2008, Series Romance
Sil Rom Susp #1519, $4.99, 216 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373275897 Part of a series
There are two reviews of this book
As a fan of Rachel Lee's Conard County series, I was excited to see a new entry at long last. At her best, Lee creates very sympathetic (and often tortured) characters, and very tender relationships. Unfortunately, A Soldier's Homecoming is nowhere near the best that this author is capable of writing. Though glimmers of her talent show through in places, the book ultimately shows itself to be frustratingly ordinary.
Ethan Parish, long-lost son of a Conard County resident, has never met his father. After suffering traumatic experiences as a soldier in the Middle East, he comes to Conard in search of a new beginning. His old life lost to him, he needs to learn how to build something to take its place. Ethan lacks a sense of purpose and somehow senses that he must meet his father and find his past in order to build a future. When he comes to Conard, one of the first people he meets is Connie Halloran, a woman who will end up playing an important role in his new life there.
Connie changed her name and came to Conard on the run from an abusive husband. She works as a sheriff's deputy and lives a quiet life with her young daughter and disabled mother. She gives Ethan Parish a ride into town one day, little imagining that she would see much of him again after that. However, things change when Connie's daughter is approached by a strange man after school and someone is needed to keep an eye on her.
Without throwing in too many spoilers, suffice it to say that Ethan gets drawn into the struggle to protect Connie and her daughter from possible harm. Things start off in very promising, if slightly contrived, fashion. Ethan's wounds from the war are very real, and in the best portions of this book, the author spends time exploring what his time in the military has done to him. Lee raises a lot of questions that don't have easy answers, and her troubled hero is both likable and strong. Likewise, Connie also shows a certain sort of resilience. However, even though her past is discussed, the reader doesn't get to see into her heart so clearly and she never felt fully three-dimensional.
Even so, this book felt like a B or possibly B- read until the final third. At that point, the theme of the book shifts from love and healing to, "holy cow, I'm almost out of pages so I better amp up the suspense plot, get the romance cooking, and tie all these ends into a neat little bundle." Needless to say, this pacing shift does not work. The suspense plot feels hackneyed (and the resolution is distinctly unsatisfying in its abruptness) and the rush to reach a good stopping point in the relationship makes it all rather difficult to believe. While I don't disbelieve in love at first sight, asking readers to accept that two wary and tortured souls can trust one another enough to build a solid commitment inside of a week is a bit much.
The rush to tie up every possible loose end in entirely too short a time ended up ruining what could have been a rewarding read. When the characters rush through revelation after revelation without having time to feel anything or sort through emotions in a meaningful way, the end result is not anything I can recommend. Rachel Lee is capable of good series writing, but A Soldier's Homecoming is a disappointingly ordinary entry.
-- Lynn Spencer
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