Briar Rose

Gather The Stars

Angel's Fall


Morning Song

The Mother's Day Garden
by Kimberly Cates
(Pocket, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-7434-1886-7
The Mother's Day Garden is a treat for all mothers and daughters. Certainly readers who've been looking for a heroine who's over forty, and for a contemporary romance that rings true to life, should read this book.

Hannah O'Connell is recovering from a hysterectomy. Her physical weakness makes Hannah feel useless, and emotionally she's having difficulty closing the door on her long cherished hope of having more children. Hannah always wanted lots of children, but she was never able to conceive after the birth of her daughter, Becca, nineteen years ago.

Now Becca is away at college and her husband, Sam, moved out of their bedroom before the surgery so that Hannah would have less trouble sleeping. Since then, Hannah can't make herself respond to any of Sam's physical overtures. Consequently he feels rejected and she feels guilty.

Hannah's life changes in an instant when she goes outside, reaches into her laundry basket, and finds a newborn baby. There is a note from the biological mother telling Hannah the baby's name is Ellie, after Hannah's beloved grandmother. Hannah wants to keep this baby, badly.

Hannah suspects Ellie belongs to a friend of her daughter; she wants to care for Ellie and keep her safe until the mother returns. Sam is not thrilled, but he is willing to go along with anything if it will put the light back in Hannah's eyes.

Hannah wants Sam to share this joy with her, but Sam has issues. His mother abandoned him - something he has never gotten over. And Sam is scared that he's losing Hannah; he worries that they will never get back the closeness they shared before Hannah became ill.

Things get even more complicated for Hannah and Sam after Hannah's first love, Tony, now a lawyer, returns to town. Thrice divorced Tony is eager to help Hannah keep Ellie, especially if it will give him a chance to make Hannah care for him again. Hannah and Tony share a past that Sam never knew about. A past that Hannah doesn't want Sam or her daughter to ever know about.

Kimberly Cates is so good at letting readers know what makes her characters tick; I felt like I knew and understood the characters in this story. However being able to figure out the characters, knowing what makes them who they are, didn't mean I knew what was going to happen to them.

There are lots of elements to this story; my description above only covers the first 15 pages of the book. It might sound a bit like a soap opera, but it's not. Or, if it is, it's definitely very classy PBS-like suds. Ms. Cates never sacrifices the integrity of her characters in order to create more drama.

I mentioned recently that romance writers are continually pushing the boundaries of the genre. The Mother's Day Garden is an example of the boundaries being stretched a bit. I think this book could have been published under the general label of women's fiction. It is also a romance; that is, the main focus is the relationship between Hannah and Sam. Labels aside, it's simply a good story; I hope to read more like it.

--Judith Flavell

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