Robin's Reward (Bonita Creek Trilogy Bk 1)
by June McCrary Jacobs
Publisher: June McCrary Jacobs
Published: Apr. 28, 2015
Bonita Creek’s librarian Robin Bennett is heartbroken after being abandoned by her husband, Thomas. The mysterious and handsome Jeff Clarke arrives unexpectedly and touches Robin’s life with his wit and warmth. Then, without warning, Jeff’s harsh words and abrasive actions scare her off, and Robin’s hope of finding true love withers again.
Just when it seems Robin and Jeff might have a future, Susan Stinson, whose cruel taunting has plagued Robin since they met as young teens, decides Jeff should be hers, not Robin’s. Susan’s anger and jealousy escalate dangerously. Her vindictiveness threatens the foundation of Jeff and Robin’s young relationship.
Robin’s journey through the peaks and valleys of her life meanders along the twists and turns of new challenges. Is a relationship which began with both parties harboring secrets destined to survive? Can they move past their troubles and the obstacles in their path to find love and happiness together? When their pasts rear their ugly heads, Jeff and Robin must use their faith to remain strong and true. But will it be enough for them to embrace a life of love, trials, and blessings . . . together?
I’m as hot and sticky as the center of a freshly-roasted campfire marshmallow, Miss Praise.”
Perspiration trickled past Robin’s sunburned neck, under her collar, and down her back. Her blouse was plastered to her skin.
“I’m not feeling very feminine or lady-like in this condition, if you catch my drift. This brings us to my next question. What was I thinking starting up with this garden renovation project on the hottest March afternoon ever recorded in Bonita Creek? Am I nuts? Wait—don’t answer that.”
Some sympathy from Miss Praise, like purring or even winding herself around Robin’s legs, would’ve been comforting. Instead, the elderly tabby was dozing comfortably in her cozy quiltlined basket on the shaded porch. Robin was drained from tangling with her vintage hydrangea bush for the past four hours. She’d read gardening was great exercise, but it gave Robin’s thoughts too many chances to wander. She dreaded those dark, dreary spaces in her mind permanently occupied by unhappy memories and heart-wrenching regrets. Since she wasn’t accomplishing much anyway, she released her shovel to take a break with a refreshing glass or two of her favorite iced tea. She straightened up and stretched her aching arms over her head.
“I’m parched, how about you? Want something cold to drink?” She spoke in the direction of the faded gray cat. Apparently, Miss Praise had heard enough of Robin’s whining. The cat yawned, stretched, flicked her tail, and hopped daintily out of her basket. She lumbered down the brick path to seek refuge in the peaceful back garden. Naturally, Robin hadn’t expected Miss Praise to respond, but talking to the cat helped her feel connected to her Grandma Estelle. The older woman had passed on a few years ago and Robin still ached for her grandmother’s presence. She kneaded her fatigued lower back with her knuckles and sighed deeply.
As she untied the ribbon of her straw hat and shook out her damp curly hair, Robin sensed someone’s gaze. A prickly feeling caused her to rotate her body where she came face-to-face with an unfamiliar—but attractive—man. A hint of amusement lit up his clean-shaven face as he stood on the walkway in front of her garden gate. When the stranger chuckled, Robin’s damp cheeks flamed scarlet. She wondered how long he’d been standing there listening to her grunt and groan and, well, whine.
Since he couldn’t possibly have seen Miss Praise, he probably assumed Robin had been talking to herself. Swell. Just another example of the truckload of awkward moments in life when Robin wished she could vanish on demand. Speaking through clenched teeth, she attempted to use humor to cover up her self-consciousness.
“Instead of breaking your neck staring at me, how about making yourself useful by helping me dig up this stubborn hydrangea?” Her embarrassment grew when the stranger’s sole response was a chorus of boisterous laughter. Lord, please get me out of here—now! Robin’s humiliation took over her common sense, and her sole goal was to flee. Grabbing her garden hat, she slammed it onto the gate post as she wrenched off her work gloves and tossed them on the ground near her birdbath. The sound of the man’s hearty laughter echoing in her ears brought her lifelong dislike of being the object of teasing and taunting racing to the surface.
Like most school children, she’d suffered through her share of teasing and even some bullying. Truth be told, she was still occasionally bullied by a former classmate, Susan Stinson, almost ten years after they’d graduated. Robin had expected—and hoped—in her current stage of life, halfway between twenty-five and thirty, she would’ve overcome this affliction. The scorching feeling in her cheeks told her otherwise. I so do not want to deal with this guy.
Attempting to give the illusion of self-confidence, Robin lengthened her spine and held her chin high as she stalked toward her cottage. In the safety of her cottage’s interior she’d find the solace and peace she was seeking. Far too often in the past she’d allowed her pride and confidence to be battered by a male. Okay, one male in particular. She vowed to handle her reaction in the current situation differently. She was determined to spare herself one more millisecond of humiliation. Today I’m going to stand up to my tormentors. All right, so maybe this stranger isn’t exactly tormenting me. Still, everyone knows laughing at a lady isn’t polite.
