More Than Neighbors
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jan 1 2014, $6.75
Near Spokane in Goodwater, woodworker Widower Gabriel Tennert relishes his rustic solitude though he was not always like this. He has celebrated for over three years that his former reclusive neighbor Ephraim Walker moved away leaving the ranch vacant until now. Hearing loud music, to his horror Gabe knows he has a new neighbor that includes kids.
Rather than watch her stressed out twelve years old son come home every day in tears, single mom Ciara Malloy bought the Walker spread after a meeting with her child’s middle school assistant principal; in which he had the audacity to blame Mark for being bullied. Mark likes Gabe’s horses and though the woodworker normally stays far away from people, he enjoys the tweener’s enthusiasm. Soon Gabe mentors Mark on woodworking, horses and bullies. Ciara and Gabe are attracted to one another, but both hesitate to act on their feelings though their reasons differ.
This is a profound family drama featuring three fully developed protagonists. Mark especially stands out as a young victim slowly regaining his tweener equilibrium in a different setting; while Ciara is a grizzly momma protecting her cub; and Gabe feels guilt over his increasing emotional involvement with the mother and son. The romance is well-written, but it is the baggage each must overcome in order to forge a committed relationship that makes this an interesting contemporary.