I WANT CANDY – Susan Donovan
St. Martin's
ISBN: 978-0-3125-3622-0
March 2012
Contemporary Romance

Bigler , North Carolina – Present Day

Years ago, Candace Carmichael was glad to leave the tiny town of Bigler and her repressive parents behind. But after winning big in the real estate market, then watching her fortune disappear, she's back in town…broke, jobless, and homeless. With her father now deceased and Candy's mother living in a retirement center, she really has no place to go while she licks her wounds and regroups. While out driving her practically broken-down car late one night, she is pulled over by an old friend, now sheriff, Turner Halliday. The grownup Turner has become a strikingly handsome man, but Candy is afraid of exploring her feelings for the sexy man because he is part of her unhappy past in Bigler. While Candy struggles to find a temporary place to live and earn some money, she tries to avoid Turner, but that's hard to do in a small town, especially when she keeps getting into some predicaments that require Turner to be called.

Turner was attracted to Candy when they were teens, and she's grown up very nicely. He's aware of her recent bad luck, but he has his own problems to deal with, namely the fact that a local lowlife is operating a high scale meth operation. Turner is especially keeping his eye on Gerrall Spivey, a young man he's well acquainted with and who currently works at the retirement center where Candy's mother resides. Gerrall fancies himself as Candy's “boyfriend” and Turner can't tell her the reason why she needs to stay away from Gerrall. He'll do whatever it takes to protect her. Can Turner kindle some flames with Candy and convince her to stay in town? Will he get the bad guys behind bars?

While the real estate business proved to be a boom and a bust for Candy, one thing she can still do is make cakes. She's been encouraged by those around her to stick around and open a bakery, but she resists. To her, Bigler is a part of her past she'd rather not revisit. Yes, Turner is also part of the past, but he's not over the death of his wife and still wears his wedding ring. Turner and Candy were good friends as teenagers, and Turner had a crush on her, but her father wouldn't allow Turner, who is African American, to date his daughter. With her father long dead, there's no denying the sexual attraction between them now.

Gerrall Spivey is one creepy, mentally unstable character. His father runs the meth lab, and Gerrall is up to his eyeballs in it, too, though to a lesser scale. His fixation on Candy turns into an obsession, and she is unaware at first, but then when she realizes it, is unsure how to react. Turner knows Gerrall quite well as the kid was friends with his late wife, and Turner suspects there is a connection between the Spiveys and his wife's death. But can he prove it? Meanwhile, pursuing Candy has Turner realizing it's time to think about taking off his ring after four years. Candy and Turner's coming together takes a while in I WANT CANDY (after a few kisses along the way) but when they do make love, be prepared to grab an icy cold drink to cool you down. Can Turner make Candy realize they belong together?

Other characters of note are Candy's mother, Jacinta, who loves her new life in the retirement center and has nights reserved for her gentleman friend and eventually gets Candy to realize she was only trying to protect her as a child from Candy's father. Candy's friend Cheri (from CHERI ON TOP) provides much needed advice and support for both her and Turner. Then there is Gerrall's father, Bobby Ray Spivey. Let's hope he meets what's coming to him, because the bad apple does not fall far from the tree.

A southern set romantic comedy that is sure to please readers, I WANT CANDY is filled with warmth, entertaining humor, and characters you'll grow to love.

Patti Fischer