Serenity - what a great place to live

Sherryl Woods is one of my all-time favorite authors. If you enjoy reading appealing, character-driven stories infused with the flavor and fragrance of the South, her Sweet Magnolia novels can't be beat. I just finished Where Azaleas Bloom and could not put it down. With all the turmoil in the world today, sometimes it helps to escape to a small town setting where everyone pulls together to help those in need.

Lynn Morrow is in the process of a nasty divorce. When her husband, Ed, walked away from their marriage, Lynn had no clue it was coming, or what he'd leave her to deal with. She never expected him to leave her with no money for food, plus a house near foreclosure. Their marriage had never been passionate, but Lynn felt it had been comfortable. Now, she is desperately trying to put food on the table for her two children and keep the house they are living in, while her soon to be ex is off enjoying himself on golf trips. Lynn is a proud woman and does not want anyone to know just how serious her situation is. But, in a small town like Serenity, South Carolina, there is no such thing as suffering in silence. As is usual in a small town, nothing escapes Lynn's neighbors, Raylene and her husband Police Chief Carter Rollins. They try to help in subtle ways, like inviting Lynn and the kids for supper several times a week and sending the leftovers home with them. Soon, someone else is enjoying those suppers as well. Raylene and Carter are having some remodeling done on their home by their friend and contractor Mitch Franklin. Mitch is a widower and father of two college age boys. His wife was killed by a drunk driver a year ago. Always the matchmaker, Raylene tries to throw Lynn and Mitch together as much as possible. You see, Mitch and Lynn knew each other as teens and Lynn broke his heart when she married Ed. They try to fight their growing feelings for each other, each not ready to start something new until they have dealt with their own demons. Although divorce is not an attractive subject, the author manages to weave a heartfelt story about a woman's struggle to achieve financial independence while learning to forgive her husband and to understand the challenges he is dealing with as well. The surprise at the end reveals these challenges and explains much of Ed's behavior. There are several other subplots in this book that involve characters from previous novels, many who are members of the circle of friends known as the "Sweet Magnolias", and focus on serious subjects but in a very heartfelt way. A thoroughly enjoyable read, readers can't help but fall in love with the sense of community and friendship that can only be found in a town named Serenity.

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