Series: Safe Haven #3
Published by HQN Books on September 24, 2019
Source: the publisher
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Come home to Safe Haven, where the best Christmas surprises aren’t the ones under the tree.
Holly Gibson has one wish this Christmas season: to find her young niece’s father. And she’s traveled hundreds of miles to the small town of Safe Haven to make that wish come true. But from the moment Holly lays eyes on the mysterious Cash O’Dwyer, he’s nothing like she expected. Strong and kind, he makes her heart beat faster. And suddenly that little secret she’s keeping about her sister stirs up all kinds of guilt…
Cash is stunned—and more than a little wary—to discover he’s a father. Having a family of his own was never part of his plan…until sweet baby Penny and her fiercely independent aunt Holly arrive in town. Now he’s finding himself trimming trees and stuffing stockings for three. But Cash can’t shake the ghosts of his own past this holiday season, forcing him to choose between the safe life he loved…and the new family he can’t live without.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain is third in the series about the O’Dwyer brothers, this time featuring Cash. Cash is a wealthy businessman living in Atlanta, Georgia but with enough ties to Safe Haven, South Carolina that he maintains a place to live when he is in town. Just before Safe Haven’s annual Christmas tree lighting, Holly shows up at his apartment with her sister’s young baby, claiming that the baby is his after he spent a week with her sister a while back. Cash has a hard time believing that baby Penny can possibly be his and he suspects that Holly just wants some of his money.
This is the story of how Cash, Holly, and baby Penny become the family that Cash didn’t realize he wanted.
Safe Haven is a small, very close community and truly no place could be better when it comes to adjusting to life-changing circumstances. As with previous installments, the town locals rally around Cash and Holly. I think the friends and family in this series really make it special. They’re each so well-developed that I feel like I know them. Everyone is so genuine and helpful-it makes me long to live in a place like Safe Haven.
Holly is single and new to parenting after agreeing to raise her sister’s baby. She moved from New York City to Safe Haven at the request of her sister, specifically to find Cash and raise the baby close to him. At first, she is a little put-off by everyone constantly wanting to keep the baby for her and wanting to help her so much. She really has to work to adjust to the kindness of the community. She also struggles to open up to Cash’s friends and family in the beginning, but when she finally does it is wonderful and a much more full life for baby Penny.
Cash’s backstory is large in this installment, as it has been with the other brothers in their own installments, and it is great to see Cash finally warming up to his mother. This is the third book in this series, so I already knew plenty about Cash, his mother, and his backstory from reading the previous books in this series, which made the plot progression in this story feel smooth and right. This is meant to read well as a standalone, and I think it really does, but I also love that I have read the previous books so that I really have that understanding of what happened in the past and I feel sort of close to these characters.
Toward the end, the story took a suspenseful turn, but thankfully all ends well.
I had suspected early on with the first book in this series that the stories around some of the secondary characters would be explored more fully as the series progressed, and I’m so pleased to find that the case. I wonder if this is the end of the Safe Haven series? I’ve enjoyed it so much and it makes me want to read more from Ms. McClain.
Keep reading for an excerpt from the beginning of the story!
On a mid-November evening, Cash O’Dwyer locked the door of his luxury condo and trotted down the steps, holding his phone to his ear to listen to the third message from his CFO in Atlanta. “Urgent that you return this—”
“Watch it!” The feminine voice was accompanied by a baby’s cry.
Cash stopped with one foot halfway down to the next step and squinted at the woman, who’d pressed herself flat against the railing on the landing, baby cradled protectively in her arms. He lifted a hand, palm out. “Sorry, sorry, ma’am, wasn’t watching where I was going.” He continued past them as he listened to the rest of his message. And then, as he processed what he’d seen, he clicked off his phone and turned back, shifting his focus from Atlanta and business deals to a very pretty young mother practically on his doorstep here in Safe Haven, South Carolina.
The woman was still on the landing, gently joggling the baby, whose cries were already dying out.
