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Magnolia Sky    by Susan Crandall order for
Magnolia Sky
by Susan Crandall
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Army ranger Luke Boudreau arrives in Grover Mississippi to carry out the most difficult mission of his life: facing the family of fallen comrade and friend, Calvin Abbott, who died while carrying out a rescue mission that went horribly wrong. Luke blames himself for Calvin's death; he countermanded their original orders and as a result his unit lost a good man. Luke is prepared to live with the guilt and knows that he owes Calvin's family his personal condolences as well as more insight into the tragedy than was released by the military.

Luke is unprepared for the warm reception he receives from Calvin's mother Olivia. She welcomes Luke into her home like a long lost son. Even more shocking is the discovery that Calvin had a wife, Analise, who lives with Olivia and helps her and her younger son Cole run her landscaping business. Calvin certainly never acted like a married man during the years they served together. Luke is even more unprepared for the feelings that Analise stirs within him from the moment they meet. This only makes him feel more guilty. The sooner he gets out of town the better. But Olivia makes that all but impossible. She asks Luke to stay for a few days to keep Cole company, since the young man is still having so much difficulty coming to grips with his older brother's death. Those few days turn to weeks as Luke finds himself pulled further and further into the lives of the Abbott family, and finds himself falling ever deeper in love with Analise.

Luke Boudreau was first introduced to readers in Susan Crandall's second novel, The Road Home, and she continues her Glens Crossing series in Magnolia Sky. It's as well written as the previous books, and filled with sympathetic and believable characters. Crandall does a nice job of portraying Luke and Analise, and the emotional upheavals they suffer as they fall in love. The supporting cast is also well done, particularly self-destructive young Cole. The inclusion of a sub-plot involving a mysterious stalker didn't quite hit the mark or the mood of the overall story, but even so, Magnolia Sky has a lot going for it and showcases the talents of rising star Susan Crandall.

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