Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Welcome Home Garden Club - Lori Wilde (Avon - Apr 2011)

Series: Twilight Texas (Book 4)

Traditional meaning of Pink and White Roses: I love you still and always will.

Caitlyn Marsh stopped believing in happily-ever-after when high-school sweetheart, Gideon Garza, left for Iraq. Now she raises her small son while her matchmaking gardening club members drive her crazy. Then Caitlyn's world turns upside-down when Gideon swaggers back to Twilight.

Gideon had left town in the middle of night with threats ringing in his ears. A lot of things have changed since then. This bad boy-turned-Green Beret bears scars from the war, the timid girl he loved is an independent mother, and the father who refused to recognize his son in life has, in death, left him a vast cattle ranch.

He still aches for Caitlyn, and now there's a dark-haired boy who looks exactly like Gideon did at that age. Could the child be his? And can this war-weary soldier overcome the scars of the past to claim the family he so richly deserves?

I love stories about military/former military characters and this was just as good as I had expected. Gideon and Caitlyn had been high school sweethearts. She was the daughter of the local judge and he was the bad boy from the wrong side of town, but that didn't matter to them. When Gideon ends up in trouble with the law, he's given the choice of jail or the military. He left town, not knowing that Caitlyn was pregnant, and her father arranged things so that Caitlyn was told that Gideon was killed in action. She married another man who gave her and her son a place until he died. Now she's raising her son alone and trying to get her life back together.

I really liked Gideon. He had had a rough start in life. His father never acknowledged his existence, so he and his mother had been very poor as he was growing up. He didn't find out his father's identity until his mother died, and his confrontation with dad didn't go well. The only thing that had made his life bearable was his relationship with Caitlyn. That ended when he was forced into the military. He tried writing to her, but the letters came back marked refused. Feeling hurt and betrayed, he tried to forget her and concentrated on his career. After losing part of his arm in the war, he started working as security and a translator, until called back home by the death of his father. During his first encounter with Caitlyn he discovers that she thought he was dead and they'd been kept apart by her father. He also finds out that he is the father of her son. He goes from planning to leave town as soon as possible, to deciding to stay to be close to Caitlyn and Danny. Gideon has a lot of things working against his desire to get closer to Caitlyn and Danny. He feels that his disability makes it impossible for anyone to really care for him. He also feels that the things he had to do during the war have created a darkness in him that makes him unworthy of Caitlyn's love. I liked the way that he planned to stay and try to be a father to Danny. He also realized that his feelings for Caitlyn had never gone away and were only getting stronger. His issues had made him withdraw into himself, but being around Caitlyn was bringing him back to life, but he still worried about his past causing her harm. One of the things I liked best about him was that he was finally able to accept the help that was offered by other veterans. It was so hard for him to do, but he did it because of his love for Caitlyn and Danny.  

Caitlyn had also been through a lot. Her father's overprotectiveness and then his fury at her pregnancy had driven a wedge between them. After finding out that Gideon was dead, she accepted the proposal of a man who promised he would care for her and treat her baby like his own. They had a satisfactory life together until he died. At that point she had to develop a lot more independence. She is shocked by Gideon's return and doesn't know how to tell him about his son. She also realizes that the old feelings are still there, but she is wary about following through on them. She can see that he is very different from  the boy she used to know and doesn't want to risk her heart or her son's happiness. I loved seeing her get to know the new Gideon. She was able to break through some of his walls and show him that she accepted him just the way he was. It was still a hard road to overcome her own fears and then to help Gideon face his.

I really liked the attention paid to Gideon and his issues. He wasn't portrayed as a victim, but simply as a man trying to reacquaint himself with normal life. We get a good look at what has changed him from the boy Caitlyn used to know into the man he is today. I liked seeing the support he got from the other people in town. I also liked the way that fellow veterans let him know they were available to help but didn't try to force themselves on him.

I really enjoyed the gardening aspect of the story. The meanings of the flowers at the beginning of each chapter, and the way they related to the chapter itself was beautiful. The victory garden contest was great. I loved their idea of what they wanted and the reasoning behind their choice. The twist at the end was fantastic.

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