Petal is the last place Caroline Mendoza thought she’d end up. Sixteen years ago she lost both parents there—her mother to murder and her father to prison for the crime. Since then she’s built a successful life, but she’s never let go of the belief her father is innocent.
Now she’s back in Petal to find the truth. With a new job and a mystery to solve, she’s got plenty on her plate. But when she bumps into Royal Watson, the sparks fly hard and fast.
When the whipsmart, opinionated lawyer blows into town like a beautiful storm, Royal has a reason to make the time to get off his organic farm and pursue her. And soon their intense attraction is tipping into something more.
As Caroline’s dogged investigation digs up ghosts of the past, there’s not much time for basking in love’s glow. The closer she gets to the truth, the more threatened the real killer gets…and the greater the danger that all her digging could lead to her own grave.
Petal,GA has been a solidly good but perhaps not my very favorite of series from Lauren Dane. I think this particular installment shows both why her romances work very well and what some of the pitfalls are with small town mentalities.
First, the good- Royal is a terrific hero. I never felt like I got to know him in previous books, when he was just Anne's boyfriend, but on his own he proves himself to be a smart, strong, and reliable human being, who's experienced enough emotionally to be able to empathize with a variety of people. It's been over a year since his breakup when he meets Caroline again, and the two of them enter in their relationship with one of the cutest grocery store scenes I've ever read (when I do I get to stumble upon a cowboy hottie in the cereal aisle?).
Their relationship is the highlight throughout the story, deservedly so, but I do admit to getting a little distracted by the small town politics that were much more prominent in this book. I couldn't understand or believe that all these different people would be angry with Caroline for moving away from Petal. Really? Even without the extenuating circumstances with her parents, it has to mean that she's a bad egg, or that she thinks something derogatory about the town? Shrug. I couldn't be completely on board with that, though I do think Dane did a phenomenal job painting the complicated layers that exist between family members, especially when there are generations of institutionalized racism not being recognized as such.
And I could write an entire paragraph about Anne and her duplicity and how there's no way in HELL I'd be a big enough woman to get over that and befriend her. But that's me.
Overall Feeling - B
Series - 1) Once and Again 2) Lost in You 3) Count on Me