Reviewed by Dan
TITLE: Return to Cooter Crossing
SERIES: Stories from Bennett Bay
AUTHOR: Stephen del Mar
PUBLISHER: LMW Books
LENGTH: 598 Pages
Aidan Quinn is having a good day, possibly the best day of his life, at least since moving to Dublin. He just received word that his degree committee approved his PhD and he’s on his way home, with lamb chops, chard, and a bottle of wine. Time to celebrate in the little cottage he shares with his mentor and lover, Dr. David Stokes. But, something is wrong when he gets home. Dr. Stokes has found a new student to “mentor.”
Like any good Irish-American lad, he gets drunk and heads home to his mother. He hopes to find himself and make plans for a new future in the quiet backwater town of Cooter Crossing. But, he forgot what it’s like being part of a large family in an extremely small town. He gets off the plane in Tampa and finds his little sister is pregnant and won’t tell anyone who the father is. His next two older brothers, Danny and Dillon, are keeping secrets, and the oldest, Rory, shows up with his son, Sean, expecting Aidan to help him navigate Sean’s coming out.
Just as Aidan thinks he’s finally getting ahead of the family drama, and settling back into life in a small Florida village, someone shoots him. And people start dying. Will he find a way to put all the pieces back together? Will he find a new direction for his life? And, what really happened to Mrs. DeWitt’s prize rooster?
“Return to Cooter Crossing” is a contemporary southern family drama with strong characterization and set in Stephen del Mar’s rich world of Bennett Bay and Big Cypress County, Florida. Although not a part of the paranormal series “The Live Oak Tales,” this story takes place after the events in “Hunter Moon and the Red Wolf” and includes a few familiar characters from that series, such as Innes Callahan and his sister Fi, Allen Clark, Deputy JJ Jackson, Max Crawford and Marcus Murphy, among others.
I’ll start by saying this is a really long book for this genre. But every page is necessary to the overall story. I loved this book, and consider it Mr. del Mar’s best book to date.
In Return to Cooter Crossing we have a whole host of characters from Mr. del Mar’s other books and stories about Bennett Bay, a made up town on Florida’s Gulf Coast, as well as the villages of Cooter Crossing, Blackwater and tiny little Live Oak. I really enjoyed how he wrapped in the characters from across the board on his other works and tied them all together into a cohesive package which made you realize how they all tie together in Big Cypress County.
The book starts out with that elusive Aidan Quinn that we’ve heard about in Mr. del Mar’s previous books. Aidan is the one that got away, leaving broken hearts behind him. He has been gone ten years finishing up his education and finally earning his doctorate in Ireland. But the day he earns it, he finds his partner of ten years in bed with a young twink, and his suitcase packed, along with a plane ticket back to Florida. It turns out his mentor/lover has traded him in for a newer model.
Back in Florida, Aidan must figure out how to deal with not only the dramatic end of what he thought was his “forever” relationship, but also with his two ex’s, Innes and Clark. We have a lot of drama, some murders, some cover-ups and a LOT of family issues woven into the book, and it all works really well together.
Mr. del Mar does a wonderful job of world building. As I’ve said with other Bennett Bay and Live Oak Tales, I really do believe that Big Cypress County, Bennett Bay, Cooter Crossing and Live Oak all exist, just a couple hours north of me! I so want the magic and mystery of that area to be true.
He also does a fantastic job on character development. I loved how Sheriff’s Deputy JJ from previous stories finally becomes a MC and gets his own story. He needed it. I also enjoyed getting to know the whole Quinn family, including Aidan’s nephew Sean, and from the end of the book, I can tell Sean is going to get more of his story in the next installment.
This book could be read as a standalone. It does not require the background from the previous stories, and books, but I’d recommend reading them as well so you understand when I say that it is fantastic how everything is tying together into one big cohesive story. I’d still like to hear more about that haunted house though, since The Demise of Bobby & Clyde is one of my favorite back stories in this series. I believe most, if not all of Mr. del Mar’s books are on Kindle Unlimited, so that is an easy way to get caught up!
I highly recommend this book, as well as all the author’s Bennett Bay and Live Oak Tales! Hit one click today, you won’t be disappointed. There isn’t a lot of graphic sex in any of his works. They are mainly character, relationship, and storyline driven. I love them.