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16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber
(Mira, $6.99, G) 1-55166-830-0
16 Lighthouse Road is actually five stories intertwined, with some getting more pages than others. Olivia Lockhart is the link to the other stories, though her story isn’t necessarily the focus. She is the divorced family court judge who hears yet another divorce petition in Cedar Cove, Washington. This one, however, is different. The two filed a prenuptial agreement making divorce difficult and Olivia has the feeling that this couple isn’t really ready to split up. So she refuses the petition.

Cecilia and Ian Randall, the young couple who request a divorce, have plenty of problems in their marriage - Ian is in the Navy and gone for long periods of time when he can’t contact his wife. One of those times Cecilia gave birth prematurely and then had to deal with the death of their baby alone. Their need to deal with that grief and with their marriage makes up a central part of the book.

There are other stories, however. Olivia’s daughter, Justine, has to cope with deciding between what seems safe and allowing herself to love someone who won’t be a comfortable choice. Olivia meets a new man years after the last man she loved divorced her and re-married. Olivia’s mother, Charlotte, fights to make her dead friend’s last request meaningful to his remaining family. Olivia’s good friend, Grace, has to face the disappearance not just of her love but, quite literally, her husband.

Trust is a central issue in each story - trust in another, trust in love, trust lost and trust found. The author works yet another facet of love and trust into each relationship and story she introduces. The main story is that of the newlyweds, Ian and Cecilia, who are hurting from their daughter’s death and their decision to divorce. The sudden roadblock they get in the way of their separation leads them to an almost-reconciliation before Ian is sent away on duty again. Their e-mails and letters to each other show how they begin to learn about each other, including how to trust. Both Ian and Cecilia have to forgive the other and, more importantly, themselves, before they can move on to a real marriage.

Ultimately, though, the book leaves an unsatisfactory feeling. Maybe there are too many stories, most of which are not necessarily compelling. Ian and Cecilia’s is developed the most and has some nice touches, but Olivia’s love story seems to be skimmed over and Grace’s story (which presumably will be part of a sequel) is left frustratingly in limbo. Justine’s character is annoying and makes the reader nearly wish she didn’t have a HEA since she seems to have no idea what to do with one. Charlotte’s story is touching but, once again, very brief. These seem to be more brief vignettes, loosely linked, than a fully developed intertwining of the characters.

16 Lighthouse Road would have been a better book if a few stories had been dropped out - or left for a sequel - so the reader could get to really know the characters rather than being merely introduced to them.

--Irene Williams

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