"A girl with a bad reputation comes home to Whisper Falls"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted October 20, 2013
Two young kids pray for a new mother to be sent to them, a
wife for poor tired daddy. They 'specially want one with
brown hair like their last mom. But when a brown-haired
lady moves in across the street, she's not exactly
perfect. Lana Ross was dragged up tough in this little
mountain town of Whisper Falls, and escaped as soon as she
could. If she's come back, it's not entirely voluntary.
SUGARPLUM HOMECOMING is a wry name given how Lana feels
about her horrible late parents and unhelpful townsfolk.
She's caring for a girl aged nine, and hiding from someone.
Her hated home is the last place he'll think to look for
her. She'd rather not meet neighbours at all, but kids will
be kids. Davis Turner used to be Mr Perfect, and he comes
to introduce his Paige and Nathan, who want to play with
young Sydney. Lana doubts they have one other thing in
common. Her family home is so abandoned, the children call
it the haunted house. She'll have her work cut out to make
it habitable. Davis intends leaving them to it, but later
Paige reminds him that at church they are told to help
their neighbours. They should take a dish of lasagne to
the new arrivals on their first evening.
From a small beginning a gradual friendship grows, though
Davis's sister remains judgemental and warns that Lana was
a bad sort, in all kinds of trouble, and could be a bad
influence on children. For her part, Lana silently wonders
where the helpful neighbours were years ago when she really
needed them. And she tells Sydney, don't go into the
I found Christmas was a convenient time of year as it gives
the neighbours a chance to mingle and pick trees,
decorating them and making fun plans. Lana is a singer, and
is encouraged to perform - we should all use our talents.
She had previously thought she should give up her music to
follow God, as she had been among bad company. So this tale
is not so much about Christmas time as facilitated by it,
and the core of the story is the homecoming of a girl with
a bad reputation, to mixed response. Bravely overcoming
her dysfunctional family upbringing, Lana just wants to
start afresh. Linda Goodnight has set several inspirational
stories in Whisper Falls, Idaho, and SUGARPLUM HOMECOMING
has a lot of substance as well as gentle romance.
A New Mommy For Christmas
Widower Davis Turner doesn't need to hear his children's
whispered wishes for a new mom to recognize that new
neighbor Lana Ross is a beautiful woman. But he worries that
his feelings for the former bad girl could put his family at
risk for small-town scandal. Lana knows she should steer
clear of Davis. Yet she can't resist spending time with the
handsome single dad, even if the truth might soon tear them
apart. Though Lana has turned over a new leaf, her secrets
have followed her to Whisper Falls. Secrets that could
destroy her hope for a future with Davis.
Whisper Falls: Where every prayer is answered
Bad pennies always return. But what about bad people?
Lana Ross stepped up on the wooden porch of the weathered
old two-story house. Her heart hammered painfully against
her ribs. She’d not wanted to come to this place of bad
memories. She’d had to.
A stern inner voice, the voice of hard-won peace, moved her
forward, toward the door, toward the interior. A house
couldn’t hurt her. If she’d been alone perhaps she would
have given into the shaky knees and returned to the car. But
she wasn’t alone.
Lana aimed a wink at the child at her side. Sydney was her
everything now and no memories were allowed to keep this
nine year old darling from having her very first permanent home.
“Is this where you lived when you were my age?” Sydney
asked, her vivid turquoise eyes alive with interest.
“Uh-huh, Tess and I grew up here.” Grew up. Yanked up.
A tangle of a vanilla-scented vine, overgrown and climbing
upon the porch and around the paint-peeled pillar at one
end, gave off a powerfully sweet smell. She didn’t remember
the bush being there before, especially this late in the
fall. But then, she’d not seen this place in thirteen years.
Not since she was eighteen and free to leave without looking
over her shoulder for the long arm of the law.
With the sour taste of yesterday in her throat, Lana
inserted the tarnished key into the front door, an old-time
lock a person could peer through, and after a few tries felt
the tumbler click. Breath held, she pushed the door open on
its creaky hinges, but didn’t step inside. Not yet. She
needed a minute to be certain the house was empty, though
she had the death certificate in her bag. Mama was dead. Had
been for a couple of years. As far as she knew her entire
family was dead. All except Lana and Tess and precious Sydney.
She couldn’t make herself go inside. Everything was still
and quiet in the dim living room, but inside her head Lana
heard the yells, the fights, the horrible names she’d
believed and mostly earned.
She and her twin sister, Tess, were no more and no less than
what their mother had made them. Now, all these years later,
Lana was determined to be more for Sydney’s sake.
