Wishing on Willows is a stand-alone novel that follows the life of Robin Price, who played a secondary role in Katie's debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter. Here's a blurb from Katie's website:
A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa, she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.
So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.
As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.
With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances.
Katie's book is unique in that it fits in a fairly undefined genre that she is blazing her own trail with...and that's a very definite cross between contemporary romance and women's fiction. The reader gets a lot of the heroine's journey, but the romance is unmistakably present.
One way Katie accomplishes this is through first-person chapters interspersed in the overall third-person point of view of the novel. We get glimpses into Robin's heart, her background, just like we get in women's fiction. Then we get the benefit of viewing Robin through the hero's eyes....which, let's face it...is why we love contemporary romance.
I was eager to see Robin's story play out in this book, because the crushing blow she was dealt of losing a husband while pregnant with a long-awaited child was so sad. (You can read my review of Wildflowers from Winter here...seriously, I cried reading those scenes.) She's living out their dream of owning a cafe, and she clings to it violently, as almost a tribute to the love she felt for her husband. Her wedding ring is a talisman she wears with her to the grief support group she runs out of her cafe. Oh, the irony of flawed, fleshed-out characters!
Ian is no stranger to loss and being in need of a second chance. You never once look at him as the "bad" guy trying to take Robin's cafe...because you understand his desire to make his father proud, and keep the jobs of the people in their company. Who wouldn't want to do that? The indecision he feels, once he understands Robin's grief, endears him even more to the reader.
Even little Caleb, the three-year-old who pops right off the page and into your living room, needs a second chance to get over his fear of being hurt on a tractor...a vehicle he associates with his father. The healing scene for Caleb toward the end will rock you. I think I put the book down and said, "Yaaaay!" to my husband, who just shook his head at me.
I want to leave you with one paragraph that just spoke to me, and I know it'll speak to you (and not give anything away!). It's in Robin's point of view...and she's at the juncture of uncertainty about whether a second chance in is her future or not:
Sadness and joy. Longing and fear. Desire and loyalty. All of it coalesced into a terrifying hope wrapped within a thousand what-ifs. All this time she'd been living as if the days between Micah's death and her own were nothing but a drawn out interlude. But what if they weren't? What if God wanted more for her life than filler music?
God never wants us to settle for filler music, folks...and that's what this book is ultimately about.