When bullying threatens to destroy a teen's life, painful memories resurface for dedicated high school teacher Laura Reed and pediatrician J. C. Fullerton. With the support of the Sweet Magnolias, they bring the town together to ensure that a promising student's future isn't ruined. And to establish once and for all that bullying has no place in Serenity, South Carolina.
Both J.C.'s and Laura's passion for the cause is deeply personal, and their growing feelings for each other are just as strong. But with so many secret hurts to overcome, can these two vulnerable lovers find the strength to believe in happily ever after?
Excellent book. A teacher and a pediatrician are brought together in a sweet romance when they combine forces to deal with a case of bullying at the high school. Misty is a junior, smart and hard-working, so when she starts skipping class, Laura is worried. JC is equally worried when Misty comes to him asking for a note that will let her get out of going to school. Since she won't tell him what's happening, he makes her promise to talk to someone, and have that person call him. Though she talks to Laura, the lack of real information has Laura and JC determined to discover the truth.
I really liked Laura and JC. Both are deeply caring people who want the best for those around them. Laura has seen the bad side of love in the past and doesn't do much dating. JC has been burned himself and considers himself too bad at relationships to indulge again. That doesn't stop various people from doing their best to find matches for them (JC's nurse is especially persistent). From the moment they meet, there are sparks between Laura and JC, though they both try to resist and deny. It was fun to see them both try to deny the attraction even as they found reasons to get together. It was hilarious to see the whole town get involved, commenting on sightings of them together. I really loved JC's bewilderment at the way he can't stay away from Laura, and how his feelings are changing. The support they showed for each other during some really tough times was sweet and heartwarming. I loved JC's big moment at the end.
The romance was wonderful, but there is more than that. The case of bullying that brings the two together is an eye-opening look at one of the toughest issues kids today face. When Laura and JC discover what the problem is with Misty, it calls to them in a deeply personal way. Both had had experience with bullies in their own youths, affecting their lives even now. I loved the honesty and depth with which the issue was handled. Misty, who is having other troubles at home, tries to deal with the problem on her own. She gets some support when her best friend gets involved, but swears that friend to secrecy. Fortunately that friend is a daughter of a Sweet Magnolia and finds a way to keep her promise and still help. I hurt for Misty and everything she was going through. As the truth comes out, Laura and JC are assisted by the Magnolias and others as the issue of bullying is brought into the spotlight. I loved seeing Misty come out the other side, not unaffected, but stronger for surviving.
I loved seeing so many of the Sweet Magnolias and their husbands in this book. Their willingness and desire to do whatever necessary (loved Helen!) made resolving the issue even more successful. They were especially critical in support of Laura when the mother of the bully got involved. I also loved seeing the husbands checking out JC and making sure he knows that he's being watched. There are some terrific scenes that had me laughing out loud - margarita nights were especially good at that. Others had me cheering as they banded together. I loved Frances's speech at the rally, while JC's brought me to tears.