The Road To Cardinal Valley
Earlene Fowler


In this heartfelt and poignant follow-up to Earlene Fowler’s national bestseller, The Saddlemaker’s Wife, Ruby McGavin returns to the small town of Cardinal, California, where a year ago she brought her husband’s ashes back to his family’s ranch, and discovered safety, peace, and a love...

Ruby never thought she’d return to Cardinal, but she’s hoping the place and people who gave her so much can give her brother Nash—who’s been drowning in drink in Nashville—the fresh start he so desperately needs.

Saddlemaker Lucas McGavin is thrilled that Ruby has come back. He hasn’t given up on his love for her, despite the awkward fact that she is his brother’s widow, and he’s well aware that this may be his last chance to win Ruby’s heart.

When Nash starts drinking again and ends up in a devastating accident, Ruby decides she must find her estranged mother to help with an intervention. Two states away, Etta Walker harbors a horrible secret that keeps her from reconnecting with the children she deserted so many years ago.

As they struggle with the present and confront the past, Ruby, Lucas, and Etta learn the power of forgiveness…and reach for a new future filled with hope, grace, and love.


Ruby McGavin returns to Cardinal Valley, California with her troubled brother hoping to give him the chance at a fresh start in her late husband’s hometown. Ruby hadn’t known the family of her late husband Cole until after his death, but she has grown to care about his Aunt Birch, his younger brother Lucas, and his best friend Ely. It feels like home when she arrives back in Cardinal Valley and Ruby begins to think she could make this her permanent home and maybe even find love again, but then her brother Nash has her doubting the sincerity of her new friends and family. Soon, Ruby thinks her dream may be impossible, in part because of the irresponsible actions of her brother that have a dramatic impact on the residents of Cardinal Valley.

The Road to Cardinal Valley is a follow up to The Saddlemaker’s Wife. I enjoy the author’s Benni Harper series, but somehow missed the first book in this new series featuring Ruby McGavin. Although Benni and Ruby are both strong women living in small California towns, the books are very different. The Benni Harper series has plenty of California history and stories about ranch life, but there is always a mystery at the core of each story. The Road to Cardinal Valley is more of a love story than a mystery. Ruby wants to learn more about her husband’s family, as well as her own mother who disappeared from her life years ago, but that’s the main “mystery” in the book. I was able to catch up with the important characters in the book even without reading the first installment, but was hoping it was a little more of a traditional mystery.

The book is really a story about love, family, and friends, and even though it’s lacking in sleuthing, I liked it. It is well-written with sympathetic characters in realistic situations. I feel sorry for Ruby who cares about her brother Nash so much, but is helpless to help him make better decisions that will improve his life. Every parent, friend, or sibling has been in this situation and will relate to the difficult situation Ruby is in. In Nash’s case, his problem is alcoholism, and even though you know he has a disease, it’s hard to like this self-centered character. He doesn’t seem to appreciate all that Ruby is doing for him, and in fact sometimes seems to go out of his way to make things more difficult for her. He makes one poor choice after another and even though his behavior is predictable, it’s still frustrating because he doesn’t seem to be trying to change.

Ruby is a widow and it’s nice to see a friendship grow into love for her. Ely is a great guy, and I especially like Cole’s brother Lucas and the direction his storyline takes. There are a few interesting plot turns, but no big surprises in the book. The story lags a bit in the middle before picking up again at the end, and overall is an enjoyable story about letting go, forgiveness, and second chances. Fans of Debbie Macomber or Hope Ramsay should like the latest in this new series by Earlene Fowler.

Reviewed by Christine K.