrives. A few are predictable, but some are completely unexpected—and that’s part of why this Smoky Mountain romance/mystery is such an enjoyable read.

Published by Kensington and set to release in late September, 2015, Saving Laurel Springs is one of Stepp’s several novels set in the Smoky Mountains. As Dolly Parton said about the book: “I've finally come across someone that believes in all the things that I do . . . love, family, faith, intrigue, mystery, loyalty, romance, and a great love for our beloved Smoky Mountains.” Saving Laurel Springs has all that and more.

Because I’m a fan of Appalachian literature and country life, I figured I’d like the book. I did. (I think the cats did too.)

Tanner: "I can read it in my box."

Main characters Rhea Dean and Carter Layman, whose families own the now-rundown Laurel Springs Camp Assembly Ground, were childhood friends and high school sweethearts. They had plans to marry and restore the old campground to attract more tourists. Here’s a map of the campground:

But life intervened. Carter went to college in California, and Rhea planned to attend a college in a nearby town. But Rhea’s father had a heart attack, so she was needed at home to help out. When he died, she had to spend more time running the campground.

Meanwhile college-student Carter created a video game and was hired by a big company.  He couldn’t come home during the summer because he needed to stay in California for the game’s development. He married the boss’s daughter and they soon had a son. And he became wealthy. Rhea felt betrayed and could not forgive Carter. She never married.

The novel opens nine years after Carter left.  Rhea’s friend and fellow camp-worker tells Rhea she heard that Carter is coming home for a vacation. When he appears on a tour Rhea is conducting, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. Despite his several attempts to woo her back, Rhea remains cold to him. She’s even dating one of his high school rivals.

Besides the stress of having Carter around, Rheas is dismayed that some of the cabins are being vandalized at night, and Carter is attacked in the dark while he’s near one. It appears that someone is looking for something—but what, and why?

Carter, meanwhile, sets about restoring the cabins, the chapel, and other aspects of the camp. While Rhea is grateful, she can’t bring herself to forgive him, even though both their families are urging the two to reconcile. Without Rhea’s knowledge, Carter begins work on the house he and Rhea had planned many years ago to build. Carter’s precocious son loves the area, his grandparents, and Rhea. He thinks his dad should marry Rhea, and Carter thinks so, too. But Rhea can’t forget how Carter abandoned her.

Jim-Bob: "Don't worry. I won't let the cat out of the bag about what happens."

Some surprising events and revelations occur, but it would indeed be a spoiler if I told you. I’ll only tell you that Carter and Rhea both reveal reasons for their actions so long ago, and Carter makes plans for himself and his son to return to California. But then—well, the story has a happy ending. Finding out what it is and how Carter and Rhea got there is part of the enjoyment of this book.

Chloe: "I think this book's the cat's pajamas."

Saving Laurel Springs is rich in small town values, a sense of place, and the importance of family. If you’re looking for a story that’s truly “heartwarming,” this is it.

Saving Laurel Springs is available for pre-order on Amazon at a price that’s hard to resist. 

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