Cassandra King knows her South. Her fourth novel, Queen of Broken Hearts, is set in Fairhope, a sleepy town along Mobile Bay. Clare Ballenger, Ph.D., is a middle-aged, widowed psychologist who counsels the distraught, separated and divorced both men and women in her private practice. Her work becomes nationally recognized, and Clare is soon dubbed the divorce coach. Much to the dismay of the local editorials and religious right powers-that-be, Clare is also setting up a permanent retreat, Casa Loco, for those recovering from the trauma and pain of divorce.

To escape her own loneliness and the haunting memories of her deceased husband, Clare throws herself into her career and her plans for Casa Loco. Nevertheless, her clinging to the past is challenged when Lex, a charismatic Yankee, moves to Fairhope and buys the local marina. The situation becomes all the more complicated when his ex-wife decides she wants him back. Then, Clare's work suddenly hits even closer to home when her own daughter is thrust into divorce proceedings. The joys and tensions of relationships between mothers and daughters, and the torment of letting go of the past to forge the courage to live in the present, all toss around like a buoy in a coastal hurricane.

Once again, King delivers, and in a humanistic style, all the while never straying from her south Alabama roots. With the same sensibilities that mark her earlier works, she weaves a story full of evocative imagery and memorable characters. Throughout the prose is as crisp and elegant as seersucker and summer linens; each storyline reads as smooth as a mint julep.

A member of the National Book Critics Circle, Elisabeth A. Doehring grew up along the waters of Mobile Bay.

 

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