Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Where the Heart Is" by Darcy Burke

Home is more than a place . . .

Breaking free from her structured life, Chloe English quits her high-powered job and moves across the country to work as an art teacher. The simple life is all she hoped it would be until her house burns down, leaving her homeless. When a handsome firefighter swoops in to save the day, she can’t believe her luck. He’s laid-back and unassuming, everything she’s looking for in a man—or so he seems. It turns out he’s as ambitious as her ex, comes with a family who could be more stifling than hers, and harbors dark secrets he may never be able to share.

Orphaned as a teenager, Derek Sumner has found a place in his best friend’s family. However, the love and support of his surrogate parents and siblings can’t erase the grief and loss he struggles every Christmas to banish. But this year he meets the fun and sexy Chloe, whose optimism and sense of joy are incredibly contagious. Can she help him face his bleak past so they can forge a happy future?

My review:
Where the Heart Is is an introductory novella to the Ribbon Ridge series. While each book in the series can be read separately, and in any order, I wish I had read this novella prior to reading Only In My Dreams (the first book in the series).  While called a novella, this book was a good length and the story was as deep and full as many books deemed a "novel".  It provided a wonderful introduction to the Archer family - one that probably would have helped me relate to and understand the family better when reading the first book.  Derek is an honorary member of the Archer family and what we learn in this book is that the Archer family has room for everyone.  Derek loves the Archers as his own but has real trouble believing that there is a woman - a family - out there waiting for him.  Chloe has a family but has moved across the country to gain her independence from them.  Their diverging emotions regarding family present an interesting dynamic in the development of their relationship, but the one family they have in common is the Archers.  Derek introduces Chloe to the Archers and she is immediately part of the family!
Derek presents so many "images" to Chloe, it's no surprise that she finds it hard to believe he's an executive in the Archer organization - and her reaction solidifies that.  I was thankful it didn't take her long to overcome her concern for Derek's profession and to know that she was wrong to compare him to her past relationship.  However, Derek's inability to overcome his feelings regarding his house almost ended his relationship with Chloe and I really appreciated how the Archer's helped Derek work through his emotions regarding the loss of his father and his mother, and what his house symbolized about those relationships.  I thought the author did a great job of depicting Derek's conclusion about the house.  It was a realistic interpretation of what many people feel about childhood homes, or any nostalgic items they have that tie them to loved ones lost.
I really enjoyed the development of Derek and Chloe's relationship and how it developed throughout the story.  The story establishes a good foundation of Derek and the entire Archer family, which is important as these relationships are woven into each book of the Ribbon Ridge story.  While each story can be read alone, I strongly recommend the reader start with Where the Heart Is as it sets the stage for the future books and introduces us to the Archer family. 
Disclosure: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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