GUARDED is actually the second book by Angela Correll which features Ann Taylor, her grandmother, and the rural Kentucky community where Taylor grew up. While I did not read the first, titled GROUNDED, I had no problems following this second novel. Taylor is now living with her grandmother and wants to restore the family's stone house which had previously been damaged in a fire. Hoping to access some historical grant money, Taylor turns to an elderly black woman in a nursing home who believes the stone house was the first home built in the state. As Taylor begins working on restoration, she finds an old tin of letters beneath the floor boards of one bedroom. Most of the letters were written by her great uncle (older brother of her grandmother) who died in WWII. But beneath those letters was one single letter written in Italian. When Taylor has the letter translated by a friend, the contents send her and the friend on a trip to Italy to discover a secret kept for over fifty years. While working to find the truth for her grandmother, Taylor is trying to face some truths about herself and her past. Is she like her father who could not settle down and who abandoned his young family long ago, or can she embrace her rekindled romance with Jake? Will she be content to permanently return to the farms on May Hollow Road? Correll has written a gentle novel filled with warmth, occasional laughter, and true heart. I had to chuckle when the Italian mother-in-law of Taylor's friend comes and spends a week with Taylor's grandmother Beulah because the Italian woman could not be trusted to stay alone back in New York. Both Beulah and Rossella believe their way, especially their foods are the best, and it appears that battle lines would have been drawn, but this is a novel of heart, and Beulah's lets her see beyond Rossella's actions into the overbearing woman's heart. It is then Beulah learns that beliefs and culture do not define a person; love for friends and family and having a purpose in life does.
I like "community" novels which feature a cast of interesting minor characters and Correll has supplied those. We have Jake's mother Evelyn who has been acting slightly forgetful and Tom, a lawyer and widow whose been acting the same. Then there is the town gossip Betty Gibson whose curiosity often is the source of trouble. Add in a few goats and chickens and there is plenty to like.
I want to thank Angela Correll for sending me a copy of this novel to review. I am delighted to recommend this novel to my fellow readers. I really recommend that you get both books and enjoy the whole story of Taylor, Jake, Beulah, and the town. I can see from Angela's website that she is making several personal appearances in Kentucky to promote the book. Just like I am thrilled when I find a new Wisconsin author who can capture the feel of our world, I am sure Kentucky readers are glad to have Correll on the scene. But I assure you that you don't need to be from Kentucky to enjoy her work. I want to also point out that Angela Correll and her family run a guest house, a farm to table cafe, and goat-milk soap business. You can read about all of them at her website. When Angela sent me a copy of the book, she pointed out that her guest houses were on Mill Street in Stanford, KY, the same street name as our residence in Wisconsin. Is that connection strong enough to dictate a trip to visit? Perhaps!