Robin wasn’t going to stand there and let some stranger, however handsome he might be— and this guy was definitely above-average in the looks department—laugh at her in her own garden. Hot, briny tears stung her eyes. Time seemed to slow down, and she couldn’t make it to the front door fast enough. Embarrassing incidents from her not so distant past charged to the forefront of her mind as she made her way up the front porch steps.
At the front gate, Jeff froze. He’d offended her. His body felt as if he’d just finished running five miles at a training pace, as it had been since he’d first happened upon the woman. His heart thundered in his ears when he’d first seen her, his vision honed in on a lovely brunette. She was hard at work in her garden on such an oppressive afternoon. He’d never seen anyone so focused on one task. She appeared to be in a frenzy, trying to free the roots of a bush from the sun-dried, hardened soil.
He had to admit, she looked as if she were accustomed to hard work. Strong, fit arms and legs peeked out from her short-sleeved blouse and khaki shorts. She sported a wide-brimmed hat and appeared unafraid of hard work if the sweaty sheen covering her neck and face were any kind of evidence. Smudges of dirt adorned her elbows, knees, and—he couldn’t help but notice—shapely calves.
He’d been walking through the streets surrounding his rental home. Historical architecture was one of his hobbies, and he was checking out the architectural styles located on the streets in this older section of Bonita Creek, California. He’d already identified Craftsman, Victorian, Italianate, Tudor, cottage, ranch, and bungalow style homes. His mind, locked on his thoughts, was jarred when he heard a frustrated voice asking why she was trying to renovate her garden on this hot afternoon. The voice held such conviction he stopped to see if the speaker was seeking his personal opinion. When he realized the sun-kissed gardener was alone in the garden, he became enthralled by her movements and the timbre of her voice.
Unsure of how long he’d been staring, Jeff was jerked out of his trance when the woman turned around and challenged him to come into the garden to help her dig up the bush. Embarrassed he’d been caught staring, his natural reaction was to laugh. Now the woman rushed away from him toward the door of the cottage dominating the center of the property.
This scenario was not unfolding as he wanted. He blamed his complete lack of understanding of women and their mysterious ways for this latest gaffe. Now you’ve done it. You are clueless, Clarke. He needed to come up with something witty and wise to redeem himself. Otherwise, he’d lose a chance to meet this fascinating gardener who had his curiosity.
Jeff Clarke comes to Bonita Creek to do a forensic audit of the library at the request of the city manager who wishes to close down the library because he doesn't see it as a vital part of the community like the fire and police services. Jeff finds something he wasn't looking for.
Robin's Reward was a very pleasant book to read because it is a clean romance and free from foul language. I always appreciate books where I don't have to anticipate having to skip over words I don't want to read.
I liked the plot in this book. Though I have never been hurt by anyone like Robin had, I can imagine that it would give quite a blow to a person's self-confidence and self-esteem to face that kind of rejection. I'm sure it would colour future relationships with men as it did for Robin.
The plot twists and turns created by two of the characters made for a very interesting storyline. Their behaviour was not totally unrealistic either. I have known people to react just as cruelly or vindictively when they didn't get what they wanted.
I liked the character development in the main characters in this novel, and knowing that this is just the first book in a trilogy, I'll be curious to see further character growth among these characters and to new ones that are added. I thought that Jeff and Robin were quite realistic. Neither were perfect, though they did both have a lot going for them. The most important thing was that they were both relying on the Lord to help get them through their crises and difficult times. I think that's a good lesson to take away from this novel. God may not stop the bad stuff from happening, but He'll walk with us through it.
The pacing of Robin's Reward was relaxed. It was not fast-paced because it is not an action or suspense novel. It is meant to be, and it is, a romance novel, so the relaxed pacing was just right.
I did find it a little repetitive in the first half of the book regarding Robin’s emotional state regarding Thomas and her attraction towards Jeff, but that seemed to clear up the further into the book that I read.
I enjoyed Robin's Reward and I expect that if you also enjoy clean romance you will too. I gave this book 4 stars out of 5. I'm looking forward to book 2 in this series.
Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author:
Award-winning author, June McCrary Jacobs, was the winner of Cedar Fort Publishing’s 2013 Holiday Tale Contest for her debut novella, ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’. ‘Robin’s Reward’ is her first full-length novel, and is set in her favorite location in California—the Mendocino coastal region. This book is the first installment of the ‘Bonita Creek Trilogy’.
June’s original sewing, quilting, and stitchery designs have been published in over one hundred books, magazines, and blogs in the past few years. When she’s not writing, reading, or sewing, June enjoys cooking, walking, and visiting art and history museums. She also enjoys touring historic homes and gardens and strolling around the many historic Gold Rush towns in the Sierra Nevada foothills. In the summertime you can find June at a variety of county fairs and the California State Fair admiring the sewing projects, quilts, and handiwork other inspired seamstresses, quilters, craftspeople, and artists have created.