cover image JULY THUNDER


Rachel Lee, . . Mira, $6.50 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-55166-885-7

Readers looking for a contemporary romance focused almost entirely on character development will enjoy this saccharine story, which explores the relationship between a widowed deputy sheriff and a divorced schoolteacher in the small Colorado town of Whisper Creek. Sam Canfield and Mary McKinney meet after a car accident leaves her without a vehicle. Although they share a mutual attraction for one another, they are both hesitant to become entangled in a relationship since Sam still mourns the death of his wife and Mary hasn't been able to forgive herself for her son's death. However, they embark on a rocky relationship that heats up when a brush fire threatens their community and Sam's estranged father, a fire-and-brimstone pastor, arrives in town. The plot is minimal, and Lee's prose, though evocative, is sometimes excessive (such as when Sam contemplates the vulnerability of the soft skin inside Mary's upper arm). Lee (Under Suspicion) thoroughly explores the themes of forgiveness and tolerance—religious and otherwise—and fleshes out the story with a small but endearing cast of secondary characters. Although Sam's and Mary's healing occurs in a relatively short period, the intensity of their relationship and emotions will win over the most hard-hearted readers. (Feb.)

Forecast:Lee also pens romantic comedies under the pseudonym Sue Civil-Brown, but her primary readership comes from her mainstream contemporaries. This quiet romance will appeal to fans of Debbie Macomber's Buffalo Valley series and Linda Lael Miller's Springwater Seasons series.