|“A little corny” and “homey” describe this tale, but it is also engaging, delightful and a quality romance. Rebecca Winters likes to tug at your heartstrings and she does do that in this story. But what made The Daughter's Return better than just a standard tearjerker were the strength of the two lead characters and the blending of the mystery around finding a long-lost sister.
Twenty-six years ago, two men went on a kidnapping spree. They stole one baby, whose story was highlighted in a previous book. The other baby is Kathryn McFarland, whose father became a US Senator and is a descendant of the Copper King, a man who made a fortune in the mines around Salt Lake City Utah. The family was devastated when Kathryn was taken and in some ways has never recovered. But they did start a foundation dedicated to finding lost children and their father was instrumental in passing the Amber Alert bill.
Maggie is the slightly older sister of Kathryn. She is a hotshot lawyer and a well-respected member of the Foundation's board. She is bound and determined to find Kathryn, especially after the other baby, Kit Talbot, was returned to her family recently and just married Maggie’s brother. Maggie seeks out help from a genealogy firm, thinking they may be able to find the baby by finding the kidnapper.
Jake Halsey is a CIA operative and was injured in an undercover assignment that also killed two of his associates. The CIA thinks there is a leak ands want Jake out of the way while he is recovering from his injuries. They set him up in Salt Lake City and got him a job with a local genealogy firm, thinking his mastery of the Czech language will come in handy. Jake is the son of a retired ambassador who died recently. His step-mother, Kimela, a woman about Jake's age, seems to be missing, but Jake cannot go to Prague to find her because it would blow the cover of the investigation into the accident.
Jake and Maggie team up to find the brother of Franz Buric, who is suspected in the kidnapping of Kathryn. Jake is undercover, but it is soon clear to Maggie that he is more than a policeman recovering from an injury. She suspects FBI or other intelligence. What she wants from Jake is help finding her sister. Then she wants his body. Jake is instantly attracted to Maggie's long legs and yet feels her pain over her sister. He can empathize because of his worry over Kimela.
In the ways of romance, these two discover how much they like each other, and are determined to hide it. Yet they are constantly thrown together as they discover leads. They also participate in the search for a child who has apparently been abducted in the mountains from her family's campsite. This throws them together and their interest in each other builds.
The story is taut and nerve-wracking as they slowly find information that is leading them to Kathryn. There is frustration when leads go awry. The build-up is enhanced when a sideline introduces us to Anna, a woman who just may well be Kathryn. When they also start looking for Kimela, the tension builds even more.
There is much to enjoy in this story and if you enjoy tearjerkers, this one will turn those ducts on. There is a lot of coincidence too. The fact that Maggie is rich and money is no object is clear when she flies her own jet (actually two of them) and they go from Prague to Racine, Wisconsin without batting an eye. Jake calls in favors from his CIA pals a little too easily, but it works when seen as part of the story. Some of the ending is very corny and so heartwarming as to be almost sickly sweet. Luckily, Winters has given us two people in Maggie and Jake that allow us to enjoy their heartwarming moments because life has not been all roses for them.
Jake has scars he has to work through and while determined to have Maggie, he is mature and handles their relationship like an adult. Maggie has issues, but realizes that life goes on and she has gained her strength from what she has had to work with. Both are independent in their own right, but clearly see the need to be partners and there is a sense of true maturity in these two that is delightful for a change from all the immature characters floating around in books today.
While a few elements were a bit over the top, it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the romance between Maggie and Jake. The Daughter's Return is essentially their story and one that can be greatly enjoyed.