My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm having a good time reading SEP's backlist via overdrive as her ebooks don't have a monster waitlist, and I'm guaranteed a great read (versus waiting for months for a book that ends up being a dud!) It's probable that I read this in the past as it felt comfortingly familiar, yet I was still surprised at some of the twists and turns. For a 15 year-old book, this story has held up remarkably well. The story of Rachel, the penniless widow of TV evangelist who bilked thousands of people out of millions of dollars, still feels relevant today. (Of course, if SEP were writing this today, Rachel would probably be the widow of a disgraced stock broker with a ponzi scheme . . .). SEP captured Rachel's desperation and willingness to do anything to help her child really well. Rachel's son Edward isn't the usual cute comic relief kid endemic to Romantic Comedy--instead he's a prickly, shy, difficult-to-love kid, which is perfect because he makes life that much more difficult for Gabe, Rachel's reluctant boss. Gabe is a grieving widow who lost his wife and young son in a tragic car accident. I love second-chance at love stories, and what I loved about this story is that SEP didn't marginalize or minimize Gabe's love for Cherry. Had she lived, he absolutely would have been happy in a once-in-a-lifetime way, but she didn't and now Gabe has to figure out how to go forward. So often in second-chance at love stories characters realize partway through the book that they didn't *really* love the previous spouse or that they were unfulfilled or unsatisfied in some really important way. That's not the case here, and I really appreciated that--Gabe's journey is more difficult as he has to decide if it's possible to have two loves-of-a-lifetime with two vastly different women. Gabe's brothers are the most annoying thing about the book, but they add needed conflict. His brother Ethan does get a really cute secondary love story that in true SEP fashion is just as enjoyable as the main plotline. A great romance classic by a legendary author!