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Feature book: The Family She Didn’t Expect

29 September 2021

The Family She Didn’t Expect by Helen Lacey

Series: The Culhanes of Cedar River #6
Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release Date: 18 Aug 2021
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Format: ebook and print
Length: 504 pages (in duo)
RRP: $5.99 (ebook); $16.99 (print) duo

It seems like yesterday when I started reading this series. Where does the time go? For those who need a refresh, you can find a series list here.

Each and every book has been tender and poignant. The Family She Didn’t Expect is no exception. It features widowed Joss Culhane with his two young daughters, Sissy and Clare, and newcomer schoolteacher Marnie Jackson.

Joss has never been one for the big family ranch, even though his roots there go deep. He has always been fascinated by cars and has built up his successful garage/towing business over the years. It helps that he is a Culhane. They are well respected locally for their integrity and hard work. To add to his portfolio, he owns several rental properties in town. One of them is about to be rented to the new schoolteacher coming to town. He just has to finish doing some final repairs before it’s fit for use.

He is called out late one night to tow a car that’s skidded off the snowy road. The owner, Marnie Jackson, petite and sparking with annoyance—is less than pleased to be inconvenienced by her accident! Turns out she’s the new schoolteacher arriving early, and was driving to a B&B out of town, hoping to stay there for a few days. But there was a mix up with the booking and she couldn’t check in, and then she went off the road, thankfully with no injury to anything but the car. She is exhausted after driving for hours and emotional at finally being in Cedar River. Her clothing is too thin, and her shoes are ridiculous for Cedar River conditions. She feels like a fish out of water.

With no-one to take her back to town except Joss, Marnie accepts with ill grace. Then she discovers there is a convention in town and all the local hotels are booked out. She can’t stay in Joss’s rental because of the plumbing, and she seems very unhappy to accept his (admittedly begrudging) offer to stay with him and the girls. Her rental is right next door—so near yet so far.

These two certainly get off to a bad start, but Joss has no idea of the extra tensions affecting Marnie. She has come to Cedar River in her quest to find her birth grandmother and a cousin, Abby, who she knows is married to one of the Culhanes! (Abby and Jake’s tender story is #2 The Soldier’s Secret Son). When Marnie suddenly meets Joss Culhane she finds it very confronting and a bit threatening.

Marnie’s mother always wanted to connect with her birth mother. She recently passed away and Marnie now wants to do what her mother never did to connect with, well, family. She has researched them and found them and now here she is, about to work in Cedar River for six months. Hopefully she can use that time to make herself known to them. She’s aware she treads a delicate and emotional line and has no idea if they even know she exists.

So, meeting Joss Culhane in less than ideal circumstances completely throws her off. She is tense and prickly, even when she accepts his offer to stay with them until her rental is ready.

Then she quickly goes and falls for his girls, who are totally lovable. She also falls hard for Joss. When he’s not grumpy (because of a Friday night call out in the snow to tow a car belonging to a very uptight lady), he’s a great guy to be with. Loving and firm with his girls, a great brother, a hard worker, honest, respectful, caring, polite, and pretty sexy. A terrible pancake maker but a great kisser. Also, a man who’s hesitant about getting involved with Marnie because she’s only in town for six months. Right?

This was not in her plan!

She yearns to reveal herself to Abby and her grandmother—and reveal her secret to Joss—but doesn’t quite know how. Then things go horribly wrong.

Can Joss and Marnie come back together and heal? This is a lovely romance, told with honesty and caring and compassion. As far as I’m concerned, the Culhanes can just keep coming and I’ll just keep reading them. Well done Helen Lacey.

reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

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