On Lavender Lane
Public humiliation must be very difficult to deal with, but celebrity chef Madeline Durand handles it with aplomb when a video of her celebrity chef husband and a married heiress having sex goes viral while Maddie is giving a cooking demonstration in Omaha. That’s not to say Maddie isn’t devastated because she is. But there’s nothing she can do about the situation.
Returning to New York City, Maddie confronts her husband and discovers that while he was absolutely truthful with her prior to their wedding, she just didn’t listen when he said he wasn’t monogamous. She realizes not only did she never love him but only admired him as a chef, and she doesn’t need him.
However, she needs somewhere to lick her wounds—mostly self-inflicted—and regroup. She heads home to Shelter Bay in Oregon and her grandmother’s Lavender Hill farm. There she learns her grandmother has decided to turn the old farmhouse into a restaurant and would love Maddie’s professional-chef help in getting the place ready for paying guests.
Grandma Sofia has hired retired Navy SEAL medic Lucas Chaffee as her architect. Lucas is back in Shelter Bay where he once vacationed with his family and has just scattered his father’s ashes over the ocean. His father, a renowned architect, was planning to add his son to the business once Lucas was discharged.
Working closely with Lucas in planning the restaurant would be fine with Maddie, but she and Lucas have a history. Years before when she thought they were going together, she walked in on him with another woman. Reluctantly, she realizes that Lucas’ rejection of her has colored the rest of her life. For his part, Lucas says what she walked into he staged so that she wouldn’t throw away her life dream on him, and, oh, yes, incidentally, was the biggest mistake he ever made.
So many details make this book special: Maddie and Lucas are both bright, likeable people who have made dumb mistakes and own up to making them. Both are strong, having built reputations in their respective fields, but are not averse to changing their lives to become happier. They are the good, solid people everyone wants to be and befriend.
Equally likeable are the additional characters, wonderful Grandma Sofia and Maddie’s and Lucas’ Shelter Bay friends, some of whom are Lucas’ buddies from his overseas actions. Ross’ descriptions of the Oregon coast and its multifaceted weather conditions as well as the small town itself will make readers want to move there. Adding depth is a halfway house for battered women which shelters those who have sought help and, like slaves of old, have traveled an underground route to get a new life.
Because the peripheral story of one woman who sneaks away from her wealthy, wife-beating husband and lands in the halfway house is so horrific, it blunts and somewhat makes trivial Maddie’s broken heart and subsequent angst after she catches Lucas with another woman years earlier. The contrast between real tragedy and teenage turmoil made this reader, at least, more curious about the battered woman than Maddie.
With any luck, the next book will focus on the brave escapee and her growing attraction to an organic gardener. If so, I can’t wait to read it.