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Catherine Snodgrass has done it again. Her newest novel Smoke and Shadows is a magical love story that continues the saga of the Dillon family, which was introduced in Silk Dreams, Satin Lies. Set in San Francisco, this novel tells the story of Ariel Dillon and Ben Slade, two enterprising and endearing characters which must come to terms with their family and their individuality. Ariel has never fit in with her adventure loving family, preferring to remain in the background and follow her head not her heart. The only problem with her life is Ben Slade, the foster son the Dillonís took in years ago. He always seems to be in the way and getting her into trouble! Well, Ariel has had enough of that and now she is out to get the life she wants! Unfortunately, unexpected events throw Ben and Ariel together and as the lies mount and trouble surrounds them Ben and Ariel find the one thing they never expected, love.
This was one of the finest novels I have read in a very long time. The characters of Ariel and Ben are enchanting. The plot is fast paced and contains enough surprises that it remains interesting and fresh throughout the entire book. The underlying theme of trust verse betrayal is well developed and helps this story connect to the reader. I found the Dillon family to be the perfect family that every person wants to belong to; this made the story comforting and sweet. The love that all the characters show for each other helps remind the reader that happiness can be found somewhere in the world, even if it is only in a book. I found the characters to be complex enough to be believable but not so complex that I felt they needed therapy or were out of place in the story. I also enjoyed the independence that the female characters showed. They made their own decisions and were capable of handling trouble without their man. This is a rare occurrence in historical romance. I found this story to be a light and wonderful read, one of this best of the year!