Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Aspen Crossroads by Janine Rosche

Aspen Crossroads by Janine Rosche

I have really enjoyed reading Janine’s work, so I gladly picked up a copy of this story. Because I don’t read summaries first, (always trying to dodge spoilers), I was in for a surprise. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

To protect those most vulnerable, Haven Haviland must trust her heart—and her regrets—to a mysterious newcomer in this moving contemporary romance.

Few in the community of Whisper Canyon have actually met Jace Daring, a handsome recluse who lives at Aspen Crossroads, the farm at the edge of town. But that doesn't stop the rumors about the multiple women who live with him. He must protect the truth—that his farm-to-table restaurant will provide new livelihoods for women rescued from human trafficking—or he risks the safety and futures of those relying on him. But he can't do it alone.

Haven Haviland has always been everyone's safe place to fall until one mistake closes her counseling practice and leaves her open to the town's gossip. Trusting men has gotten her in trouble before. However, accepting Jace's job offer to mentor the rescued women seems like the perfect way to right her wrongs.

When the mayor's campaign to clean up Whisper Canyon targets Aspen Crossroads, the restaurant comes under fire, dangers from the women's pasts are awakened, and Haven's sins are exposed for all to see. Jace would sacrifice himself to save Haven and the women under his care, but his efforts might not be enough. And in the end, it might not be the women most in need of saving after all.

And now, my review:

If authors include their author notes/letters at the beginning of a book, I read them first. As a fellow novelist, I enjoy seeing behind the scenes and learning something about the writer—sometimes it’s about their process, sometimes, their inspiration. (I also read the acknowledgments, just for fun!)

Janine’s author letter provided a warning. She lets readers know the story deals with sexual assault and sex trafficking, but that she handles those topics in a less gritty way than reality. I appreciated this foreknowledge, and because I’m sensitive to some reader topics, I immediately considered letting the publisher know I wouldn’t be reading for review after all.

Instead, I began reading the story, a bit warily. This is book one in a new series, with four siblings’ lives to explore. That’s a great set-up for a connected series. Having read (and loved) Janine’s Madison River series, I thought I was in for more of the same. This book takes on edgier topics than I expected to face.

The heroine longs for a haven. The hero longs to help victims. I sympathized with each of them and rooted for them in their causes. However, given the impending tough topics, I found myself on edge while reading and decided to move on to other books in my TBR pile. 

I’ve read other books with those topics—two titles come to mind. In those, I appreciated how we stayed a bit distant from the darkness. These are timely topics, of course, and there’s value in exploring these issues in fiction. However, the dread of what was possibly coming inhibited my enjoyment.

If the remaining books in this series deal with the same topic, I may need to pass. I don’t mind realism in my fiction, but being on edge robs my enjoyment.

For readers who like edgier topics, this may be the perfect fit. I definitely plan to investigate further work by this author as her novels are standouts.