SILVER THAW - Catherine Anderson
A Perfect 10
A Mystic Creek Novel , Book 1
Signet
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-41834-0
January 2015
Romantic Suspense

Mystic Creek, Oregon - Present Day

Amanda Banning is living in Oregon, renting a ramshackle home far away from her abusive husband.  It took some doing, but now she is finally settled and working at the local school cafeteria.  Amanda has no car, no cell phone, and takes great pains to stay hidden from Mark Banning.  All she can do is dream of the day she'll have enough money saved to pay for a divorce.  She has nothing but her dreams.  Lately, she's taken to writing her wishes on thin strips of pink paper, then walking outside where she lets them fly away on the wind, her way to sending messages to God.  They are her private thoughts and wishes; she thinks that no one will ever see them as they disappear into the night sky.

Jeb Sterling is fuming.  He's picked up countless pieces of pink paper tangled on the fences and trees on his property.  They've been scattered all over his place for days, and more seem to arrive each morning.  When he notices the writing on them, he begins to read each one, and now knows that a very impoverished and lonely woman lives nearby.  But where?

When a sudden ice storm disables the area, knocking out electric services, Jeb and his neighbor, Tony Bradley, go to the rescue.  They divide up the community, each visiting homes on all the streets, checking on the people, many who are elderly.  And, at the dead-end of Elderberry Lane, Jeb finds a young woman hiding behind the chain lock on her door.  She lives inside a death trap of a house, has a small child, and is on the brink of destitution.

Amanda has spent a miserable night bundled up on the sofa, struggling to stay warm and keep her six-year-old daughter, Chloe, from freezing.  They have no heat, and the pipe that burst in the middle of the night spewed water that created an ice slick on her floors.  Now, this man who calls himself Jeb Sterling is demanding she go with him.  He says it is not safe for her and Chloe to stay in their home.  But she can't afford a hotel, and she certainly doesn't want to take Jeb up on his offer to stay at his house.  Even so, she has no choice if she wants to keep Chloe warm and safe.

After reading the pink notes, Jeb knows Amanda has fled an abusive man, but he decides to keep it to himself.  She would be embarrassed if she knew what he read.  He instinctively wants to keep her safe.  Or kill the bastard who hurt her.  Jeb's home is large enough that Amanda and Chloe can stay for as long as necessary, but she refuses to be a burden, and Jeb is unable to persuade her otherwise.  Meanwhile, Amanda is somewhat comforted in the thought that she can earn her keep by cooking for Jeb.  Even so, every night she pushes a heavy dresser across the floor of the bedroom where they are sleeping, barricading the door before she and Chloe go to sleep.  This will have to do until the storm clears and she can go home again.

SILVER THAW is a delightful and dramatic story of one woman's fight to flee the man who abused her and her daughter.  Jeb is an answer her prayers.  She savors his warm, safe home, and Chloe loves his dog, Bozo, a two hundred pound Mastiff with a lovable heart.  Jeb admires Amanda for her courage, but struggles with new feelings he's never experienced.  Until now, no woman has tugged at his heart strings the way Amanda does.  He wants her to stay safe, and the best way is to keep her in his home.  But how to tell Amanda he wants her to stay?  Jeb knows she will refuse, she's too proud to accept handouts and too gun-shy around men to accept more, besides, she's not even divorced yet.  As the story plays out, Jeb and Amanda are faced with the spine tingling danger from both the storm and Amanda's estranged husband.

SILVER THAW is the first book in a new series, Mystic Creek , by Catherine Anderson, and it's a solid gold winner!  I haven't been able to find out any information on a second book, but SILVER THAW is a keeper.  Filled with palpable emotion, humor, and threatening danger, SILVER THAW is a novel full of tears and happiness.  It's A Perfect 10, just right for curling up on the sofa with!

Diana Risso