DRIFTWOOD LANE wraps up Denise Hunter's Nantucket Love Story series nicely with a final romance that holds the prospect of joining two kindred spirits as well as a broken family. The heroine is a sensible, self-protective woman who discovers that she does need real love --- even though she thinks she's already found it.
Meredith had a rough upbringing, growing up with a mother who suffered from bipolar disorder and a father who left them. Now in her 20s, Meredith works as a stern health inspector of restaurants in St. Louis and is engaged to a serious, reliable accountant. Just when Meredith thinks her life is in perfect order, she receives an apologetic call to inform her of the deaths of her father T.J. and his wife Eva. Though Meredith isn't particularly heartbroken by this news, it is surprising, especially after being informed that she's the children's intended guardian. She's being asked to go to Nantucket to care for them, even though she's never set eyes on them before. But Meredith is the only possible guardian other than an uncle with whom the kids are close, who's frequently out of town and hasn't been informed of what's happened.
Once Meredith arrives in Nantucket, she's introduced to three lovely children --- her only surviving relatives. They are perfect strangers and react as such. Ben is the youngest, a clingy, cute kid who's clearly in need of some tender comforting. Chubby Max is an innocent 10, playful and trusting, and feisty Noelle is an emotional 13 who's just beginning to discover her independence. The three are devastated by the loss of their parents, and none want Meredith in the picture; they appear to be waiting for their uncle to show. But Meredith is there and needs to be, at least until there's a better option.
Meredith's reluctance in settling into this very different life in Nantucket fades by degrees as she tends to the work of running the bed and breakfast. "Summer Home" is scenic, charming and simple, and holds great appeal for a number of regular guests who will arrive in the coming months. Meredith recognizes its homey charm for the children too, though enjoyment is less a goal for her than tackling what needs to be done. The house is in need of a number of repairs, and caring for guests requires her time and attention. The children need stability and consistent emotional support, which Meredith isn't terrific at providing. They resent her for this at first, particularly Noelle, and Meredith tries not to take it too personally. The community offers help, which Meredith accepts, and she has also hired a contractor named Jake. He is a good deal more appealing than Meredith would like him to be but has given her a great price for fixing the dilapidated house, which is vital to Meredith's private plan for putting it on the market and returning to St. Louis.
In short time, Jake has become Meredith's personal handyman, and she finds him reasonable and pleasing to have around. They become friends surprisingly quickly in light of Meredith's initial attitude toward him. She is also coming to love the children more each day and begins to think of little ways she can show this and help instill their trust in her. But she has yet to tell them of her plans and is putting off telling her fiancé that she's keeping them permanently. She perceives somehow that he'll be reluctant to accept them and is delaying the talk as long as possible. But what Meredith doesn't know is that Jake isn't who she thinks he is at all.
DRIFTWOOD LANE is an enticing and satisfyingly sappy love story, the perfect book for those who might be longing for a wholehearted, full and happy ending. The book's atmosphere is as relaxing as Nantucket is. The characters are luscious and full, and there are times when you can vividly envision the heated exchange between them. The children are adorable and will leave you grieving and recovering along with them. The scenario here is a much worthier brand of romance than the simpler variety that relies on romantic tension generated by outright deception or jumbled signals. This will make a refreshing (if predictable) light summer read that will surely please fans of the Nantucket Love Series and entice newcomers to seek the series out and read them all.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on July 6, 2010