Earlene Fowler has been best known for her Benni Harper mysteries. The Saddlemaker's Wife was a successful novel, but, with Love Mercy she has written a story that should be snatched up by those of us who love Barbara Samuel's strong female characters. It's a true pleasure to meet Love Mercy Johnson, her family and friends.
If you're a fan of Benni Harper, don't hesitate to pick up this book, the first of what may be a number of Love Mercy novels. Benni, her husband, Gabe, and her grandma, Dove, are minor characters in this book, set in Morro Bay in the fictional county of San Celina on California's central coast. This book is set in 2008, instead of the 1990s like the Benni Harper series. But, don't expect a mystery. In her Author's Note, Fowler says, "But they will deal with another kind of mystery: that of the human heart, especially with how it pertains to family."
Love Mercy is the story of three grieving women who discover how much they need each other. At fifty-eight, Love Mercy Johnson has friends, but her family is gone. She's still mourning the death of her husband, Cy, a year earlier. Her son was killed by a drunk driver years earlier, and her former daughter-in-law is estranged, so Love hasn't had contact with her three granddaughters in years. She's holding her life together as co-owner of Buttercream Café, a photographer, and watching over her aging in-laws on their ranch. Her friend, Melina LeBlanc, is assisting at the ranch, but keeps her own secrets about her former life as a police officer in Las Vegas. When one of Love Mercy's granddaughters, Rett, shows up at the café, she brings her own problems with her. At eighteen, she's old enough to have left home, but the young songwriter carries a broken heart, and a stolen banjo.
Earlene Fowler creates characters the reader wants as friends, from Love Mercy to her friend and café co-owner, Magnolia Sanchez, to Love's boss, and, of course, Benni and Gabe. Her story probes the inner workings of the heart, loss and love. Love Mercy is filled with warm, hard-working, ordinary people. This book is a homecoming to a community of caring people. Let's hope Earlene Fowler gets her wish, for more books about Love Mercy Johnson, her friends and family.
Earlene Fowler's website is www.earlenefowler.com
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Love Mercy by Earlene Fowler. Berkley Books, ©2009. ISBN 9780425225974 (hardcover), 336p.