Jodi Thomas’s Sunrise Crossing is the fourth novel in her Texas-set Ransom Canyon series. Set in fictional Crossroads, Thomas’s novels are about characters at a turning point. They confront their past, demons, and regrets. The sole redeeming facet to their Rubicon-crossing is a different life from the one they led before. This facet takes shape in the form of a man or woman who affects them deeply. Thomas’s characters are changed in two ways: one, the conviction that their lives have gone off-kilter and must be redressed; and, two, that love makes everything worthwhile, meaningful, and joyous. Thomas intertwines several characters’ lives to make their lives fuller, happier, and love-filled. As with the previous three Ransom Canyon novels, Thomas brings together a company of likeable, kind, compassionate, and loving characters, and one or two nasty villains, who are foiled by community, co-operation, and care. In Thomas’s novels, there are people who care, and those who don’t.
When the novel opens, a Dallas-art-gallery owner Parker Lacey helps one of her artists, Victoria “Tori” Velanie, escape her exploitative, abusive mother and stepfather. Parker sends Tori to her never-used Crossroads farm, a place she bought years ago from a neighbouring cowboy with “dead eyes”, Clint Montgomery. Tori hides out on the farm, while agents and seedy bounty-hunter-types, paid for by her nasty parents, look for her. One night, safe in the dark, Tori wanders the woods and town, only to encounter a character we were introduced to in the first eponymous Ransom Canyon novel, Yancy Grey, ex-con and now beloved caretaker of the elderly teachers residing at the Evening Shadows Retirement Community. Meanwhile, in Dallas, Parker’s questionable health and concern for Tori see her arrive in Crossroads and soon be attracted to her neighbour-cowboy, Clint. Thomas brings Tori and Yancy together and Clint and Parker.
Yancy is no longer the kid who needs a break and finds it in the love and instruction of the retirement home’s teachers. He’s 32 and lonely, has inherited and is restoring a heritage Crossroads home. He yearns for love and connection and finds it in the sprightly artistic beauty who shows up in his work-room to help him restore his banister with astoundingly beautiful woodwork. Yancy is a manifestation of one of Thomas’s favourite character conceits: a moral, kind person who has given up on happiness. Yancy talks himself into contentment, as do Parker, Clint, and Tori. Their connection to another person, Yancy’s to Tori, Tori’s to Yancy, Parker’s to Clint, and Clint’s to Parker, takes them by surprise. Even then they doubt, as if their chances of love-lasting aren’t good. The two couples are willing to settle for what they can have however, a night, an afternoon, the bittersweet joy of a few hours in the beloved’s company. They’ve yet to recognize that love won’t elude them; it can be forever, the HEA’s essence, love, commitment, the promise of forever.
As with every Thomas novel, there are cruel, abusive, and exploitative people at work in the world. There is a snake in the grass of happiness in the form of danger to Tori. Into this danger, Thomas introduces a “guardian angel” to save the day. The angel arrives in the form of danger and deceptive appearances and begins his own slow journey to redemption, that also often constitutes what it means to arrive at “Crossroads”. Miss Bates won’t reveal anything further about the angel except to say that he played a major role in one of the town’s most sad and notorious incidents. His redemption sets things right in ways that redress the past for the innocent and safeguard the present.
Miss Bates loves Thomas’s world and themes. Her novels are implausible in places, as is, for example, her naïve rendition of the artist’s world in Tori. But Thomas’s rewards are also a dream-like quality bridging realism and allegory. And yet there’s nothing naïve about how the world can be cruel: how amoral people can destroy, hurt, and rob others of love and happiness. Thomas’s assurance, however, of a guardian angel, broken and flawed as he or she may be, is equally powerful. Miss Bates feels warm, happy, and assured of a core of goodness in people when she reads Thomas. MissB’ll say, with her reading companion Miss Austen, that Sunrise Crossing is evidence of “a mind lively and at ease”.
Jodi Thomas’s Sunrise Crossing is published by HQN Books. It was released in August of 2016 and may be found at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from HQN Books, via Netgalley.