The last book in the series ended on an ominous note with a prodigal son hitting absolutely rock bottom and knowing that ‘you can’t go back’ is no longer an option. Calvin Sweet is coming home and Benny Ford might get to hear ‘why’ after all the years. And let’s not forget Lucy and Joe whose story has been percolating in the background of the last few books. This was probably my most anticipated Tallgrass book yet and I was not disappointed when I closed the last page.
This is the fifth book in the series. It’s one of those series that goes along best if read in order, but is also written so that the reader can jump in at any point or read one as a standalone. As a ‘jumper inner’, I can vouchsafe you on this. Though yes, I do need to go back for the first two books.
The story begins with Captain Calvin Sweet arriving at the local army fort to voluntarily check into the hospital and then transition into the Warrior Transition Unit on his way to being parted from the army. Twelve years of deployment broke him and at a weak point and deep in depression he planned to commit suicide. If not for the intervention of a quirky car thief who stopped him by breaking his arm, taking him to the ER, and then robbing him, he might have succeeded.
The army post for his last, short assignment is in his hometown and that brings with it the challenge of facing his family, neighbors, friends, and that long-broken and hostile friendship with Benny one of his two best friends growing up.
Benny lost her husband in Afghanistan and her other best friend, Calvin long before that when J’Myel and Calvin parted and never reconciled. Calvin never showed at her wedding or J’Myel’s funeral. Why? That is what she wants to know after all these years. Now that he’s back, she will work up the fortitude to ask him. But the Calvin who comes back isn’t the one who left. This man has dark shadows in his eyes, a brooding heaviness and never smiles or laughs. This one looks back at her with just as much anger and pain as she did him. What happened years ago?
Lucy is finally taking the plunge on her catering business. She is scared to death, but it’s not like she doesn’t have a financial safety net. She has worked through much of her grief and will always love Mike, but now realizes she is lonely. Her first time out dating didn’t net a guy, but dare she try for the one next door? Joe has always seemed like a best bud and big kid, but lately he’s gotten a certain look in his eye and makes it clear that he is a man and he’s been waiting long enough for her to get back in the game.
Swirling around these two couple’s lives are the ladies from the Tuesday Margarita Club and the down home residents of small town, friendly Tallgrass including a little dog and needing teenage boy who both just want a home.
At this point in the series, the cast of characters has grown and the Tallgrass setting is cozy and familiar. I enjoy each new installment as comfortable reading, but I like how there is depth and heart. In this installment, Calvin has PTSD and guilt, Benny is carrying around some unresolved feelings, and Lucy and Joe have to both come to the point. PTSD and other war injuries are handled with knowledge and care. I didn’t know about the Warrior Transition Unit, but found its inclusion a nice addition. Also, the situation with why Calvin and J’Myel along with Benny broke up their friendship was a strong element and by far the one that interested me the most beyond their reconciliation. The reveal was heartbreaking and not quite what I was expecting.
The pacing is gentle and is very much character driven. The easy writing, setting, and scenes back that up. It was nice to be along for Calvin and Benny’s family affairs, town happenings, the widowed soldier wives’ Margarita club get togethers and coming together to help one of their own in need. I didn’t realize it before, but each book adds in a dog character that pretty much steals my heart each time.
All in all, this book/series are satisfying in an understated way that can reach deep. I think those who enjoy gentle small town romance with a post-military flavor should take a look-see.
My thanks to Forever for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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