Most of us would rank spending time with family as one of our highest priorities, but recognize that life's responsibilities and stresses often rush in and prevent quality time with loved ones. In Deborah Raney's Chicory Inn series, readers meet an extended family who are able to honor that promise to make family first. Their success centers around matriarch Audrey Whitman's decision to make Tuesday nights family dinner night; everyone gathers at the family home, now a B and B called Chicory Inn. Grandchildren are spoiled, silly games are played, and occasionally problems are aired.
I've enjoyed the early books of this series, so I was delighted to revisit Chicory Inn in book four CLOSE TO HOME and in book five HOME AT LAST. Author Raney again dishes up some memorable Tuesday nights, but more importantly gives readers windows to heartfelt, realistic stories of second chances, challenges, and acceptance. In CLOSE TO HOME, young widow Bree Whitman knows she must move on with her life as the five year anniversary of her soldier husband's death arrives and passes. But she fears any new life she chooses will mean leaving behind the large Whitman family, her late husband's parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews she has come to love so much. While we have not all experienced death of a young spouse, we've all experienced loss and can relate to Bree's inability to move on. As always Deborah Raney's "take" is sensitive and beautiful.
HOME AT LAST, Raney's most recent novel, ends the series. A secondary story thread about great-mother Cee-Cee failing health continues in HOME AT LAST, while the primary focus in on family bachelor Link. Tired of his dead-end job and his single status, Link takes a risk and asks out beautiful Shayla, who runs a bakery and coffee shop with her father. While Shayla is mutually attracted, she sees too many barriers -- her need to care for her young niece, her father's dependence on her, and not least, her bi-racial heritage. Shayla's life is complicated and falling in love with Link isn't the smooth, easy road to a happy ending that one would expect. Author Raney tackles prejudice, race, and past mistakes, showing us that God can handle all of that and with patience, we can all find HOME AT LAST.
I received copies of these two novels from Litfuse. All opinions are mine.