Half Moon Hill
Toni Blake is back with an excellent final addition to her small town contemporary romance series with Half Moon Hill. This time, Destiny serves as the background for a budding romance between two outsiders, Anna and Duke. Readers were introduced to Anna Romo in Toni Blake’s last installment in the Destiny series, Willow Springs. From her appearance in Amy and Logan’s story, I expected to really dislike her, because she came between Amy and Logan in that book. However, Blake manages to create sympathy for the character that humanizes her. Although I never would have thought it before reading the book, Half Moon Hill has become one of my favorites of the Destiny series. Blake wrote the perfect love story to finish the series off.
Anna is the long lost sister of Mike and Lucky Romo, who have each featured in their own Destiny novel. As a child, Anna was kidnapped by a woman who raised her as her own child. She never knew about her biological family until her “other-mother’s” death. Once she found out, she came home to destiny to get to know her real family. In Willow Springs, we saw Anna as an overly confident, carefree girl who attracted all the guys in town. In this book, we see that this is the persona Anna put on to in order to deal with the shock of losing her “mother” and discovering a life she didn’t remember. Half Moon Hill finds her a year later, living in a Victorian fixer-upper home outside of town. She is settling into life in Destiny and hopes to remodel the home to open a bed and breakfast.
Duke Dawson is a biker who used to be part of an outlaw gang with Anna’s brother. Now he has come to Destiny to hide out in the cabin in Anna’s woods and recover from the death of a friend. All Duke wants is to be left alone, but a chance encounter with Anna may be too tempting to refuse. Duke agrees to help Anna with redoing the old home and it doesn’t take long for the sparks between them to combust.
The pair starts a “no-strings” relationship while working on the house, and Duke makes Anna promise not to tell her brother or anyone else that he is in town. As their affair continues, Anna begins to develop real feelings for Duke. However, her attempts to reach out to him or take their relationship further are met with his withdrawal or denial. In spite of Duke’s attempts to remain reserved, we can see him slowly open up to Anna and consider returning to normal life. Although some conflict between the two does hinge on a “big misunderstanding” with another guy, the emotion is palpable and well written. I enjoyed every step of their budding relationship from the steamy sex scenes to some real tear jerker moments. I really loved Duke. He had heavy emotional baggage, and Anna really had to work to open him up – even though she risked getting hurt herself.
In addition to the main story, there is a subplot featuring the diary of a young girl named Cathy that Anna found in her attic. As a teen living in the big house on Half Moon Hill, Cathy fell in love with a man named Robert who worked for her family. Her father disapproved of the arrangement and forbade Cathy and Robert to be together. The story mirrors the relationship between Anna and Duke in many ways. One issue I had with this addition to the book was that, at times, the similarities between the two couples were too heavy handed. Duke and Robert both live in the cabin in the woods. Anna and Cathy both live in the big house. They kiss, make love, sit under the tree in the yard, swing on the swing, and do several other things the same. The connection between the two love stories could’ve been more subtle, which would have taken out some of the cheesiness of it. However, this wasn’t enough of an issue for me to lessen my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
Fans of the Destiny series will get an update on all of their previous characters. We see some big life changes for Rachel and Mike as well as Amy and Logan. While I was happy to touch base with the previous characters, I didn’t feel that the ending of this story was final enough to be the last book in the series. From the way that a few new characters were introduced, you would almost expect at least one more book on the way.
For those that haven’t read the previous Destiny books, they will not be overwhelmed with the references to previous books. All of the novels in this series do an excellent job of standing alone. The only place I could see some confusion would be with Anna’s story. Most of the background on Anna’s kidnapping is given in Willow Springs, with hints in Mike and Lucky’s stories. However, it shouldn’t be too difficult to catch on to the back story. Plus, it doesn’t play much of a role in this book, which focuses more on Duke’s life.
Overall, I deeply enjoyed Half Moon Hill. The book brought me to tears a few times; I’m not afraid to admit it! I really grew to love the characters and enjoyed every moment of their time together. I loved catching up with my old Destiny favorites and, although I’m sad to see this series end, I was pleased to have such a strong final book. For those that are new to the series, I highly suggest catching up with Blake’s other books, specifically Sugar Creek. You can’t go wrong with Toni Blake.