“We’ll be happy here,” Sydney declared with childlike
“Yes, we will.” If I have to fight the universe, you will
have what you need and you will never, ever again live on
the streets or inside a broken down car.
“Can we go in now? I want to see my room. You said I could
have my own room, remember? And we’d fix it up fit for a
“I remember.” The child’s enthusiasm stirred Lana to action.
Sydney had never had a room of her own. She’d never had a
house. They’d lived here and there, in tiny one room
apartments and cheap hotels, all in pursuit of Lana’s
impossible dream. Most important of all, Sydney would be
safe here. No one would ever expect Lana to return to the
one place she’d tried so hard to escape. Especially Sydney’s
“Who’s that?” Sydney asked from her spot half in and half
out of what had once been the front parlor.
Across the street a man and two children stood in a neatly
mowed yard watching them. Lana’s stomach dropped into her
resoled cowboy boots. It couldn’t be. Surely not.
The thought had no more than crossed her mind than the
sandy-brown haired man with the all-American good looks
lifted a hand to wave and then started toward them. Two
young children, close to Sydney’s age, skipped along as if
on an adventure.
Lana froze, one hand on the doorknob and the other gripping
Sydney’s as if Davis Turner would snatch her up and carry
“Hello,” he said when he reached the end of the cracked
sidewalk leading to the two-story.
Yep. He was Davis Turner all right. Mr. clean-cut and
righteous. He’d been a year ahead of her in school. No one
in Whisper Falls had a smile as wide, as easy and as bright
Please God, don’t let him recognize me.
“Hi,” she said, not bothering to smile.
“You moving into the old Ross place?” Davis slipped his
hands into the back pocket of his jeans, relaxed and easy in
his skin. The man was much like the boy she remembered.
“Great.” He flashed that smile again. White straight teeth,
easy, flexible skin that had weathered nicely, leaving happy
spokes around greyish blue eyes and along his cheeks. “The
house has been empty a long time. Houses need people to keep
them young and healthy.”
What an interesting thing to say. This house had never been
healthy because of the people in it. “I suppose.”
“We live across the street in the beige brick with the black
shutters. I’m Davis Turner and these are my munchkins, Paige
Lana released a tiny inner sigh of relief. Davis didn’t
recognize her, though sooner or later he’d discover he lived
too close to the town bad girl. Would the people of Whisper
Falls still remember? Did she dare hope that time had erased
her teenage indiscretions from inquiring minds?
Not a chance.
“I’m ten. Well, almost,” the young girl at Davis’s side
announced. “Nathan’s barely eight. I’m the oldest. What’s
“This is Sydney,” Lana said, purposely providing Sydney’s
name instead of hers. She couldn’t avoid the introduction
forever, but she wanted to buy some time before Davis’s
bright smile withered and he turned on his heels, dragging
his children in a rush to lock his doors and keep them away.
“She’s also nine, just barely.”
Sydney hung back, aqua eyes cautious. She was too shy, too
hesitant with others, something Lana hoped would disappear
once they were settled. Her niece needed friends badly and
Lana prayed her prior reputation in this close-knit mountain
community wouldn’t interfere with Sydney’s happiness.
“Say hello, Sydney.”
Sydney ducked her head, displaying the precise part in her
super curly brown hair. “Hello.”
“Are you gonna live here?” the little boy, Nathan asked.
“Just the two of you?” With the same grey eyes, brown hair
and square jaw of his father, Nathan was handsome. Unlike
his father, he sported a dimple in one cheek.
“That’s the plan,” Lana answered.
“Are you married?”
Paige elbowed her brother. “Shh.”
“But Paige, we have to know,” Nathan protested. “She has
The adults exchanged glances and smiled. Davis appeared as
clueless about the comment as Lana. What did her hair color
have to do with anything, especially marriage?
Paige, an elfin beauty, simple and pure with pale brown
freckles and ultra short blond hair, attempted to explain.
“What he means, ma’am, is that we’re glad to meet you and
we’d like to get better acquainted. Isn’t that right, Daddy?”
Davis turned his twinkly smile on Lana again, clearly amused
by his children. “Always glad to welcome new neighbors. I
didn’t get your name.”
The jig was up. She’d prayed to get settled before her
tainted past charged in with all guns blazing. Apparently,
God, Who’d brought her this far, expected her to face her
fears head on.
It was now or never. Either Davis remembered or he didn’t.
Time to find out.
Chin up, eyes meeting his, she said, “I’m Lana Ross. You and
I attended high school together.”
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