In a Soldier's Arms
by Marin Thomas

Harlequin, 2008. ISBN 978-0-373-75204-1.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 03/26/2008

Fiction: Romance

This is Marin Thomas' second book in her Hearts of Appalachia mini-series. Just as she did in the first book, For the Children, the author transports her readers into the closely knit community of "the clan" in Heather's Hollow. First-time Marin Thomas readers will enjoy In a Soldier's Arms as a stand-alone book, while Thomas fans will be thrilled to discover that some of the previous book's characters are back and just as delightful the second time around.

The people who live in Heather's Hollow, deep within the Appalachian Mountains, are Scotch-Irish clan members who are, for the most part, self-sufficient. They cling to the old ways and each other and shun the intrusion of governments, modern healthcare, and outsiders. It is the perfect place for someone who wants to escape life in general, which is exactly what Abram Devane needs. Or so he thinks.

Devane, a wounded Iraq War veteran, moved to the Hollow with physical and emotional scars, but when Maggie O'Neil arrives, his efforts to forget the past become undone. Maggie, a nurse practitioner from Louisville, has been summoned to her mother's childhood home at the request of a woman she never knew—her grandmother, the clan's elder/healer—to collect her recently deceased mother's belongings. The result is a battle of wits, a clash of old and new, and the push-pull of people yearning for answers to long-standing questions.

Granny and the clan folks of Heather's Hollow are quite content to let well enough alone. They don't need outsiders. They don't want outsiders. And, in many ways, the outsiders, who don't understand how people can live under such backward conditions, don't think they need or want the clan folks.

The heart and soul of In a Soldier's Arms are these contrasting lifestyles and values and the way the characters work through their own prejudices, superstitions, mistrust, and defensiveness. Marin Thomas has created another delightfully poignant story. She has left this reviewer anxiously awaiting the third and final installment in the series.

Marin Thomas, who was born in Wisconsin and resides in Chicago, enjoys writing about small-town life. Her upbringing gave birth to the desire to experience a world outside her small town, yet her writings bring small town to her readers in unique and memorable ways. The third Hearts of Appalachia book, A Coal Miner's Wife, is due to be released in August 2008. Thomas studied journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia and at the University of Arizona. She is the author of more than half a dozen Harlequin American Romance novels. Readers can visit her on the Web.

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