Stansfield sprinkles love and hate in newest novel 'The Wishing Garden'

By Melissa DeMoux

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 26 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"THE WISHING GARDEN," by Anita Stansfield, Covenant Communications, $16.99, 227 pages (f)

Anita Stansfield’s clutch on the world of Mormon romantic fiction got a little stronger with the release of her newest novel, “The Wishing Garden.”

After venturing into historical fiction with her last several books, Stansfield returns to modern times as she tells the story of a dejected mother seeking to build a new life after a string of tragic events.

Following a catastrophic car accident that robbed her of the lives of her husband and one of her adopted twin daughters, Mary Cranford-Bewkes reluctantly returns home to live with her dying father. A cruel and bigoted man, Mary absorbs his abuse and intolerance while caring for him only so that she and her daughter — a beautiful Hispanic 6-year-old — will have a place to live.

When Mary hires a handsome man more than 10 years her junior to transform the estate’s neglected gardens, she accidentally disrupts the careful balance of her life. Whit, a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Mexican heritage, is immediately drawn to Mary as well as her daughter, forcing her to face emotions she had deeply buried.

However, as her feeling for Whit begin to take shape, unsettling events draw Whit’s troubled past to the forefront, leaving Mary to wonder if the tender gardener is really what he seems. She must rely on the truth in her feelings or the mounting evidence, as well as her father’s ugly prejudice, might drive the couple apart.

“The Wishing Garden” highlights Stansfield’s love of exploring her characters' emotions and underlying motivations. The book is full of deep sentiment, and romantics will be absorbed by the heartache Mary and Whit have each battled. The characters are lovable and interesting, making them easy to follow.

While the story does seem a bit slow to develop, the angst and loathing provided by Mary’s father pull readers to her defense, truly drawing them into the book. Once the action picks up, the tale gallops through twists and intriguing turns involving not only romance but assault, gang turf wars and courtroom drama.

Stansfield’s fans will surely enjoy this unique addition to her flourishing literary collection.

Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City, Utah. Her email is mddemoux@gmail.com and she blogs about her adventures in motherhood at demouxfamily.blogspot.com.

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