cover image Bittersweet: Home Sweet Home, Book 3

Bittersweet: Home Sweet Home, Book 3

Shirlee McCoy. Zebra, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-3931-0

McCoy (Sweet Haven) impressively mixes traumatic history, gritty reality, and resilient hope in the final book of the Home Sweet Home contemporary trilogy, which can be read as a standalone. Willow Lamont, the oldest of three sisters, is lured home 15 years after leaving Benevolence, Wash., and the chocolate shop everyone assumed she’d take over. She’s become a prosecutor instead, but grudgingly agrees to help out while the shop’s proprietor, her grandfather, convalesces. The setup, which has fueled the previous two books, wears thin, and McCoy wisely goes light on its repetitions. The focus is family trauma of a different kind. An early morning knock leads Willow to call 911, and Deputy Jax Gordon responds. They find an abandoned newborn by a trash bin and enter the tangled bureaucracies of social services and criminal investigation. Jax’s family was murdered when he was 11, and he recognizes signs of past trauma in Willow’s shadowed eyes. Unwilling to tempt fate by seeking happiness together, both will nevertheless gladly fight for baby Miracle’s future. McCoy writes some haunting descriptions of orphaned Jax, Miracle’s miserable mother, and the damage caused by fundamentalist, off-the-grid patriarchs such as Jax’s father, but the pervasive theme is that happiness is always possible. Most subplots come to rest but aren’t fully resolved, and three brothers living in the town are poised to continue the Benevolence saga. Agent: Melissa Jeglinski, Knight Agency. (Aug.)