It’s been six years since author Earlene Fowler introduced her readers to the folks of Cardinal, Calif., with her book “The Saddlemaker’s Wife.” She returns to the small town and continues their stories in her new book, “The Road to Cardinal Valley,” and it’s a welcomed return.
Ruby McGavin has fond memories of her time in Cardinal. She still has good friends there, plus her odd assortment of in-laws, and she knows that the tiny town will be the best place for her brother Nash to recover from a debilitating illness and restart his life.
Ruby feels she owes it to Nash to help him reclaim his life, due to years of guilt over them being separated as children when their mother deserted them. But she soon discovers that Nash is hiding a lot of secrets, including the knowledge of where their estranged mother has been living for years.
After Nash is involved in a horrific car accident, one that nearly takes out Ruby’s former mother-in-law as well, Ruby has no choice but to turn to her mother Etta for help with her brother, who seems bent on self-destructing. But this is a family reunion that isn’t going to be all hearts and roses. Luckily, she finds help and guidance (and a little romance) in the form of coffee bar owner Ely Grey.
Meanwhile, Ruby’s brother-in-law, saddlemaker/lawyer Lucas McGavin, is thrilled that Ruby is back in town. He hopes he can rekindle his feelings for his brother’s widow. But when a mysterious and fascinating young woman strides into town and into his heart, he can’t help but think it’s time to give up on pursuing Ruby.
The folks of Cardinal bend and blend with each other as small-town people do — helping where they can, nosing into where they shouldn’t, but always with good intentions and usually with good outcomes.
Fowler creates a charming group of characters and a fascinating setting in this sequel, picking up where her previous story ended. I hope we don’t have to wait another six years for the next installment.