Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane
Ex-marine, ex-alcoholic, sniper and former undercover California cop Aiden Mannion, whose homeland security job at the Port Authority has resulted in a gunshot wound to his leg and the death of his partner, is the walking wounded in multiple ways. Off on a holiday season fishing trip/convalescence/family visit to Honeymoon Harbor, he accepts it when the ghost of said ex partner joins him on the ferry trip in and refuses to disappear. Bodhi Warfield’s ghost seems to have no real mission – or maybe he’s a manifestation of the survivor’s guilt haunting Aiden – but they hang out, just like old times.
Aiden’s father pressures him into temporarily acting as police chief while the abusive man who held that position recovers from a stroke. Aiden agrees with a shrug, and even settles in by going to the wedding of a friend. That’s where he spots the redhead of his distant fantasies mingling in the crowd – Jolene Wells.
Jolene and Aiden went to high school together, but unlike Aiden, Jolene never fit into any social set. That didn’t stop them from embarking on a clandestine romance and, after Aiden saved Jolene from a drugging and assault, a little more. But Aiden messed everything up, and Jolene’s moved on – hasn’t she?
Jolene has escaped childhood bullying and her trailer-trash roots to become a globetrotting Emmy-nominated makeup artist – albeit one who has to live on the fringes of Beverly Hills society and is too busy to even have much more than a goldfish in her life. She harbors hopes of starting an organic makeup and skin-care line which she researches between jobs, but first she needs time to settle down and think. The opportunity is afforded to her when a number of factors combine to give her that time. Her fiancé breaks things off to become engaged to a twice-married starlet, her apartment burns down, and she learns that her mother Gloria might have breast cancer and refuses to get properly diagnosed – all within the space of a week. And on top of all that, she risks her career by signing her name to a list of behind-the-scenes supporters of people who have experienced sexual harassment on-set. So, until Gloria’s status is settled, Jolene tries to help her mother open her new spa-cum-salon in the local lighthouse.
Jolene and Aiden meet again when Aiden pulls her over for a traffic stop. Jolene’s spark for Aiden continues to glow, and as Aiden supports Gloria and Jolene through Gloria’s mammogram and biopsy, things begin to turn passionate for the couple. But can these two really manage to pull together a happy relationship? Can Aiden quell a corruption problem in the police department while tracking down a crazy survivalist? Will Gloria beat cancer? And just why is Bodhi haunting Aiden? They have until New Years to find out.
Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane is both a delight and a frustration. Smoothly, engagingly written, with some good characters and interesting conflicts, it also suffers because of an overstuffed plot that hinders part of the novel’s progress.
Jolene and Aiden are excellent leads (I liked Jolene’s love of sappy romantic movies for instance), and among the supporting players I enjoyed Gloria and Brianna specifically. The chemistry between the leads is beautiful and flirtatious, which is a fun hallmark of most Ross romances. For this alone you’ll enjoy spending more time in Honeymoon Harbor.
But there’s a lot of extraneous plot padding in this book clogging up its hallowed pages that doesn’t need to exist. The machinations to get both Jolene and Aiden to stay in Honeymoon Harbor, especially when it comes to Jolene’s life, are way too over the top. Especially when piling a humiliation conga line onto Jolene’s shoulders and an overwhelmingly tragic backstory onto Aiden’s to make them stay in Washington State. In Jolene’s case it’s worse, because she keeps firmly insisting that she wants certain things in her life, only for her mother and best friend to tell her that no, she wants to be married, to be “claimed”, to have children.
The whole ghost/guilt thing had me straddling the fence. Bodhi is undeniably one of the funniest parts of the book, and he’s one of its best supporting characters. On the other hand, his supernatural presence is distracting and doesn’t match the grounded, realistic feeling of the novel; it’s also extremely odd to have a ghost investigating a murder and feeding Aiden information throughout the novel. That’s just as fantastic as Aiden becoming the chief of police temporarily because his dad just hands him the job. It’s not hard to believe that Aiden, after suffering what he did, might want to transfer out of his high-pressure job – but it’s also hard to believe an ex-adrenaline junkie would go from busting drug lords to helping old ladies find their stolen lawn gnomes.
So why am I recommending this book? The chemistry between the leads is just that strong. The setting and the way the characters scrape through life feels realistic, and is romantic and interesting. This is Ross writing her romantic best, and though it’s sometimes fanciful and unbelievable, it’s also sweet-natured and well-meaning, just like those romantic movies Jolene loves.