Mimosa Grove was a pleasant surprise from an author I’d almost given up on. While it does have some rough spots, the latest from Dinah McCall (aka Sharon Sala) is a mostly successful reading experience.
Laurel Scanlon is the daughter of a federal prosecutor. She never fit in with her father’s world in Washington D.C. because of her clairvoyant abilities, which made her a target of mockery. Her father strongly disapproves of her gifts, believing they are a sign of the same madness that drove her mother to suicide. The only comfort Laurel has in her life is in her nightly dreams, where she experiences a passion she’s never known with a man she’s never met. When she learns that the maternal grandmother she hasn’t seen in years has passed away, Laurel grabs the opportunity to leave Washington and travels to her grandmother’s home in Bayou Jean, Louisiana.
Laurel inherits everything her grandmother owned, including the massive family estate, Mimosa Grove. She discovers that her grandmother’s gift made her a beloved figure in Bayou Jean. The townspeople respected and depended upon her abilities, and soon come to rely on Laurel for the same. It isn’t the only surprise she finds in her grandmother’s hometown. Soon she comes face to face with Justin Bouvier, the man from her dreams. He recognizes her on sight too as the woman he made love to in his dreams. He accepts her in a way she never experienced before. Meanwhile, back in Washington, her father becomes involved in the case of a sleeper KGB agent recently discovered still spying for the Russian government. Laurel has a vision that he shouldn’t take the case, but he angrily ignores the warning.
One of the nice things about Mimosa Grove is the way the very different dual plotlines unfold. There’s Laurel’s story in Bayou Jean, and there’s her father in Washington. For a while they unfold separately, both interesting in their own right, and I wasn’t sure at first how exactly they were going to collide. A little uncertainty like that is always a good thing in romantic suspense.
Sala/McCall writes in her usual warm and ingratiating style, which is the main reason it works in spite of the story’s flaws that I’ll get to in a moment. Her storytelling is engaging and easily pulls the reader into the characters’ lives. There’s quite a bit of charm to be found in Bayou Jean. It’s one of those typical romance novel small towns that’s too perfect to be true, but at least it’s not one of those small towns full of vicious, small-minded stereotypes. It’s so nice and so welcoming that I didn’t care if it was too perfect. It was just sweet to see Laurel find the kind of acceptance she’d never known before. If romance novels are escapist fiction, then this is one town it’s easy to imagine wanting to escape to.
It should be noted that the book is far from perfect. It’s underdeveloped at times, slightly shallow, and unfolds too easily for romantic suspense. Occasionally it feels like an unpolished second draft, one that needs just one more go round to be as sharp as it could be. Laurel’s father’s development over the course of the story isn’t entirely convincing, and the subplot involving Laurel’s premonition of a young woman’s murder featured a decision that didn’t sit well with me. I also hope the review copy I received is missing a crucial scene that will be included in the final draft, because there’s one moment where it feels as though something pivotal was omitted.
But for the most part, this was one of those books where I acknowledged the flaws were there, but couldn’t bring myself to care. Though undeveloped as a character, Justin is so nice and loving it ultimately didn’t matter. The same goes for the romance; Justin and Laurel fell in love in their dreams but the connection they form and the sweetness to their interactions make it believable nonetheless.
Mimosa Grove doesn’t have the depth and emotion of the author’s best work, but it does feature her trademark warmth. That’s more than enough compensation. The characters are empathetic. The story is engaging. It’s a fast, thoroughly likable read. It may have its flaws, but I doubt many readers will mind too much as they get caught up in the sweet spell McCall weaves in this tale.