LaVyrle Spencer’s Family Blessings is an older woman/younger man romance, which is the reason I picked it up. There aren’t many romance heroines in their 40s, and I’d already read Ms. Spencer’s other May-December pairing, Years, so I looked forward to this story. Although it has its flaws, it was ultimately a warm and satisfying read.
Police officer Christopher Lallek discovers his roommate, Greg Reston, has been killed in a traffic accident. Not only was Greg another cop, they were good friends. Christopher breaks the news to Greg’s family, starting with his mother, Lee.
Lee Reston, a hardworking florist, raised three children more or less alone after her husband’s death, so she’s used to being the linchpin of her family. But the shock of Greg’s accident is so devastating that she finds herself relying on Christopher in their shared grief. He makes the necessary calls, listens to anything she needs to share, and as the days pass, he does the chores around the house that Greg once did. At thirty, he’s not much older than her own son was, so her family – including her daughter Janice, who returns from college for the funeral and who’s always had a crush on Christopher – assumes he’s becoming a substitute child for Lee.
Except this isn’t the case. Christopher has always admired Lee’s strength, and he’s grateful that she treats him like one of her family. But when friends set him up on a date, the good-night kiss makes him think of Lee instead. And Lee, who invites Christopher to get-togethers and celebrations, finds that hugging him – or even accidentally brushing his arm with hers – feels strange in a way that’s familiar and yet isn’t.
Despite the steamy scenes later on, this is a slow-burn romance, partly because it begins with a tragedy, and partly because of the characters involved. Lee and Christopher don’t have any differences stemming from their personalities; they’re both kind, loving and reliable. The fifteen-year age gap is not in and of itself a problem, because Christopher is so mature that he’s more like one of Lee’s peers. The only obstacles to their relationship are Lee’s worry about what her mother will say, and Janice’s crush on Christopher.
It was anticipation of Janice’s reaction which made me keep reading through the later pleasant scenes of Christopher and Lee getting along fine. At least Janice wouldn’t be either predictable or accepting when she found out, and I did like the fact that although Janice is younger and more beautiful, Christopher prefers Lee.
I also enjoyed the descriptions of family life, especially the food and flowers. There’s an authentic feel to all this, a richly detailed background that smells of fresh hyacinths and pies straight out the oven. Slow-paced, yes, but that’s part of the story’s charm, and although there were moments when my attention wandered, it always found its way back home. I recommend Family Blessings to readers who enjoy quiet but heartwarming stories about two ordinary people who find an unexpected happiness together.