by Shirlee Busbee

December 2002
ISBN: 0-446-61189-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Warner Books
Mass Market Paperback

Shelly Granger left Oak Valley in heartbreak seventeen years ago, when she was just eighteen, after the man she had fallen in love with betrayed her. Now, she has returned to her hometown seeking answers for her brother’s shocking suicide. Josh, fifteen years her senior, had been more like a father to Shelly than a brother since both her parents had died when she was quite young. Josh's death left a huge gap in her life and with hardly any other close family members, Shelly felt very alone. She definitely didn’t feel up to facing the one who broke her heart all those years ago - Sloan Ballinger.

Sloan, one of the hated Ballingers, was automatically an enemy to the Granger family. The families’ feud dated all the way back to the civil war and didn’t seem to be lessening as time went by, a fact that the small town’s busybodies loved to relate. But unlike their ancestors, the sparks that flew when these two got together weren’t caused by hate, but by lust!

Once back in Oak Valley, secrets have become known to Shelly, and besides beginning to believe that the Josh she knew might have been very different from the “real” Josh, she is also starting to wonder if his death was in fact a suicide. She also has reason to wonder if Sloan’s betrayal all those years ago was really that – a betrayal. And if that isn’t enough to handle, Shelly is also trying to revamp her family’s cattle business, renew old friends, help the housekeeper’s son prove his paternity and avoid falling for Sloan once again.

Return to Oak Valley had an interesting plot, colorful main and supporting characters and did an excellent job of depicting the small, quaint community of Oak Valley. Unfortunately, I found the romance to be somewhat lacking in the story. We were teased with several possible romances between the supporting characters, but nothing ever came of it. The hero and heroine themselves didn’t really have any sort of confrontation until about a third of the way through the book and after that, not nearly often enough. And once they reunited, their differences were settled way too easily and quickly. I felt as if all of the other problems Shelly had to deal with took up entirely too much of the story line, not leaving enough for the romance.

Having been a fan of Shirlee Busbee’s historical novels, I was eagerly looking forward to reading a contemporary novel by her. However, while there was plenty of action and drama in Return to Oak Valley, I would much rather reread one of Ms. Busbee’s earlier touching love stories.

Reviewed in December 2002 by Nicole.

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