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44 Cranberry Point
by Debbie Macomber
(Mira, $7.50, PG) ISBN 0-7783-2073-1
***
Cedar Cove, Washington is the setting once again for this Macomber tale. This is the fourth entry in the series and if you have been following the others, this story slides right in and you move along as if you never left. I have read only one of the previous stories and I was able to follow some of the plotlines much better than others. But 44 Cranberry Point is clearly part of the series and it would be best read if you have read the others. A fan of the series might find this even a four-heart read, because it does have a touch of suspense that I did not see in the previous book I read.

Old friends abound and their stories continue. I don’t think anyone is truly introduced in this entry, so most of the romance is updates from previous books. Olivia and Jack are just back from their honeymoon and have issues that a slob and a neatnik have when trying to join households. Olivia’s mother Charlotte is not ready to quit as she explores the idea of love with friend Ben Rhodes.

Grace Sherman has a major role in this story line as she tries to get her love life back on track. She was last seen starting to date Cliff Hardy – but they broke up because Grace got involved with a man on the Internet, who turned out to be married. She and Cliff spend the book trying to decide if they are on again or off again.

MaryEllen and Jon, Grace’s daughter and son-in-law, have some rough spots in their new marriage. Ian returns from his latest Naval voyage to discover that wife Cecelia wants another baby. He struggles with this because they lost their last daughter when only a few days old from a heart problem.

One of the common themes running through the book is a charity auction benefiting the SPCA that will team a bachelor with a dog. You can bid on one or the other. If you want both, you pay double the price. It seems like a silly premise but it introduces some of the characters and gets all the stories out there for the reader.

But the bulk of the tale centers around the mysterious stranger who showed up on the doorstep at 44 Cranberry Point. This is a bed and breakfast operated by Bob and Peggy Beldon. The stranger died and it was soon discovered that he was poisoned from a water bottle he brought with him. Turns out he was an old Vietnam buddy of Bob’s who had had plastic surgery and changed his name. Now it seems like Bob might be in danger – two of the four men from his unit have died under suspicious circumstances. He hires local friend and ex-detective Roy McAfee to help him out. This mystery revolves around a mission-gone-wrong in Vietnam that haunts Bob to this day. Bob and Peggy have to fight their demons while still maintaining their love for each other.

Roy and his wife, Corrie are also getting strange postcards and this mystery is left hanging for the next installment – 5 Harbor Street– which is where they live.

There is not much to say about this novel except that it is pure Macomber. No one can make you feel like you are a part of the community like she can. From the first pages, the reader feels like these are just everyday people whom you’d run across in every home town. The pace is engaging and because it changes from character to character each chapter, it feels like you are involved in everyone’s life all at once. She writes from all perspectives, so you don’t have to guess what someone is feeling and why they feel that way – you just have to hope they come to their senses before they do something too stupid to ruin things.

If you have been reading the tales of Cedar Grove, by all means be sure to visit 44 Cranberry Point. If this is your first time to journey here, you may want to start at the beginning at your used bookstore and work your way around town.

--Shirley Lyons


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