Long Time Gone (Konigsburg Series #4)

Long Time Gone - Meg Benjamin Erik Toleffson is sort of the odd man out of the four Toleffson brothers. Where Cal, Pete and Lars are affable and well-liked, Erik's a bit, well, scary. Growing up, he relentlessly bullied his brothers and got involved with the wrong sort of crowd. Though he's been through the Army and sobered up, he still feels like he has much to atone for, that everyone else is aware of the darkness he knows is inside him. He certainly doesn't feel like he should be the chief of police, but that's precisely what's just happened to him. Seeing a chance to make everything right, he's determined to be the kind of police chief a town can rely on, even if they don't want to be BFFs.Morgan Barrett is a relative newcomer to Konigsburg, staying and working on the outskirts of town at the winery her father is part-owner of. She's working to prove herself to both her father and his business partner, and wants to combine her marketing background with the owners' winemaking expertise to expand the business. Unfortunately, they're all criticism and complaints, and not at all interested in any fancy marketing. She's not interested in a lifetime of working in their shadow, so if the new wine she's branded and plans to market at an upcoming festival doesn't take, she's moving on.Their paths cross one night at the townie bar and they're intrigued by each other - Morgan with Officer Grumpy and Erik with the woman with big brown Bambi eyes. As they interact over a run-in with an illegal dumper around her winery, a romance grows between these two, even while they fight any lasting attraction.Although there is the mystery of the illegal dumper, it's not at all a romantic suspense. The focus is squarely on Erik and Morgan and their lives. For the most part, the conflict is internal for them. They keep each other at arm's length emotionally because they don't want to get too attached until they know how permanent their job and living situations are. Their courtship follows a trajectory that should look familiar to a lot of people, and lacks any annoying contrivances like the Big Misunderstanding. They're two adults working to reconcile their professional and personal happiness.I love the town Benjamin has created and how the secondary characters all interact, even if the gay bistro owners grate a bit in their stereotypical behavior. There's the crabby bartender, the town drunk, the irritating busybody, the avuncular vet and the corrupt mayor, just like real life. There aren't too many epublished authors whose books are auto-buys for me. I think it's a party of two - Lorelei James and Meg Benjamin. This is the fourth and I believe final book in her Konigsburg, Texas series and it's definitely the strongest of the four. She's tightened up her narrative and plotting, involved the previous protagonists a lot less, added more dimension to her villain and refrained from equating a hasty marriage with an HEA.