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Reviewed by Brenda Casto for Readers' Favorite
Just Dessert is the second book in the Ladies of Larkspur series, and with this one we meet seventeen-year-old Mary Fitzgerald and her four siblings, Clive, Bobby, Lizzie and Gigi. After the death of their mother, Mary became the caretaker of her siblings because of her abusive, alcoholic father. Mary loves to bake and decides to enter one of her pies in an auction hosted by the church, hoping that whoever buys it might want to marry her so that she and her siblings can escape from their abusive father. Things don't go as planned, though, when her father shows up at the auction, creating a scene. Grady Carlisle has come from Texas to spend the summer with his grandparents. He happens to be driving his wagon through town when he hears a commotion at the church, and offers to give the Fitzgerald children a ride home. When he realizes the problems they are having, he vows to help them for the summer because it is the right thing to do; while the younger children are receptive, Mary doesn't want his help. That doesn't stop him, and soon he finds his heart lost to the Fitzgeralds, especially Mary, but he knows that Mary doesn't feel the same way.
Heather Gray certainly creates compelling characters with Just Dessert. I found myself completely drawn into the Fitzgerald family. My heart ached for them as their situation was revealed. Ms. Gray certainly captures the essence of a tight knit family where the older children stepped into the parental role. While there is mention of abuse it is handled delicately, allowing the reader to understand what took place without going into great detail. Mary and Clive struggled with anger, and really believed that God didn't care about them. Mary also believed that the town of Larkspur had forsaken them as well, but little did she know what had actually been going on since her mother's death. Grady was such a wonderful male lead, his faith certainly shone through, and his love of pie lent a bit of humor to the story. While I hoped that he and Mary might find their way to each other, the author provided enough tension that kept me guessing at the final outcome. One of my favorite characters had to be young Gigi; her incessant chatter made her such an endearing character. Solid writing that deals with a few tough subjects made Just Dessert more than your average historical inspirational romance.