Charlotte's life is a lot different now than it was back then. No longer overweight and having to hide behind it, she's now healthier and a bit more content. Not a small feat since she is the owner of Sugar Rush, the local confectionery. However, on a quiet July afternoon, her life changes when Smokin' Hot Spencer Gregory walks through her front door. This guy is from her past and probably someone she doesn't want to remember because he stomped all over her heart back then. Within the pages of Willowleaf Lane by RaeAnne Thayne, I found myself relating to the Charlotte in more ways than one. Life as an overweight teen was painful enough but not having many friends and being an outsider made it even more painful. While I never had the opportunity to tutor the jock, I did have moments to daydream about the
hunks in school and wondering what it would be like to be with them.
Despite knowing that my heart would never be torn to pieces like
Charlotte's was, I could definitely understand.
I was happy to see differences in memory from each of the characters perspective. Would it be considered stereotypical? Perhaps, but the truth is that this is real and many readers will feel a kinship towards this theme. I, myself, often wondered if every girl went through moments like these or if it was just those of us were were not one of the "beautiful people." Seeing it in print has lead me to believe that I was not alone in this thought. I actually found myself tearing up a time or two when I was reading.
Willowleaf Lane combines the elements of sports, families, eating disorders and hometown heroes and although it would seem to be an insurmountable task to do so, Ms. Thayne seems to have pulled it off. The struggles for Peyton and trying to fit it, the closure to Spencer's troubles and the realism set forth in the return of a wounded war hero were very much on par with actual life. The "intimate" moments, however, didn't do it for me in this one. In fact, if the author had left out that part altogether I would not have minded in the least. For me, getting to know the characters and seeing them rekindle their
friendship, and then perhaps providing a hint of romance at the end would have been enough.
I will admit that there are moments that could have been better developed to make the scenes more complete. I would have liked to seen something to bring more closure to such details as Spencer Gregory's daughter Peyton, the huge project he was undertaking, even a hint as to where the romance was headed for Charlotte and Spencer. Ultimately, when I got to the last page of the final chapter of the book, I turned it expecting there to be a epilogue...and I said, "Damn!" I found nothing as the book abruptly ended. I was a little bummed about it actually, and left to wonder if there will be any information about them to come in a future book.
While some readers may feel that this book is not the strongest of the series in terms of the romance, in Willowleaf Lane, RaeAnne Thayne does "hit the nail on the head" for several things:
- Bringing out into the open the struggles that teenagers face during those difficult years and get them help if necessary;
- Reminding us that sport figures are human, should be treated as such and not put up on a pedestal to be worshiped,
- War veterans, whether wounded or not, need to be honored for who they are,
given the opportunity to reacquaint themselves to civilian life, and
adjust to their circumstances whatever those may be; and
- Not every book has to be about sex.