Right Where We Belong
By Brenda Novak
Publisher: Harlequin / Mira
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Savanna Gray’s life as an ordinary, small-town wife and mother ends when her husband is charged with a series of rapes and arrested. At first, Savanna refuses to believe that he is guilty, but as evidence against him mounts, she is forced to accept his guilt. Even then, she is not prepared for the way people in Nephi, the Utah town where she has lived for the nine years of her marriage, turn on her. After a confrontation with one of the rape victims in a supermarket leaves eight-year-old Branson and six-year-old Alia fearful and filled with questions about their father, Savanna decides that she must forge a new life for them and for herself. With her lawyer’s assurance that her divorce will be final soon, she, Branson, and Alia move to Silver Springs, California. All Savanna knows about the town is that a ranch her father bought before his death is located there. With no mortgage payment or rent to worry about, she can create a home there.
Gavin Turner knew that Savanna and her children needed help as soon as he saw them. For starters, the only bridge that provides access to the ranch where she plans to live has been washed out. A part-time musician who also works with his adopted mother at the New Horizons Boys Ranch, Gavin understands what it is to need a helping hand, and he eagerly offers his help to his sad-eyed neighbors, whether it is to build a bridge, literal or metaphoric, to restore a house in desperate need of repairs, or to listen to Savanna’s traumatic story.
The isolation of their neighboring ranches and the time Savanna and Gavin spend together working on the house quickly fosters an emotional intimacy that is accompanied by a strong physical attraction. Gavin also bonds with Savanna’s children. But Savanna has trust issues, and her past is not as finished as she had hoped. Gavin has some demons of his own, and a complication from his past threatens to end his relationship with Savanna. Can these two overcome these obstacles and claim the happiness they deserve?
Novak’s fourth Silver Springs novel is part small-town romance, part suspense. I give the romance high marks. Savanna is a mix of strength and vulnerability. Her strength is clear in the decisions she makes to divorce her husband and to move to a place about which she knows little. Her vulnerability shows in her concerns about her children and in her doubts about her own judgment. Branson and Alia are sweet and sad, but still very much real kids with decided charm. Like all the heroes in this series, Gavin has a troubled past. He was abandoned at a gas station when he was five, but his experience at New Horizons--and more particularly as one of Aiyana Turner’s adopted sons—gave him stability and a family. He has become a sensitive, responsible, and caring man. It doesn’t hurt that he is also a sexy, tattooed musician. Readers will find all these characters appealing and root for their happiness.
Readers should note, however, that this book has definite triggers, including abduction and murder as well as rape. Even though the crimes lack the level of detail found in the typical thriller, some will find them disturbing. Some readers may also find that the relationship between Savanna and Gavin develops too quickly. Others will feel that Savanna’s wounded heart needs Gavin’s healing touch.
I’m a longtime Novak reader, and one of the things I most admire about her is her willingness to take risks in her storytelling. I prefer my contemporary romance without the darker edges this novel has, but that is a comment on my taste, not on the quality of Novak’s writing. This is another skillfully crafted book with engaging characters. Readers who like suspense thrown into the mix will likely appreciate it without my reservations.