Book Review of Lilac Lane (Chesapeake Shores, Bk 14)

Lilac Lane (Chesapeake Shores, Bk 14)
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Terrific book. It has been a long time since my last visit to Chesapeake Shores, but it was effortless to slide right back into it. This is the story of Keira, Moira's mother (The Summer Garden) and Bryan, the chef at Luke O'Brien's pub. Relations between Keira and Moira had been strained for a long time before they mended their relationship in the earlier book. Keira raised her three children on her own when her husband deserted her, leaving Keira somewhat bitter and wary of love. Just when she opened herself up again to the possibility, her fiancé died, leaving Keira grieving and lost. Worried about her mother, Moira stretches the truth with the help of her new O'Brien relatives and convinces Keira to come to Maryland, using baby Kate and the pub as the reasons for the visit. Moira really hopes to convince her mother to stay in Chesapeake Shores.

Bryan is the chef at the pub. He worked in both New York and Baltimore before coming to Chesapeake Shores. While not quite a loner, he mostly keeps to himself. He rules his kitchen, accepting interference only from his boss, Luke, and Nell O'Brien, the family matriarch who taught him the traditional Irish recipes served at the pub. The arrival of feisty and blunt Keira doesn't sit well with him, but he doesn't have much choice in the matter.

I liked both Keira and Bryan and the development of their relationship. In the beginning, it is very adversarial, as Keira takes her job of ensuring authenticity very seriously, but Bryan doesn't take her suggestions well. Things begin to change a little bit when Keira moves into the cottage next door to Bryan's house, and they discover that when they leave their work difference behind they get along very well. There were some terrific scenes of late-night chats over wine, and early mornings spent weeding Bryan's garden. The sparks of antagonism that flew between them begin to change to a different kind of sparks. But both Keira and Bryan have baggage that makes them resistant to those sparks. Keira's risked her heart twice and had it broken, though in different ways. Risking it again seems to be the height of folly, so she works hard to keep that little bit of distance between them. Bryan was married many years before but neglected his wife in his zeal to cement his career. His wife took their baby girl and left him without a word when she reached the end of her patience. Bryan has spent almost twenty years trying to find them. Having failed at marriage once, trying again is the last thing on his mind.

But Keira and Bryan aren't given the chance to fight their feelings for long. The O'Brien family is well-known for their tendency to interfere in the lives of those they care for. Everyone from Nell to Mick, right on down the line can see what is happening, and they all have ideas on how to bring the reluctant duo together. Nell comes up with the bright idea of a cooking competition, with the title of best Irish stew between Keira and Bryan up for grabs. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes machinations of various O'Briens as they fan the flames of competition. Keira recognizes her growing feelings for Bryan, but her fears hold her back from saying anything. I loved the scene where Bryan finds out the truth and the twist that Keira throws into his declaration. I loved how the competition played out and their big moment at the end was fantastic.

In the midst of all this drama, Bryan receives the shock of his life. His long-lost daughter appears in Chesapeake Shores looking for answers. I loved seeing this side of Bryan as he and Deanna got to know each other. The scene where Deanna finally gets up the courage to face her father had me in tears. I also loved that Keira was there to support him. There are some sweet scenes as Keira helps smooth over the rough spots of their reunion.

As always, I love the secondary appearances of other characters. The bits with Moira and her attempts to balance family and career were realistic and moving. I loved the get-togethers at Sally's as the O'Brien women share their days, and how they embraced Keira as one of their own. I laughed out loud at Mick's antics during the buildup to the competition. Nell was a riot as she involved herself and others in her matchmaking. As Bryan and Keira's boss, Luke had quite the challenge in keeping the peace at the pub. And in the end, the entire town had a part in the romance between Bryan and Keira. It will be interesting to see if there will be further Chesapeake Shores books and who will star in them. I'm leaning toward Deanna, plus the frequent mentions of Keira's estranged sons leaves the door open for them also.