Miss Bates loves trees and lives in a country with plenty! She writes and reads and ponders in company with the maple tree in her front yard and records time’s passage by its changing leaves. This is one reason she enjoyed Inez Kelley’s “Country Roads” series. Kelley has set her three romances in West Virginia’s forest and the intricacies of a traditional logging industry (something else Kelley’s setting shares with Miss B’s country) making its way in the modern world, walking a fine line between profit and conservation. Moreover, Miss Bates enjoyed the romances: they’re sexy, heroines don’t take gaff from the heroes, and the heroes are manly-men who concede. Of the three, Take Me Home, The Place I Belong, and Should’ve Been Home Yesterday, Take Me Home edges out as her favourite. The first and third in the series were un-put-downable: the prose is smooth; the setting, beautiful; the heroine and hero, lovingly conflicted. Should’ve Been Home Yesterday had the added advantage of being a convincing contemporary marriage-of-convenience narrative, one of Miss Bates’ favourite romance tropes. Furthermore, it was a second-chance-at-love story, a wonderful combination of flashback, forward action, and two people meant to be together if they would only be honest with each other. At least there are reasons in their past that make the close-mouthed agony understandable. Despite the wonderfulness, Should’ve Been Home Yesterday suffered from the same problems, to a lesser degree, that Miss Bates found in The Place I Belong.
Should’ve Been Home Yesterday opens in the middle of a muddle for heroine Molly McCreedy, town-diner owner, and hero Webb Hawkins, CEO of Hawkins Hardware. At Kayla and Matt’s wedding (Take Me Home‘s heroine and hero), celebratory inebriation led to love-making which resulted in baby-making. Family connections and affection ensure that Webb asks Molly to marry him. That night, however, was the culmination of what Webb calls his “beautiful, tragic, twisted history” with Molly. Ten years her senior, Webb, and Clay, his best friend and Molly’s older brother, swore they would protect Molly when the McCreedys brought her blue-eyed cuteness home in a pink bassinet. In another flashback, we learn that when Molly turned 18, at the town BBQ, Molly and Webb shared amorous moments … until a furious Clay showed up. Webb was caught between his feelings and desire for Molly and his angry best friend. Days later saw Clay dead and Webb grievously injured and hospitalized, after an accident in the forest both families loved and started a business from. Wracked by guilt, Webb got as far away from Molly as he could, but never stopped loving, or wanting her. Molly stayed away too, after Webb’s coldness to her in the hospital. She’s been in love with him since she was ten.
Molly did not get pregnant to trap Webb into marriage. She’s a wonderful, naïve, and loving woman who believes that honour, friendship, affection, and the bond of having a child together will make her marriage to Webb the fairytale she’s dreamt of. There you have the heart of Should’ve Been Home Yesterday: two people carrying a torch for each other, in love but not voicing it, getting married, and awaiting a baby, with painful and still-raw memories, a situation rife with possibility for hurt, arguments, and great reconciliation scenes, verbal and amorous. Into this already tense situation, Kelley introduced a suspenseful element that runs throughout the three romance novels: the presence of Redbear, a Terran Guard nutjob eco-terrorist, who identifies as the saviour of the forest, but spends most of his time dying of cancer and hating anyone involved in the logging industry. In this final and third novel, he has his sights set on Webb and family.
Kelley’s Should’ve Been Home Yesterday has strengths and weaknesses. Miss Bates loved some aspects of it and really disliked others. She loved the combination of marriage-of-convenience and second-chance-at-love tropes. Kelley did a great job of establishing character-driven reasons and back-stories for Webb and Molly to marry. They convinced Miss Bates and she liked Webb and Molly so much that, even through the dross, she never stopped rooting for them, or finding their interactions interesting. She enjoyed how Kelley “filled in” their past history piecemeal, embroiled as it was with their families, friends, and the logging industry that makes the heart and survival of their home. She liked reading such a sexy romance novel, but in the confines of marriage … maybe it’s MissB’ propensity for things being done properly and in good time. Kelley sure can write a love scene. She loved their banter and that Molly, though younger and in awe of Webb, gave as good as she got. She loved how Molly grew from naïve, star-in-her-eyes bride to maturity, hurt, and disappointment to love, forgiveness, and understanding. She loved how the couple’s “darkest moment” resulted in a temporary separation near the end and she loved how Webb then machinated their HEA. She loved their emotional responses to their situation. She loved Webb’s tattoo. 😉
As much as she loved these aspects of Should’ve Been Home Yesterday, she quite disliked others. She disliked how Webb’s reason for holding back from Molly in their marriage was that he “didn’t deserve her.” Miss Bates hates that reasoning in heroine, or hero. Love is a gift freely given. Please, stop it with that rationalization (admittedly, Webb does see how this is a hindrance to their marriage and makes a welcome change). Miss Bates disliked the violence of Should’ve Been Home Yesterday as much as she did that of The Place I Belong and she disliked that the two novels share a similar violent scenario. She disliked that it’s so hard to be convinced by the villain, who is so physically weak that she finds it difficult to believe he wouldn’t have been long caught. She really disliked the reason behind Clay’s anger; she won’t give anything away plot-wise, but it was stereotypical and distasteful and disappointing. (She also disliked something that happens a lot in contemporary romance, not solely in this particular one. When the now-settled heroes and heroines of previous novels in the series show up, they behave like caricatures of men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus. Why? Why do they have to lose their edge, romance writers? Why does domesticity have to make them boring?)
Miss Bates has written a review that is effusive and rant-y; she’d say that Kelley’s Should’ve Been Home Yesterday was “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey. Read Kelley’s series? It is a cut above most and Miss Bates enjoyed it, as long as you’re prepared to grin and bear it in places. All three books are real page-turners. Miss Bates prefers to read something that elicits a strong response, good and bad, than one that never gets beyond the lukewarm.
Inez Kelley’s Should’ve Been Home Yesterday was published on July 21st by Carina Press and is available in e-format at your favourite vendors.
Miss Bates is grateful to Carina Press for an e-ARC, via Netgalley, in order for her to consider the novel for review.