by Inglath Cooper

April 2004
ISBN: 0-373-71198-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Harlequin
Mass Market Paperback

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Olivia Ashforth has the prospect of being the next anchor on her network's news program in the near future. She's suddenly reminded of her past in Summerville, Virginia, when her best friend from high school, Lori, calls to see if she will be attending their 15-year class reunion. Olivia walked away from the town and that life and has never been back. Her boyfriend, John Riley, was the bright spot during her high school years, when her home life was difficult, at best.

John Riley agrees to have the reunion at his farm after a last minute snafu at the local community center. He is regretting his decision after workmen deface some flowers his late wife had lovingly planted not long before her death. He has his daughter, Flora, who is the one person who warms the cold places in his heart that remain even two years after Laura's death. John still feels guilty that he never loved Laura as much as she loved him and that he jumped into the marriage on the rebound. When Olivia left town, with no explanation, fifteen years before, he was devastated. He thought theirs was a 'forever love' even though they were young.

When Olivia shows up at the reunion, John goes out of his way to tell her she is not welcome. Olivia regrets her decision to attend the reunion until she is charmed by Flora and her friend Lori's brood. Lori thinks Olivia's career is glamorous and exciting, but Olivia begins to see that a life without love and family can be lonely and that she may need to deal with her past before she can move on with her future.

John and Olivia are both characters that readers will find engaging with their wounded pasts and emotional baggage. The reader can relate to the decisions we all make with the best of intentions, but live to regret. John Riley's Girl explores the importance of family and second chances. It has an uplifting feel of hope and redemption. The small town setting is just perfect in a day when so many of us live in a rather impersonal environment.

There is good development of a secondary character, Cleeve, who has his own set of issues and poor choices. This reader hopes that perhaps his story could be told in a future book by Ms. Cooper.

John Riley's Girl is sure to be a winner for fans of contemporary romance. Ms. Cooper deserves much success in her writing career.

Reviewed in March 2004 by Roberta.

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