After a tough year and a messy divorce from her morally challenged husband, Andrea Henderson's faith has taken a nosedive. But she is determined to build a new life for herself and her 14-year-old son, Dustin. She has moved into her parents' lake house on Moses Lake, Texas, and taken a job as a social worker for Child Protective Services. But between the aftermath of her divorce, her mother's critical and overbearing presence, and her son's sudden rebellion, Andrea feels like her world is totally falling apart.
The story starts out with Andrea getting a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. While waiting for the tow truck, an old rusty pickup passes, driven by Len, the town recluse. An unkempt girl sits in the passenger's seat, her nose pressed to the window. Andrea can't get the girl out of her mind.
When Dustin gets busted for reckless behavior while hanging out with some local teenagers, Andrea meets 38-year-old game warden Mart McClendon, who has returned to Moses Lake to escape the memories of the deaths of his brother and nephew. Things start off on the wrong foot, as Andrea and Mart butt heads and think the worst of each other. But when she mentions the mysterious girl she saw with Len, Mart agrees to check it out.
Andrea soon gets involved in the case, where things aren't adding up. She feels she's getting in over her head, but is drawn to this little girl and can't stay away. Even more, she is drawn to the handsome game warden, but doesn't know if getting involved in a romantic relationship would be the best thing for her son.
LARKSPUR COVE grabbed me from page one and didn't let go. The warm, southern-style writing, charismatic characters, beautifully painted setting, and intriguing storyline worked together to create a true page turner.
While the plot is compelling, with the mystery surrounding the little girl and heightened suspense at the story's climax, the characters are the driving force. One of those characters is Len. He's slow, strange, and owns a rundown house with horrendous living conditions for anyone, let alone a child. Len could have been portrayed as cruel and unfit, but the relationship between him and his granddaughter is tender and loving. Child Protective Services, which can sometimes be depicted as unfeeling and cold, came across as caring and concerned, truly looking out for the welfare of the child instead of instantly yanking her from a situation some might deem unhealthy. While the child's safety is always a priority, author Lisa Wingate does a marvelous job of showing that not everything is always cut and dried, as is often implied in movies and books. Personally, I couldn't help feeling a gentle conviction of my own prejudice and judgmental attitude towards people who are different or of a "lower social status" than me.
The story is written completely in first person, each chapter alternating between the perspectives of Andrea and Mart. Some may find the two separate first-person accounts confusing, but I had no trouble distinguishing between them and enjoyed the variation. It only brought more clarity to their motivations and more depth to their personalities. The spiritual thread is faint but effective, and Andrea's flailing faith is realistic and understandable. Overall, LARKSPUR COVE is a beautifully written novel filled with romance, mystery, suspense, drama, and characters who will stay with you long after the story ends.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on November 13, 2011