Monthly Key Word Challenge 2013. The Key Word is valley. I liked this book. It's nice to read something that doesn't tax your mind once in awhile. I want to live in a town like Buffalo valley, but they probably don't exist.
From Debbie Macomber's site:
Description (edited a bit)
Valley, North Dakota, has discovered a will to survive, to prosper. And
the outside world has discovered Buffalo Valley. A large retail
conglomerate plans to move in, which would surely destroy the small
independent businesses that have begun to succeed. Which might even
destroy the town.
Vaughn Kyle discovers that he's at an impasse. Just out of the army, he's looking
for a place to live, a life to live. As Christmas draws near, he decides
to visit his family in Grand Forks, North Dakota - while he waits for
his reluctant fiancée to make up her mind.
Vaughn decides to
visit Buffalo Valley and Hassie Knight, the old woman who owns the
pharmacy there. His parents named him after Hassie's son, who died in
Vietnam. Although he and Hassie have never met, she thinks of him almost
as family, as a surrogate son. He arrives at her pharmacy one snowy day
and finds not Hassie but a young woman named Carrie Hendrickson . . .
Will the season bring peace and joy - to Vaughn and to the town?
he begins to love Carrie, as he grows close to Hassie, Vaughn has to
question his feelings for the woman he thought he loved. He knows now
that he wants to stay in Buffalo Valley and fight for its way of life. A
life that's all about friends and family - not just at Christmas, but
every day of the year.
So this was North
Dakota. Gazing steadily ahead, Vaughn Kyle barreled down the freeway
just outside Grand Forks. Within a few miles, the four lanes had
narrowed to two. Dreary, dirt-smudged snow lay piled up along both sides
of the highway. Fresh snow had begun to fall, pristine and bright,
glinting in the late-afternoon sun.
His parents had retired
earlier in the year, leaving Denver, where Vaughn had been born and
raised, and returning to the state they'd left long ago. They'd moved
north, away from the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the
endlessly boring landscape of the Dakotas. This was supposed to be
beautiful? Maybe in summer, he mused, when the fields of grain rippled
with the wind, acre after acre. Now, though, in December, in the dead of
winter, the beauty of this place escaped him. All that was visible was a
winding stretch of black asphalt cutting through flat, monotonous
terrain that stretched for miles in every direction.
years as an Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army's Second Battalion based in
Fort Lewis, Washington, Vaughn was poised to begin the second stage of
his working life. He had his discharge papers and he'd recently been
hired by Value-X, a mega-retailer with headquarters in Seattle. Value-X
was one of America's most notable success stories. New stores were
opening every day all across the United States and Canada.
course was set for the future, thanks largely to Natalie Nichols. They'd
met two years earlier through mutual friends. Natalie was smart, savvy
and ambitious; Value-X had recognized her skills and she'd advanced
quickly, being promoted to a vice presidency before the age of thirty.
had been attracted by her dedication and purpose, and he'd admired her
ambition. His own work ethic was strong; as he'd come to realize, that
was increasingly rare in this age of quick fixes and no-fault living.
Natalie was the one who'd convinced him to leave the army. He was ready.
When he'd enlisted after finishing college, he'd done so intending to
make the military his career. In the seven years since, he'd learned the
advantages and drawbacks of soldiering.
He didn't mind the
regimented life, but the career possibilities weren't all he'd hoped
they would be. What he lacked, as Natalie had pointed out, was
opportunity. He was limited in how far he could rise through the ranks
or how quickly, while the private sector was wide-open and looking for
promising employees like him. He'd been interviewed by three headhunters
who recruited candidates for a variety of corporations and in just a
few weeks had six job offers.
