by Carla Neggers
Series: Swift River Valley #3
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Unlikely partners bound by circumstance…or by fate? Being rescued by a good-looking, bad-boy firefighter isn't how Samantha Bennett expected to start her stay in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. Now she has everyone's attention—especially that of Justin Sloan, her rescuer, who wants to know why she was camped out in an abandoned old New England cider mill. Samantha is a treasure hunter who has returned to Knights Bridge to solve a 300-year-old mystery and salvage her good name. Justin remembers her well. He's the one who alerted her late mentor to her iffy past and got her fired. But just because he doesn't trust her doesn't mean he can resist her. Samantha is daring, determined, seized by wanderlust—everything that strong, stoic Justin never knew he wanted. Until now…
I am not going to lie, I saw the synopsis and jumped at that chance to read Cider Brook by Carla Neggers, before realizing I was stepping into book three of the Swift River Valley series. I mean can you blame me, look at that synopsis. Firefighter. Treasure hunter. Rescuer. While this can be read as a standalone, I think I would have enjoyed this more from the beginning. Mini review: Low romance, interesting treasure hunt, small-town magic.
Samantha Bennett comes from a long line of treasure hunters. Her grandfather got her started on a hunt for a pirate and his lost treasure. That has led her back to Knights Bridge to solve a three hundred year old mystery and to salvage her good name. Justin remembers Samantha as he spotted her a year ago and notified her mentor she was snooping around. A storm, a break-in and a rescue bring these two face to face but can they trust each other and find something more?
Samantha is cautious, curious and determined to unravel the mystery her beloved grandfather entrusted her with. I was unsure of her in the beginning but as she grew throughout the novel I found her to be likable and wanted her to have her happily ever after. Justin is sweet, sexy and concerned. He is attracted to Samantha but unsure of her motives. He cares about the people in this close knit community. Despite his concerns, I like that he didn’t try to change Samantha and just wanted to understand her. The two had instant chemistry, but this was a very slow building romance with very little heat. Secondary characters and those from previous stories were present, and while I got to know them I feel I missed out by not having read the previous books.
Cider Brook had elements I love from mystery to small-town dynamics. I loved the small-town workings and the family interaction. While the town and Justin were unsure of Samantha, I like that they opened up and made her feel welcome even if some grilled her. The romance really took a back seat in this tale, and I lost some of the connection. There were some tender moments, but we never really saw it develop instead it became the back-story. Neggers weaves an excellent tale and the mystery engaged me. I loved the story her grandfather gave her regarding the pirate and his lady. The old apple cider mill and its history appealed to the romantic in me. The story of the family who lived there made me shed a tear. The side stories involving other characters were good, but again I floundered a little as we had no prior history. The ending wrapped up well with answers to Samantha’s quest and a promise of happily ever after.
Cinder Brook offered a fascinating mystery with a sweet romance. I truly think I would have felt more had I read the previous books, Secrets of the Lost Summer and The Night on Thistle Lane. It is my recommendation you read them in order. Carla Neggers is an author I will try again.
Three cups of coffee out of five
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