It looks like hell is freezing over... at least that is what award-winning photojournalist Ryan Hunter assumes when he's invited to be an honored guest at Serenity Springs' Centennial Celebration. Years ago when Ryan left his hometown, he was disowned by both his cantankerous father Jonas and his brother Andrew. In Ryan's absence, Andrew married Becky Lee, the girl both brothers loved, only to become a widower raising a young son.

Kara Delaney, owner of a bed and breakfast and the president of the local Chamber of Commerce, is not about to let a Hunter family feud ruin her plans to gain publicity and revitalize Serenity Springs. Following her divorce, Kara returned home to start a new life raising her 11-year-old daughter, Angel, a girl whose reputation as a storyteller ensures that when she sees a ghostly lady by the river, no one believes her.

Ryan has mixed feelings about his return. Years ago, the unexplained disappearance of his mother shattered the Hunter family and deep resentment and anger still simmer.

Once again a woman threatens to come between the brothers, as Kara finds herself attracted to Ryan though she's practically engaged to Andrew. The ever-present river has the deciding vote on the future of Serenity Springs, however, and is threatening to produce a devastatingflood. Life can be so fleeting; will the hard-headed Hunter family learn to forgive and forget?

Rising contemporary star Barbara Freethy hammers home deep and complex emotions in RYAN'S RETURN, a wonderful and powerful book. (Oct., 336 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Jill M. Smith