I got to meet Lori Wilde at a meet-and-greet two weeks ago in my town of Granbury, the inspiration for the fictional town of Twilight, Texas, the setting for this book. Lori wrote about her visit in USA Today. I was at the opening reception, and was invited to attend the writer's workshop the next day, where Lori and her editor, Lucia Macro, spoke about "Creating a Sense of Place: Or How to Write a Community-Based Series," and writing (and getting published) romance (and other) novels in general.
One of the things they talked about in the workshop was romance tropes. A trope is "a common literary or thematic device used in storytelling." I think the reason I like the Twilight, Texas, series - besides the fact that I can see bits of Granbury in the setttings - and sometimes the minor characters - is because the trope they have in common is that of "reunion – our lovers knew each other in the past and generally had some romantic relationship back then." That's my personal romance story, too, so I can especially relate to these.
The Welcome Home Garden Club is the fourth book in the series, but you don't have to read them in order. Lori Wilde creatively weaves multiple tropes (which I've italicized) into this reunited lovers story. Caitlyn Blackthorne Marsh is the daughter of the local judge, who is rather overprotective since his wife died young. Her high school sweetheart is Gideon Garza, the illegitimate son of the richest man in town and a Hispanic maid (class warfare/wrong side of the tracks). Gideon burns down his father's barn after his mother's death (when he learned the truth about his parentage), and the judge - Caitlyn's dad - gives him a choice: join the military or go to jail. So Gideon heads for Iraq and is later reported to be dead (which turns out to be machinations of the judge - forbidden love).
Unbeknownst to Gideon, Caitlyn is pregnant with his child, Danny (secret baby). She marries another man, but is a widow when the story opens eight years later. Caitlyn owns the local flower shop and is a member of the garden club. She's asked to design a romantic victory garden for a state competition.
Gideon's father dies and he returns to his hometown to try to find some closure. He has scars from the war, both physical (an artificial hand) and emotional. This tortured hero learns he is his father's secret heir, much to the displeasure of his two half-brothers, one of whom is courting Caitlyn (love triangle).
Caitlyn becomes a woman in peril/damsel in distress when a buried bear trap badly injures her arm while she works on the victory garden, and Gideon moves in to take care of her and be her protector - and get to know his son. He's also hired to restore the historic family heirloom carousel belonging to Caitlyn that is the centerpiece of the garden (and the source of much of the angst with her father), which has been named the Welcome Home Garden to honor returning members of the military. The romance progresses from there.
I particularly enjoyed the ladies of the garden club (who are also members of the cookie, quilting, knitting, and book clubs - although there's no book about the latter--yet). Raylene, Christine, and some of the others are starting to feel like old friends, and younger main characters from the first three books in the series, Flynn, Emma, and Sarah, are now members of the club(s) too.
I also LOVED Lori Wilde opening each chapter with the traditional meaning of a particular flower, from the Victorian language of flowers, and then working that particular flower into the chapter in a way often relevant to its meaning. In an early chapter, she also associates different kinds of teas with the members of the garden club, having Caitlyn observe "how people's choice of tea seemed to reflect their personalities" (page 12).
At the meet-and-greet, Lori gave me a signed copy of her latest Twilight book, so now I have three more to read. Great series for this time of year, when I'm so busy with holiday preparations and could use some light reading.
© Amanda Pape - 2014
[The e-book, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to the public library.]