Love Mercy
by Earlene Fowler

Berkeley, 2009. ISBN 978-0-425-22597-4.
Reviewed by Sharon Wildwind
Posted on 08/26/2009

Fiction: Mystery

Loretta Lynn Johnson—she answers only to Rett—runs away from home with less than a hundred dollars tucked in her cowboy boots, $25,000 worth of stolen merchandise, and a desperate need to escape from her family. She's running toward more family, specifically the grandmother she had no contact with for fourteen years.

When Rett arrives in central California, she and her grandmother, Love Mercy, are both wary, but hopeful that they can begin to heal the family rift that has left both parts of the Johnson clan mired in grief. They know it will be hard, but they have no idea how hard, or how outsiders will threaten both the Johnsons and their employees.

It takes courage, talent, and perhaps both to bring in main characters from another series and successfully relegate them to supporting roles, so I was a little hesitant to read this book. To my great delight, Fowler pulls it off. I loved seeing characters from the Benni Harper series in this book, but did not feel cheated that they weren't the stars. What was happening with Love Mercy, her employee Mel, and her granddaughter occupied center stage, as it should. There had always been one character in the Harper series whom I thought should grow up. He did in this book, and that transition was very satisfying to watch.

The only problem was the food. Love Mercy is half-owner of a cafe; it's Christmas time; and if people aren't scarfing down dinner at the dinner, family members are cooking, cooking, cooking. I got so stuck on the idea of butterscotch pie—butterscotch being one of my favorite flavors—that it took me while to get out of that chapter. My advice is have a snack before you read this book.

A lovely, warm, challenging story, just the way a family Christmas should be.

Earlene Fowler was raised in La Puente, California. Most famous for her Benni Harper series and her love of both quilting and cowboy boots, she has written literary and commercial short fiction in addition to mysteries. Nominated multiple times for the Agatha Award, she won it with her sixth Benni Harper book, Mariner's Compass. Love Mercy is her second foray into mainstream novels; the first was The Saddlemaker's Wife. Both novels are first books in separate trilogies,

For more information about Earlene and her books, visit her website.

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