When Joy Huffman's recurring dreams of the husband she lost become urgent she is convinced to go tot he cabin, their project of love, in New Mexico. With her daughter and mother-in-law, they set out to learn what Steve wants them to know -- that his death was no accident, but murder.
Their investigation stirs up the evil that ended his life, and puts them all at risk.
The caretaker at the cabin, Mark Stone, is challenged to keep them safe while he unravels the mystery of why Steve died. Along the way he falls in love with Joy -- but will she be open to loving again?
"The last thing Steve said to me," Evelyn had told Joy, "must have been a premonition."
Joy had looked up from her tears, from the bed where she had just given birth to Charity, with confusion in her eyes.
"'Take care of Joy'," he said to me. "'If anything happens, you'll take care of my Joy, won't you?' And I will." I'm still taking care of her. Joy had needed Evelyn then, and she needed her now. A new mother couldn't deal with planning a funeral. Evelyn had picked out the casket and planned the service. She got Joy through the condolences and the days and weeks after the funeral. She pushed down her own pain at losing her son so that she could support his little family.
She'd handled everything -- everything -- and given Joy time to heal. Her new job was to protect and care for Joy and Charity.
She had been there when Joy struggled to move from one day to the next. Evelyn had helped Joy get back into her business -- now home-based, because of the baby. Who else could call clients and make appointments, prod Joy to move back into the world, and cover for her when she couldn't work? Moving in with Joy had come naturally. After all, living with her was much more convenient, and during months of lower productivity, sharing costs would help them both. Joy needed so much from Evelyn. The older woman had given up her privacy and independence because she wanted to take care of her new granddaughter and the woman who'd given the child life. She'd promised Steve. Besides, they were family.
Evelyn was there this morning, ready to listen, as always. She finished cooking breakfast and set plates of steaming food on the table. She'd never been good at staying still. She refilled Charity's cup with juice, encouraged the little girl to wipe her mouth, and then pulled her chair up beside Joy to eat her own meal. When Joy set down her mug and sighed, Evelyn turned to her and asked, "Long night?"
Joy nodded and ran a hand through her dark curls as she stared at her plate. Smudges under her eyes and the tightness of strain around her mouth made her look older than her thirty-three years.
"I had the dream again." She shook her head and toyed with her food, pushing the eggs around on her plate. Evelyn wished Joy had more of an appetite. "Evelyn, I can't take it anymore."
"The dream at the cabin where Steve calls out to you?" She poured Joy a second cup of tea. At her daughter-in-law's nod, she asked, "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to face my demons." Joy looked at her over her mug and attempted a smile. Then she winced. She'd told Evelyn more than once she didn't have the heart to go to the cabin, so she'd never seen the dream house they'd designed, that Steve had given her and their unborn child. Evelyn had found someone to care for the place, so it hadn't been abandoned, and yet Joy seemed content to forget about it. Perhaps she'd found her destroyed hopes too much to bear. Now, however...
Joy took a tentative bite of toast.
"I'm already packed. I hope you'll come with us." She took another bite, and then another. Evelyn was pleased to see her eating so well. Maybe this decision was what she'd needed.
Of course she would go. Joy and Charity were her responsibility. She wouldn't think of staying behind. "How long will we be gone?"
Posted by Barbara Scott on 9th Feb 2013
At first glance, Joy Huffman seems to have the perfect life: a loving husband, a baby on the way, a beautiful cabin designed and built for the life they'd soon share. Fate had other plans. On the night she gave birth to her daughter, her husband Steve is killed in a car accident. Joy plunges into a two year tailspin saved only by the need to take care of her child and the support of her grieving mother-in-law. It is only the recurring dreams she has when Steve returns trying to tell her something, trying to draw her to the cabin she's never seen completed and avoided since his death. When even her baby talks of seeing Steve, Joy feels compelled to go to New Mexico. Accompanied by baby Charity and mother-in-law Evelyn, Joy confronts the possibility that Steve's death was no accident.
In The Return of Joy, Lynette Endicott creates an evolving storyline peopled with memorable characters and settings so vivid they provide a backdrop as alive as the people. The cabin is like an HGTV Dream Home with a waterfall wall, secret hideaways, and surprises at every turn. It is set in a landscape of mountain and desert splendor near Santa Fe where morning walks with handsome caretaker Mark begin to work their way through Joy's grief. Hovering over all is the mystery of Steve's possible murder.
This second of Endicott's Starting Over series, stands alone but aptly addresses her theme of second chances in life. The reader strongly empathizes with and roots for Joy as she works to earn her second chance. The blend of romance and suspense mixes easily with the deeper work of the plot giving it a substance that lingers in the reader's memory.