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Lavender Morning
by Jude Deveraux
(Pocket, $7.99, G)  ISBN 978-07434-3721-9
****
Jude Deveraux used to be a must-read for me.  Her previous stories from the 1980s and even 1990s are considered classics by many.  In the new millennium, Deveraux made a comeback, but her stories were hit or miss, if one looks at the reviews at TRRLavender Morning is the first of a new series and for me, this has hints of the old Deveraux.  There are elements that remind me of Sweet Liar, with going back and forth between history and today.  Yet, this is not a time travel.  The past is revealed through letters read by the current characters.  After a pretty slow start, the tale picked up and I finished the last 250 pages in one sitting. 

Jocelyn Minton led a troubled childhood.  Her mother and father were mismatched, with her mother being raised for a society life and her father a handyman by trade with a love of motorcycles and simple things.  Joce took after her mother and was lost after her mother died when she was just nine and her father remarried.  The “steps” as Joce liked to refer to them, were Nascar loving, Harley riding and totally out of her realm.  Her two stepsisters were gorgeous and ended up as famous teen models, who often teased Joce about being bookish and a prude.  Her father loved her and would have given her anything, but while he still missed her mother, he had a new life and just didn’t know what to do with this young person so unlike him. 

Luckily for Joce, a woman entered her life.  Edilean Harcourt was an older woman who reeked of refinement, love of books and the opera and the gentleness of spirit Joce craved.  Miss Edi was a spinster, often talking of the love of her life that died in World War II, during a time when Miss Edi served too.  She was injured and suffered from pain from injuries to her legs.  But her life had been filled with travel, assisting a famous doctor as he traversed the world helping in disasters.  Edi had been his right hand person.  Now she was retired in Boca Raton Florida and she took Joce under her wings.  When she died, she left Jocelyn her estate in Virginia; an estate Jocelyn knew nothing about.  She also left her secrets and a note in her will telling Joce that she had picked out a man for her named Ramsey McDowell.

Edilean Manor was in a small town outside Williamsburg, Virginia, and the house dated back to the 18th century.  Miss Edi owned the house, which had been lived in by her brother until his death and now by her friend’s children.  There is history in this small town of Edilean and Miss Edi was at the heart of some of the past rumors.  It was said that she and David McDowell had been engaged before the war, only to have broken up in part due to her injuries and in part due to David’s having married Mary Alice Welsch.  Miss Edi always talked about the love of her life, David, but as Joce soon discovers there were actually two David’s and the love she was talking about was not David McDowell.

Ramsey is an attorney and he and his cousin’s law firm have handled the work for Miss Edi for years.  Ramsey is young, cute and ready to meet Joce.  He too was told that Jocelyn might just be the girl for him.  But in the small world of Edilean, where everyone knows your name, many are your cousins too.  In Ramsey’s case, there is Luke, a man with secrets of his own, who has been serving as the gardener/landscaper/caregiver for Edilean Manor for the last two years.  Their cousin Sara lives in one third of the house and Ramsey’s bossy and very sexy administrative assistant, Tess, lives in the other part.  Jocelyn has to make her way through a lot of people and discover who she is, uncover all Miss Edi’s secrets, and choose between the man picked for her and the man who her heart tells her is the one. 

This is a good romance, with enough backstory to use up a good third of the book. This part moved slowly and it was hard to stay engaged.  Luke might or might not be Joce’s love, yet Ramsey’s appeal was strong too.  There are plenty of set-ups for future stories that probably have Ramsey and Tess as a possible couple and Sara, who seems to have fallen in love with a man that no one really likes, as the other tale.  Edi’s story is entertaining and how Luke and Joce discover all her secrets made for some page turning at the end. 

Lavender Morning is one of those novels that make you want to read again to see what you missed.  Once the real story gets moving, it is hard to put down.  And it is clear that one will have to keep an eye open for the sequels.   It is good to have Deveraux back.  

--Shirley Lyons


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