Home In Carolina and Sweet Tea at Sunrise back to back. Because of that, I can acknowledge that I was invested in Sarah’s story, which is the premise of the Sunrise book, before I even picked up the book. My strong suggestion to a reader is to read the tales in that order. Home In Carolina has a lot more backstory that sets the stage for the series and I don’t think Sunrise will stand alone without it.
Sarah is a complex character. She is a divorced wife, a mother of two, a college graduate and a woman who has had all the confidence she ever had nagged and browbeat right out of her. Sarah was married to Walter, a man she met in college who loved her and treated her like a jewel. But then they discovered Sarah was pregnant. They returned to his home town in Alabama and Sarah’s life was never the same. Walter was the only child of a powerful man and a woman who apparently only felt good if she could degrade others. They complained, criticized and generally treated Sarah like dirt and Walter not only allowed it, he did the same. Finally Sarah had enough and left him.The final straw came when he suggested divorce but also stated he wanted her to lose weight if they were to stay together. When he also said he might try to get sole custody of their son Tommy, but not their younger daughter, Libby, Sarah had had it. But what confidence she once had is very well hidden.
Sarah is now waiting tables at the local diner, a place owned and operated by one of the town’s primary gossips. Grace and Wharton’s are staples of this lovely small town. She encourages Sarah and is thrilled to have her there. And she is thrilled when there is a romance for her in the wings.
Travis McDonald is an ex-Major League baseball player who didn’t make it far in the Red Sox organization. He is at loose ends now and has come to Serenity to spend some time with his cousin, Tom, who is the town manager. Tom’s wife Jeanette is one of the newest members of the group of women known as the Magnolias and she and Sarah are connected through that group of ladies.
Travis sees Sarah and is attracted to her. He recognizes early on that she has some issues, but he has never really felt this connection to a woman before. His reputation is that he loves them and leaves them, but he never really felt that was the real him. His father was a womanizer, and still is, and Travis has always been determined not to end up like he did. Travis buys a building and decides to put his broadcasting degree to good use. He purchases a local radio station that is on the market and is determined to make this work. He sees it as his future, and he hopes it will be a future with Sarah and her children in it.
There are complications galore. Sarah’s friends are not sure about Travis and worry for her. Her ex-husband gets some gumption and leaves his family. Walter is going to try to change and wants to be near his children to do it. Sarah’s friend Raylene is living with her and is suffering from agoraphobia due to the abuse she suffered from her ex. And when Travis’ parents show up with more problems and try to put him in the middle, life get very complicated. There are side stories from the town, with the biggest one about the local realtor and her husband.
But Sweet Tea at Sunrise is ultimately Travis and Sarah’s story. It is sweet and fun to watch the courtship that takes place. Travis understands Sarah’s caution and he tries to show her how much he cares and how much he is willing to commit. After a couple of starts and stops, things work out in the end. And of course, we get to see the antics of other town members and the set up for Raylene’s story soon to come.
Woods uses a good style of storytelling that drew me in and kept me turning the pages. The story was multifaceted and filled with small town flavor. For readers who like this style, I don’t think they can go wrong with this tale.