The Charm School

Dockside

The Drifter

        Enchanted Afternoon

The Firebrand

Halfway to Heaven

The Horsemaster's Daughter

The Hostage

Husband for Hire

The Mistress

Passing Through Paradise

Snowfall at Willow Lake

A Summer Affair

Summer at Willow Lake

Table for Five

The Winter Lodge

The You I Never Knew

 

 
Fireside by Susan Wiggs
(Mira, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 07783-2617-9
***
Avalon, New York has been the setting for Wiggs’ “Lakeside Chronicles” and Fireside is another installment.  This one features Bo Crutcher, a friend of Noah and Sophie Bellamy-Shepherd. Bo is a baseball player with aspirations of joining the New York Yankees.  He has paid his dues in the minors, most recently with the Avalon Hornets.  Now he has been invited to spring training for the Yankees and has the winter to get ready.  Even though he is older than most of the recruits, he is determined to make the team. 

But life has a way of finding you and the story opens as Bo is in the airport ready to pick up his 12-year-old son, AJ.  AJ’s mother Yolanda, with whom Bo spent a great time long ago, has just been caught up in a deportation sting down in Texas and AJ has nowhere to go but with Bo.  The sad thing is that Bo and AJ are strangers.  Bo has spent the last twelve years sending payments but staying away at Yolanda’s request.  AJ is scared and neither knows what is going to happen.  Sophie has agreed to help with the legal issues but immigration issues are never settled quickly.

Bo decides to move into a boarding house with AJ and try to live a “normal” life with him.  The owner of the boarding house is an older woman, taking in guests due to her deceased husband’s lack of financial acumen.  Her daughter, Kim Van Dorn, has just recently moved back in.

Kim recognizes Bo and hopes he will forget her. They met on the night Bo was picking up AJ from the airport when Kim came off the red eye from LA in an evening dress and high heels and no baggage.  Kim is a publicist and agent for athletes.  Her latest client was also her fiancé, until he fired her in anger and then hit her when she tried to walk out.  Kim decided there and then that she needed a break and she caught the plane with nothing but the clothes on her back.

The story follows Kim and Bo who feel a natural attraction.  AJ is a primary piece of the pie as Bo has to learn not only to cope with his own life, but with another person too.  Kim steps in to help Bo prepare for the Yankees and this just gives them time to fall in love. These interactions are some of the best parts of the story.  There are a few side stories thrown in of those who are in Avalon and who have been seen in previous books.

I truly liked the “Lakeshore Chronicles” and was a tad disappointed in this one.  I struggled with both Bo and Kim, who were equally self-sacrificing, needy and downright uncertain. There were major parts of the story where the pacing slowed to a crawl and nothing happened.  I struggled with picking up the book.  There were other parts that captivated me, particularly when Kim and Bo were exploring the romantic side of their relationship. 

Many times Wiggs tried to present to the reader what AJ was thinking and feeling.  At times, it seemed like she was right on what a 12-year-old would do or say. At other times, this seemed forced, making AJ seem either too mature for a 12-year-old or too young.  AJ ran away to New York City one day and for the life of me, I still can’t figure out why this child would do something so stupid.  It almost appeared as if this was just a mechanism to help Bo and AJ bond. 

Overall, I enjoyed Fireside, partly because Wiggs is true to her familiar style of writing.  On the one hand, I found things that distracted from the overall pleasure, but on the other, it was a satisfying reading experience.  It is just not the best Wiggs has to offer.  

--Shirley Lyons


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