Women who marry for safety instead of for passion take note. Marsha Moyer has written this novel for you. The protagonist, Lucy Hatch, gets a second chance at life (and love) after Mitchell, her boring husband of 14 years, dies suddenly in a tractor accident. At 33, Lucy sees herself "turned loose from a life I hadn't even known had swallowed me whole." Not that she ever would have wished for Mitchell's death. He was a decent man who worked hard on their East Texas farm. She was used to him, but after he is gone, she doesn't miss him all that much. Instead, she feels simultaneously set free and at loose ends.

Returning to Mooney, the little town where she grew up, Lucy meets Ash Farrell, a handsome carpenter/musician who is Mitchell's opposite in every way. Is Ash the devil or will he be her savior? Moyer tells a good story, even if it is a bit of a fairy tale, in this debut novel. The title, The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch, has all the meanings you can imagine. The strong cast of supporting characters includes Lucy's strictly religious mother, her independent Aunt Dove, an overly protective brother Bailey, his lively wife Geneva and other assorted small-town folks. Though Mooney appears to be a fictional town, it's located near real places like Jefferson, Marshall, Caddo Lake and Lake of the Pines. Writers have only begun to discover colorful East Texas, a region known for its contradictions: dance halls down the road from fundamentalist churches; drought followed by drenching rain; stately homes set next to trailer parks.

Moyers suggests such paradoxes and shows how they can create confusion in an uncomplicated girl like Lucy. By the end of the book, she has finally come to realize that she may have put out Mitchell's light even as he apparently put out hers. What lifts this book above a formula romance is its occasional sharp humor and the feeling that there was more than one road not taken in Lucy's married life. Anne Morris writes from Austin, Texas.

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