Suzanne Paris isn't quite sure where she's going but she knows that she isn't going back to where she's been. All Suzanne needs is a place to hide out, to think, to figure out what to do next-alone. What Suzanne gets when she exits the bus at the stop in Walton, Georgia is anything but solitude. Quickly surrounded by a passel of young children and their handsome father Joe, Suzanne wants only to escape. But the townspeople of Walton have something else in mind. Soon everyone in town is welcoming Suzanne with open arms-a gesture she's never felt before. Suzanne has vowed not to stay but it isn't as easy to leave when you're starting to fall in love---in love with a town, in love with motherless children and in love with their sexy father. It isn't easy to escape when you're in love-not even if the cost of staying could be far greater than running away.
Town Mayor Joe Warner is more than a little suspicious of Suzanne Paris, but he has a lot more on his mind than the sexy newcomer-such as his upcoming re-election campaign and his six children who were left without a mother when his beloved Harriet died three years ago. It's been hard raising them alone, but he's done the best he could with what he's had. What's really important is raising his children in the town of Walton and keeping it safe for them and the other townspeople-which means winning his campaign so that his opponent doesn't have the chance to hurt the town and the people with his cagey schemes. The last thing Joe needs is a woman in his life, especially one who's as secretive as Suzanne. He can't afford the scandal-or the heartache. But as Joe and Suzanne spend more and more time together, they begin to forget their own hang-ups and start to open themselves up to the real possibility of finding love-with each other.
AFTER THE RAIN by Karen White is a solid, poignant, romantic read. The main characters are interesting and help propel the story along to a very satisfying conclusion. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that Suzanne is hiding things about her past and her most recent present and these issues could end up hurting some of the people of Walton. Joe knows some of Suzanne's past and tries to help her overcome it, but he doesn't know it all-and what he doesn't know can indeed hurt him. It's up to these two to get past the issues that hold them back from opening up to one another-a feat not easy for two proud, self-sufficient individuals.
Just as with Ms. White's last novel, FALLING HOME, I loved the townspeople of Walton and many of the secondary characters. I especially love Joe's oldest daughter Maddie and can't help but hope she might get her own story one day. It was hard to see everyone let Harriet go all over again, but it was a very realistic look at how families grow and change after the death of a loved one.
I can most definitely recommend this story to every romance reader. Those of you who love romantic love stories, as well as those who enjoy the more contemporary women's fiction, will love AFTER THE RAIN. Karen White knows how to create emotional stories with realistic characters and I can't wait to see what she has to offer us next!
Carla Hosom, March 2003
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