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Anne Ever After
Lynne Marshall. Lynne Marshall, $2.99 e-book (158p) ASIN B08VF6M2J4
Marshall (the Fortunes of Texas series) launches the Return to Whispering Oaks series with an earnest second chance romance. Nurse Anne Grady heads home to Whispering Oaks, Calif., to care for her parents after a motorcycle accident. Her visit reunites her with Jack Lightfoot, the math teacher and volunteer fireman who saved her parents’ lives—and broke Anne’s heart 12 years ago. The pair were once two parts of a tight-knit trio rounded out by Brianna, Anne’s best friend and Jack’s girlfriend. Their strong teenage connection led them to kiss behind Brianna’s back. It meant the world to them both, but before they could confess their feelings, Brianna was diagnosed with cancer, compounding their guilt and leading them never to speak of their potential romance again. This intense backstory saves the otherwise paint-by-numbers plot as Anne and Jack wrestle with and are bonded by their grief and regret. Their connection reignites over hiking trips, roller blading excursions, and hot air balloon rides, but unfortunately their personalities remain sketchy at best and their will-they-won’t-they is resolved not through introspection or personal growth but via a convenient act of god when Jack’s life is endangered. Still, readers will appreciate the romantic dates and heartfelt emotional core. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 08/06/2021