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Christmas in Hawthorn Bay    by Kathleen O'Brien order for
Christmas in Hawthorn Bay
by Kathleen O'Brien
Order:  USA  Can
Harlequin, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton

The Killians have had a bad reputation for generations, in the South Carolina lowlands. Jack Killian, a Kansas City lawyer, returns home after being away for twelve years. One reason he left South Carolina was the rumor that he had tried to kill Tom Dickson, who also happened to be the cousin of his onetime girlfriend, Nora Carson. He has no love left for Sweet Tides, the mansion that's been in the family for generations. His brother Sean has been living there, taking care of the property and visiting their grandfather Patrick in an assisted living home.

Nora is now the town mayor and has a son, Colin. The novel opens with a flashback to a nineteen-year old Nora, and her pregnant friend Maggie. They are on a boat with Maggie's doctor, Ethan, who's in love with her. Maggie, in one of her crazy moods, jumps off the boat. But when the three of them finally make it to shore, Maggie is bleeding to death. She makes Nora promise to raise her baby as her own. Nora does so, not letting anyone know the truth about Colin's parentage except for her own mother, and Ethan.

Twelve years later, Jack is back in town. He gets the shock of his life when he sees 11-year old Colin, who looks awfully like the Killians. Nora already suspected that Jack fathered Maggie's child, but has told no-one. Jack believes Nora is the mother, and can't believe she never told him the truth about his own son. Things get sticky, as Nora insists on keeping the truth to herself, but it gets harder keeping this secret when Colin is trying to figure out who his real father is, and Jack is on his list of candidates.

In the meantime, the city is trying to take over Sweet Tides via eminent domain, and Tom (who is on the city board) is spearheading it. It's Tom's way of taking revenge on the Killians for what Jack did to him twelve years before. Nora has no idea of the real story behind Jack's attempted murder of Tom, and neither of them will talk about it. There are secrets everywhere. But one thing is for sure - Jack and Nora still have feelings for each other, but both are angry because of one single night that would have made a big difference in their lives today.

A very absorbing plot line kept me reading Christmas in Hawthorn Bay. While I didn't quite buy Nora as town mayor, the rest felt genuine. The story behind the Killian's was described in great detail, and I was surprised at how much information was packed into such a short book. I recommend this one to those who like their romances veering towards the epic.

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