Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

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The Inn at Rose Harbor is a place of healing. At least that’s what Jo Marie Rose, proprietor, hopes. She quit her job in Seattle and bought The Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in Cedar Cove, shortly after the loss of her husband, Paul, to the war in Afghanistan. Though her friends advised her against making such a drastic change so soon after Paul’s death, Jo Marie felt it was the right move. While Jo Marie believes that Paul may still be alive, the remodeling and preparations for the grand reopening seem to be helping her heal.

Jo Marie has hired a handyman, Mark Taylor, to create a rose garden at the entrance of the inn. As the days pass and the rose garden seems unimportant to Mark, Jo Marie wonders if he will have the garden ready for her grand opening. Already the inn is filling up with prospective guests, and Mark’s work on the rose garden has barely begun. Mark is irascible and a perfectionist, so Jo Marie tries to let him work at his own pace as she makes preparations for her guests. Nevertheless, they have words when she tries to wash the windows using a ladder. Mark stalks off, leaving the rose garden in a mess.

The first guest to arrive is Mary Smith. When she arrives, it seems obvious that Mary has undergone chemotherapy for cancer. She has lost weight and wears a scarf over her head to disguise her lost hair. Mary maintains an air of mystery as she enters the inn. Over the next few days, she tries to eat the delicious food Jo Marie has prepared, goes for short walks and generally keeps to herself. Mary encourages privacy, and since Jo Marie is busily baking and welcoming her guests, she tries to act like an innkeeper and not a nosy neighbor. Yet she worries about Mary.

The next arrival is Annie Newton. Annie has broken up with her loser boyfriend and thrown herself into making the fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration for her grandparents, Kent and Julie Shivers, a memorable event. Annie has been planning the weekend for more than six months, and now it seems that her loving grandparents may kill each other before the ceremony. To make things worse, her ex-boyfriend won’t stop calling Annie, trying to win her back.
Oliver Sutton has driven Annie’s grandparents from Portland to Cedar Cove. The elderly couple can’t stop snapping at each other, to the amusement of Sutton, the pesky next-door neighbor’s kid, who made Annie’s life miserable when they were children. Now a cheerful, handsome young man, he seems determined to continue to do so.

Each guest seems to settle into their own routine. The Shivers continue snipping at each other, Mary receives a mysterious caller, and Annie is hassled by Oliver, who really appears to be a nice guy. Why would any young man agree to drive a quarreling old couple several hundred miles? With the main characters in place, author Debbie Macomber weaves a tale of women searching for answers. Each must make peace with her past and come to terms with what her future holds for her.

The inn is a refuge from the outside woes of the world. It is set in Cedar Cove, which is based on the town of Port Orchard, Washington. The cozy inn and town overlook the cove and use the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop. It’s easy to visualize the beautiful, waterfront town. The novel proceeds tranquilly to its conclusion without melodrama or any surprises; well, maybe a few.

Macomber is a prolific New York Times bestselling author with more than 170 million copies of her books in print. She writes several different romantic series, one of which is based on the town of Port Orchard, renamed Cedar Cove in her books. She is an expert in writing about relationships between family and friendships. Macomber also writes in other genres; she has penned two cookbooks, two children’s books and numerous inspirational and nonfiction works. Several of her books have been made into Hallmark Channel movies.

Rose Harbor in Bloom is inspiring and offers hope in a world that too often looks at the bleak side of life. Yet it is not cloying or smarmy. You quickly become engrossed in the lives of the realistic characters, their problems, and how they resolve them and move on with their lives. The novel reads like real life and the lives of people you have known forever. The story rings true, and that is probably the best praise one can give an author. HLM