Leaving Lonely Town is a story about taking chances and facing the past, even if that past has the power to hurt you.
Sable Barclay found out during a bloodtyping experiment in class, that her parents weren't biologically-related to her. Years later, her involvement as a forensic scientist in a case of a baby buried in a shallow grave reveals to her who her real mother might be. This trail leads to Shiloh, and the Langtrys. In It Happened at Midnight
, we first meet the Langtrys, who suffer the burden of having the youngest child stolen away from them. It turns out that Sable is the long-lost Langtry child. She is full of confusion at finding out that she has a different family than she thought. She doesn't know if she can take the gift of their open hearts and arms, and offers to take her rightful place in their family. Culley Blackwolf lays down a dare for her to go spend time with her family and find out if she can do that, because he sees the way Faith Langtry's heart still bleeds for her lost child.
Culley grew up rough, and ended up going to prison for killing his mother's abusive boyfriend, although she turns her back on him after he serves his time. He spent most of his young adulthood in the beds of hardened woman and anonymous hotel rooms, until he lost his taste for that kind of life. He comes to Shiloh, Wyoming, looking for his real father, but ends up staying, and making a sort of life for himself as the Langtry's foreman. He doesn't believe that a family or the gentle love of a good woman can belong to him. But the Langtrys have his loyalty, and he'll do what he can to see Faith Langtry get some peace about her baby being stolen away twenty-eight years ago.
Sable turns out to be everything he ever wanted, but didn't think he could have. But she insists on staying at his house, filling it with womanly softness and domesticity, and laying her claim on his heart, although he insists Lonely Town is the best place for a man like him.
The painful emotions experienced by the characters in this book reached out and touched me as a reader. I loved the western setting, and the simple values of the characters. How Jacob Langtry would do just about anything to see his beloved wife Faith get some peace. I think Ms. London did an excellent job showing the aftermath of the tragedy of a loss of their child, and the ugly circumstances of that child's conception. The Langtrys suffered a serious rift in their family, but they survived and kept loving each other, continually hoping that their youngest would be returned to them. When she comes, they try so hard not to rush her or push their feelings onto her. But the warmth and love of their family wins over her wary heart.
Culley's loneliness touched me. How he thought he was a hard man and unworthy of love made me sad, especially in the light of how good a man he was. I liked that Sable was willing to take a gamble and pursue him when it became clear that he wasn't going to subject her to his unworthy presence. He was very wary, yet passionate. It was very endearing.
The secondary romance was just as good. Roark is the only son of the Langtrys, a widower who lost his wife and newborn son, and has lived in Lonely Town ever since. When Sable's best friend, Eden, a prickly, no-nonsense paleontologist, comes to town, he feels the desire to come out of his tomb and to claim her as his own. I liked seeing the courtship between Roark and Eden. Eden didn't think she had those kind of feelings towards a man, when her passion was dinosaur bones. But there was something about this persistent Western man, who wasn't going to take no for an answer. Who kisses her senseless in a bed of alfalfa between hay bales, and gives her gifts of daisies and his family's heirloom ruby ring.
This book has such a realness to the characters. Their emotions were authentic and compelling to me. The western setting is evocative, and rounds out this excellent book. There is an element of magical realism, as Cleopatra Langtry's spirit watches over her descendants, helping them to find their greatest needs and desires.
Cait London did a great job of showing how complicated families are, with the good and the bad. How a bad mother can manage to raise a good son, in the case of Culley, and how parents don't always love fairly, in the case of Eden, who's lived in her brother Piers's shadow, and in fear of him destroying what she loves. How adopted parents can love just as much, and mean just as much as birth parents, yet it's not necessary to chose one over the other. And most of all, how love and hope never die, when a child is taken from a mother and father.
This was a very touching read. Recommended.