“Can I help you?” As he spoke, he checked the time on his phone. His brothers and their families would be waiting for him, the nieces and nephews getting more and more impatient, the wives ready to strangle him. His pockets full of candy and little toys wouldn’t make up for a night of fussy kids. He’d told them to go ahead without him, that he’d meet them at the holiday tree-lighting ceremony in the park, but his sisters-in-law had insisted that they all have dessert together first, at the Southern Comfort Café.
His sisters-in-law were big on tradition, something he and his brothers were pretty severely lacking.
Three messages flashed onto his lock screen. His sales manager, his brother Liam and his brother Sean’s wife, Anna.
Above him on the landing, the woman hadn’t moved, hadn’t spoken. The baby, who looked to be a girl and about a year old, settled against her shoulder with a gurgly sigh. “Can I help you?” he asked again. These stairs led to two condos, his own and that of an older businesswoman.
“Are you looking for Hillary?”
“No.” She stared into his eyes and hers were strangely familiar. “We’re looking for you.”
A spark of anxiety climbed up his spine. He didn’t like it. “Is it an emergency? What’s your connection to me?”
Her eyebrow lifted just enough that he realized he sounded abrupt. Which was too bad, but that was how he was. Driven, impatient, materialistic. Not as bad as his father had been—at least Cash wasn’t violent about it. But still. The old man must have known what he was doing, giving him the name Cash. It was why he didn’t have a wife and kids, the way his brothers did.
“It’s…a long story,” she said. There was anxiety in her voice. “Is there somewhere we could talk?”
He glanced at his phone again, the time ticking away. “Not right now, no.” He tried to keep the irritation out of his tone. There were a lot of people in the world, especially in the South, for whom time had a different meaning than it did for him. People who didn’t mind having drop-in guests because their schedules were flexible or nonexistent.
Cash O’Dwyer wasn’t one of those people.
“Does the name Tiffany Gibson ring a bell?”
“Tiffany…yeah.” Involuntarily, he smiled. He’d shared a very lovely week with Tiffany, when she’d vacationed in a beach resort adjoining Safe Haven at the same time he’d been spending a rare week in his hometown. “I do remember Tiff,” he said.
“She’s my sister. I’m Holly Gibson.” She was watching him steadily, like that was going to mean something to him.
But he and Tiffany hadn’t spent their time together talking about their families. They hadn’t talked much, period. He didn’t think Tiffany had even mentioned she had a sister.
That must be why this woman’s big grey eyes had looked so familiar. He didn’t have time to piece together why Tiff’s sister had shown up on his doorstep with a baby, but she probably had a sob story and needed money. That didn’t even faze him anymore; as his bank account had expanded, so had the number of people who wanted to be his best friend. Couldn’t blame ’em for trying.
But this one had a baby, which got to him. “Look,” he said impulsively, starting down the stairs and gesturing for her to follow, “I’m late for this tree-lighting thing. It’s a tradition, and there are kids involved, kids I can’t disappoint. If you’d like to ride along, we can talk in the car. Or…” He frowned at the baby. “You can follow in your own car, if you’d be more comfortable.”
“I came in an Uber,” she said as she reached the bottom of the stairs, then half knelt and picked up a car seat she must’ve left there. “I can ride along with you.”
She’d come in an Uber? That meant she didn’t have a car. Definitely a sob story coming, but two more messages pinged onto his phone and he didn’t have time to deal with it. He just took the car seat out of her hands, opened the rear door of his Tesla and slid it in. From his brothers, he’d actually learned how kids’ car seats worked, so he attached the top tether strap to the anchor point, then stepped back to give her access.
“I’m impressed. Most guys can’t do that.” She bent over and carefully buckled in the baby. Just as carefully, Cash tried to keep his eyes away from her sweet, shapely form. He focused on the sound of the waves lapping just beyond the parking lot, the sweet-smelling winter honeysuckle that climbed a lamppost, the stars emerging against the velvet-blue sky.
-Excerpt from Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain. Published by HQN.