Ballantine / November 5, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital
After tragedy strikes his team, college basketball coach Lucca Romano arrives in the haven of Eternity Springs to reassess his life. Even a winning record and big offers can’t dent the wall of guilt that Lucca has built around himself. Nothing can—except maybe a vibrant new neighbor who won’t give up on him.
Schoolteacher Hope Montgomery believes in miracles. She has to believe—because giving up would mean crumbling under the greatest loss a parent can endure. Hope understands Lucca’s suffering; she lives it herself every day. However, the high school team needs his coaching expertise, so she sets out to draw him from his cold, solitary shell and into the warmth of life in their small Rocky Mountain town. But when a weak moment leads to consequences that shake Hope’s faith, it’s up to Lucca to put aside his heartache and show the teacher that here in Eternity Springs broken hearts can heal—just in time for Christmas.
With a series set in a town called Eternity Springs—in which is located a spa called Angel’s Rest owned by a benevolent, mysterious woman named Celeste Blessing—and this seventh book, a Christmas book, featuring a heroine named Hope (whose kidnapped daughter is named Holly) and a hero named Lucca (meaning bringer of light; an Italian variant of Luke), one might expect this story to be unbearably twee. One would be wrong. The hurt and guilt that Hope Montgomery and Lucca Romano suffer in Emily March's Miracle Road is painfully realistic.
Five years ago, Hope left her five-year-old daughter for a few hours at the home of friends where an au pair, who had been with the friends since their son’s birth and had passed a background check, agreed to watch the two children. When Hope returned, the friends’ baby was screaming, and there was no sign of the au pair or Holly, Hope’s daughter. Hope blames herself, and her husband and mother-in-law also hold her responsible for the kidnapping. Her marriage shatters underneath the weight of their accusations, and Hope comes very near shattering herself before she finds the strength to go on with her life. A providential meeting with Celeste Blessing leads her to Eternity Springs.
Hope has not given up on finding her daughter, and she is still devastated by verbal attacks from her now ex-husband via emails and phone calls. But she is building a life, making friends, and becoming a part of the community, even as she accepts her status as walking wounded.
She closed her eyes and absorbed the hurt. This was the way it happened now, five years later. Rather than being her constant companion, the pain would slither up and strike when she wasn’t prepared or braced for it.
Two years ago, Lucca Romano, a college basketball coach, was returning from a game when the van carrying his team was involved in an accident that left two of his players dead and a third wheelchair bound. Lucca seems to recover, but when another team he’s coaching becomes the Cinderella team among the Sweet Sixteen, the accolades he receives and the politics of big time collegiate basketball provoke a meltdown. He drops out of coaching and, for the most part, out of life, spending his time drinking and sleeping on foreign beaches. His siblings intervene and push him into joining them in Eternity Springs where his mother has recently been reunited with her oldest child whom she gave up for adoption (Reflection Point). Lucca is still dealing with grief, guilt, and depression and too often finding a refuge in the bottle.
His family handles Lucca carefully, fearful of saying the wrong thing and sending him running from them. Hope has no such compunction. She challenges him with hard truths.
“Other people have suffered the worst that life can throw at them and they didn’t quit. They climbed back on their feet and they survived and they made a freaking difference. Well, guess what, mister. You could do that too. It’s tragic that your van wrecked and your players died. It is horrible to be the one left behind who has to try to make sense of the insensible. But it happens. Life happens, and life isn’t all NCAA tournaments and roses. You need to knock off the pity party and get over yourself.”
It’s not instantaneous, and it takes some words of wisdom from Celeste Blessing too, but Hope’s words shock Lucca into rejoining the living. It is a struggle, and some days are almost unbearable. But Hope knows all about wrenching anniversaries, and she is the friend Lucca needs when darkness descends.
The giving is not one-way. Both Hope and Celeste caution Lucca that winning over the pain and sadness consists of small victories interspersed with backward steps. Their words prove prophetic when events push Hope into a downward spiral that threatens much of what she has gained, including the promise of a life with Lucca and his large, loving family. But on Christmas Eve when loneliness almost overwhelms her, Lucca gives Hope a symbolic, heart-melting gift that reminds her that love, like the stars, shines “in daylight and in darkness.”
This is romance, so, of course, there is a sigh-worthy conclusion that includes the first steps on Hope and Lucca’s happily-ever-after journey, but there is also the recognition that even for the strong, survival requires courage and love. There’s nothing twee about that reminder—as those who have survived tragedy can attest.
Learn more or order a copy of Miracle Road by Emily March, available November 5, 2013:
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.