At first he'd felt there might be a
conflict of interest, taking a position with the same company as
Natalie. However, she didn't view it that way; they would be a team,
she'd told Vaughn, and with that remarkable persuasive skill of hers,
had convinced him to come on board. He wouldn't officially start until
after the first of the year, but he was already on assignment.
was buying property in Buffalo Valley, North Dakota. Since Vaughn was
going to be in the vicinity, visiting his parents in nearby Grand Forks,
Natalie had asked him to pay the town a visit. It wasn't uncommon for a
community to put up token resistance to the company's arrival. In most
cases, any negative publicity was successfully handled, using a proven
strategy that included barraging the local media with stories showing
the company's "human face." After a recent public relations disaster in
Montana, Natalie was eager to avoid a repeat. She'd asked Vaughn to do a
"climate check" in Buffalo Valley, but it was important, she insisted,
that he not let anyone know he was now a Value-X employee, not even his
parents. Vaughn had reluctantly agreed.
He'd done this because he
trusted Natalie's judgment. And because he was in love with her. They'd
talked about marriage, although she seemed hesitant. Her reasons for
postponing it were logical, presented in her usual no-nonsense manner.
She refused to be "subservient to emotion," as she called it, and Vaughn
was impressed by her clear-cut vision of what she wanted and how to
achieve it. They'd get married when the time was right for both of them.
was eager to have her meet his family. Natalie would be joining him on
December twenty-seventh, but he wished she could've rearranged her
schedule to travel with him.
On this cold Friday afternoon two
weeks before Christmas, Vaughn had decided to drive into Buffalo Valley.
Because of Hassie Knight, he didn't need to invent an excuse for his
parents. Hassie was the mother of his namesake. She'd lost her only son -
his parents' closest friend - in Vietnam three years before Vaughn was
born. Every birthday, until he'd reached the age of twenty-one, Hassie
had mailed him a letter with a twenty-five-dollar U.S. Savings Bond.
all that time, he'd never met her. From first grade on, he'd dutifully
sent her a thank-you note for every gift. That was the extent of their
contact, but he still felt a genuine fondness for her - and gratitude.
Hassie had been the one to start him on a savings program. As a young
adult Vaughn had cashed in those savings bonds and begun acquiring a
portfolio of stocks that over the years had become a hefty nest egg.
hour after he left Grand Forks, Vaughn slowed his speed, certain that
if he blinked he might miss Buffalo Valley entirely. Value-X could put
this place on the map. That was one benefit the company offered small
towns. He wasn't sure what kind of business community existed in Buffalo
Valley. He knew about Knight's Pharmacy, of course, because Hassie
owned that. Apparently the town was large enough to have its own
cemetery, too; Hassie had mailed him a picture of her son's gravesite
Buffalo Valley was directly off the road. You
didn't take an exit the way you would in most places. You just drove off
the highway. He slowed, made a right turn where the road sign
indicated. The car pitched as it left the pavement and hit ruts in the
frozen dirt road. He'd gone at least a hundred feet before the paved
He passed a few scattered houses, and as he turned
the corner, he discovered, somewhat to his surprise, a main street with
businesses lining both sides. There was even a hotel of sorts, called
Buffalo Bob's 3 of a Kind. The bank building, a sprawling brick
structure, seemed new and quite extensive. This was amazing. He wasn't
sure what he'd expected, but nothing like this. Buffalo Valley was a
real town, not a cluster of run-down houses and boarded-up stores, like
some of the prairie towns his parents had told him about.
store caught his attention next. It was a quaint, old-fashioned
pharmacy, with big picture windows and large white lettering. Christmas
lights framed the window, flashing alternately red and green. In smaller
letters below KNIGHT'S PHARMACY, a soda fountain was advertised. Vaughn
hadn't tasted a real soda made with hand-scooped ice cream and flavored
syrup since his childhood.
He parked, climbed out of his rental
car and stood on the sidewalk, glancing around. This was a decent-size
town, decorated for the holidays with festive displays in nearly every
window. A city park could be seen in the distance, and the Buffalo
Valley Quilting Company appeared to take up a large portion of the block
across the street. He remembered an article about it in the file
Natalie had given him. Read more here.