Ms. Rice has the unique ability to transport the reader into the world of her smartly written characters. Rumer, the nature-lover and nurturer, is the "pretty" sister, while Elizabeth is the "beautiful" one who was never satisfied with life at the Point. Elizabeth's manipulations and pettiness are written as character flaws that don't diminish the fact that she and Rumer were once close. Ms. Rice's flashbacks to Rumer and Zeb's idyllic childhood create emotion-filled tension when the two come face to face after 20 years of separation. Missed opportunities and an enduring love fill gaps that time and space have created. The crowning glory of this novel lies in the remarkable depth of the characters.

Zebulon Mayhew is back in Hubbard's Point, Connecticut after years of working as an astronaut for NASA. His 17-year-old son, Michael, has quit school, and Zeb is trying to rebuild his life after his divorce from actress Elizabeth Randall and a difficult space mission. Most of all, Zeb wants to see Rumer Larkin, his first love, who was devastated by his marriage to her sister, Elizabeth.

Rumer lives at her childhood home with her father, a retired teacher. A successful veterinarian, Rumer never married and Edward, her boyfriend, is pressuring her to take their relationship to the next level. Forced to face Zeb at Dana and Sam's wedding (from Rice's Safe Harbor), Rumer can't help but remember their long-ago love.

For Zeb and Rumer have never truly forgotten one another, and Rumer can't totally resent Zeb and Elizabeth's time together, because their son Michael is her treasured nephew.

(Aug., 492 pp., $7.50)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick