March 2008, Series Romance
Harl Rom # 4014, $3.99, 192 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373175043
In The Soldier's Homecoming, Donna Alward tackles the tried and true secret baby plot with unusual sensitivity and a minimum of histrionics. The restraint with which she tells her story gives it a realism and a poignant quality I have seldom found in these plotlines. Unfortunately, a heroine with some growing up to do mitigates these positive qualities.
Shannyn Smith and Jonas Kirkpatrick dated for one unforgettable summer when they were in their early 20s, but at the end of the summer Jonas' military training takes him to another base. After he leaves, Shannyn discovers that she is pregnant but does not share this news with him. After six years, Jonas finds himself back in town and scheduled to receive physical therapy at the clinic where Shannyn works. He soon learns of his daughter Emma's existence and that's when the sparks start to fly.
The reader should have no trouble remembering this basic plot synopsis, but should you grow dim on a detail or two, fear not. It will be repeated many times throughout the course of the short novel and the basic facts of Jonas and Shannyn's earlier relationship will be embedded indelibly in your brain. On the positive side, the reader gets to see how Jonas and Shannyn try to deal with the fact that Jonas wants to be part of Emma's life and that he needs to integrate himself into her life in a way that keeps the child's best interests at heart.
Seeing how Jonas manages to save his righteous anger for Shannyn only and tries to do the right thing by Emma shows the reader that he, at least, has matured since his earlier days with Shannyn. Jonas is a strong hero and watching him deal with his feelings for Shannyn and their daughter creates some of the best moments in this book. Unfortunately, Shannyn has not grown up so gracefully.
Shannyn has made something of her life and she tries to be a good mother. However, when she is with Jonas, she often is far less likable. At times, she sounds like a broken record as she rehashes old feelings and disappointments. She seems to have a set idea of what Jonas and his military life are like and her inability to let him show her differently frustrated me. While I can to an extent understand her reasoning throughout the book, she still aggravated me. And the rut into which she falls at times keeps the story from advancing and makes for a frustrating read in places. Jonas tries to explain his side of things to Shannyn, but she dwells on herself and cannot grasp what her earlier choices have done to Jonas.
While things do improve closer to the end, the breakthroughs came too late. The main couple's bickering and stalled fumblings toward a friendship or any type of relationship had frustrated me too much by that point. The beginnings of a relationship between Jonas and his daughter are tender and touching, and the main story does have some positive moments. Those with a higher tolerance for the heroine's difficulties may like this book more than I did, but for me, The Soldier's Homecoming was a decidedly average read.
-- Lynn Spencer
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