AT THE RIVER'S EDGE Mariah Stewart
The Chesapeake Diaries , Book 7
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-53842-0
February 2014
Contemporary Romance

St. Dennis, Maryland The Present

Circumstance plays District Attorney Sophie Enright a blow. First her witnesses don't show up for a case, and then she finds her car with two flat tires on the forth level of the parking garage. When her boyfriend and fellow DA doesn't answer her phone call, she has to wait for a service to fix her tires. Descending to the second parking level, she finds her boyfriend's car, and he steps out of the back seat from an assignation with another attorney from the office. Hurt and angry, Sophie takes vacation time and leaves Ohio to visit her brother in St. Dennis, Maryland. Her brother now operates the Enright and Enright law offices alone, and the work is overwhelming him. Sophie also finds the perfect building, although derelict, to make her life-long dream of owning her own restaurant come true. Her attorney profession oriented family thinks she is crazy, but soon Sophie quits her job and moves to St. Dennis. The only male distraction there is Jason Bowers.

Jason and his brother started a landscaping business in Florida, but then Eric died in Iraq. After selling the business, Jason gives his brother's widow, Brooke, Eric's share of the business, and moves to St. Dennis where she lives with her son, now Jason's only remaining family. His mother and father died in an automobile accident when a drunk driver hit the car. Jason and Eric escaped, but the tragedy marked their teenage years. He has started a landscape business in St. Dennis, and currently redesigns a 19th century backyard garden for the grandfather of Brooke's fiancé, Jesse Enright. Both Brooke and Jesse welcome Jason's involvement in his nephew's life. With the purchase of the abandoned restaurant next to his new property, Jason will have the retail store part of his business plan in place.

While Sophie and Jason are aware and interested in each other from the start, their romance is very low-key and doesn't really develop until half-way through the story. They are both empathetic characters adjusting to life's hard kicks. Soon their desires for the future clash and cause trouble. All the characters from the previous volumes play roles in this story and provide a sense of community. Their voices give the needed history and background context for the reader, but slow the pace. Sophie's plans for her restaurant, and Jesse and Brooke's wedding plans also hinder the romance's development. In that sense, the story's romance takes a backseat to Sophie's self-realization of what she wants from life. This may sound overly critical, but it is only a warning. The reader will enjoy Jason and Sophie's story as it evolves; it resolves itself slowly but delivers satisfaction.

Robin Lee