4.5* Following straight on from Finding Hunter, we find two of the Painter brothers keeping a harrowing hospital vigil. The fate of the patient is uncertain but his injuries are bound to be life changing. This story focuses mainly on Forrest and Jackson, both of whom have a lot to come to terms with in different ways. Jackson’s New Year begins with a tragedy. He can’t remember how he ended up in hospital and is initially unaware of the result of the devastating crash he was involved in. The knowledge he’s lost a leg comes as a huge shock but his brothers, and Willow, Hunter’s wife, are there to support and help Jackson as much as they can. Between them they decide to keep more terrible news from Jackson until he’s stronger and begins to remember.
As the shocking reason for Jackson’s behaviour and subsequent accident becomes apparent, the brothers are faced with an alarming scenario, which Forrest has a hard time dealing with. Their family has had so much pain and tragedy and Forrest is afraid he won’t be able to cope, especially if Jackson is left with long term issues. But he has Hunter and Willow and they all unite to support each other and help Jackson through what was turning out to be a very dark time, compounded by escalating threats.
The use of multiple perspectives worked well, getting each of the brothers’ points of view and differing personalities, seeing how they deal with the challenging situations they find themselves in. Jackson especially, being the eldest, had always been the leader, and now he finds himself mostly dependent on Forrest. It’s a role neither of them are used to or initially comfortable with. Forrest has middle child syndrome and has always felt insignificant, but this unfortunate state of affairs is actually the making of him. Hunter still feels the effects of his recent experiences but is also getting stronger and more at ease in company, even though he is happiest at home with Willow. It was fascinating following their progress and seeing them all develop and grow.
Marcia Meara deals with the subject matter sensitively and in a clear-sighted way. The disasters that have befallen the family throughout each book have been approached realistically, without being overly sentimental. This has been an excellent series which includes romance, heartbreak, suspense and family dynamics, in a wonderful setting…and not forgetting those Painter brothers.
That Darkest Place is the third book in Marcia Meara's Riverbend series. It begins where the second one finishes and tells the stories of the older two Painter brothers, Jackson and Forrest. Marcia has an insight into the workings of the human spirit that makes for compelling reading. There's the sense of struggle, of families disagreeing but solidly behind each other, of menace from the unknown antagonist and the tender, sparky love scenes which are always wonderfully done - there's joy and mischief and twinkling there that makes those scenes for me! She handles these scenes with a light touch that avoids graphic description yet captures the essence of the delight, the amazement, the miracle of love. There's also the subtly interwoven information about strokes, counselling and recovering from physical and emotional trauma that grounds the progress in a way that feels real and 'right'. As with Hunter, the subject of the second book, the real hook as far as I'm concerned lies in the interaction between the characters and how readily we can identify with them. These fears, confusion and delight are common to us all and her ability to express them so realistically means that we share in them and become part of them, too. I'd read these in chronological order to avoid spoilers even though they can all be read as standalones. Settle down somewhere cosy and prepare yourself for a most satisfying experience!