Miss Bates lauded Kelley’s first book in the “Country Roads” series and this, her second, had the potential to be even better. The first half was wondrously good and Miss Bates excited to have landed a keeper. “Best laid plans” and all that and the second half, except for one or two scenes, fell apart (which is not to say that MissB’d discourage anyone from reading it.) Au contraire, the parts that are good are worth enduring the cringey bits, but let Miss Bates say that the cringey bits are pretty seriously messed up and dominate the second half. There is much to like about The Place I Belong: the initially nuanced hero and heroine, a role for religion that is NOT inspirational and sufficiently ambivalent to make it interesting, the requisite rift between hero and heroine is ideological instead of circumstantial, and the descriptions of the beauty of West Virginia’s mountains are loving. What goes terribly wrong in the second half, so much that it possibly negates the terrific first? Continue reading
In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Death of the Hired Man,” a wife convinces her husband to allow their former “hired man” to stay with them, though he’s “ditched” them in the past and can’t work as he once did. She argues that home is “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Their farm is the only place he’s ever been valued, or felt useful.
Julia London’s contemporary romance, Homecoming Ranch, is centered around the idea that one comes home when one recognizes home not only as a place of blood ties, but belonging. The hero and heroine answer the questions: “Where do I belong? Where am I needed? What is important?” Their HEA is not a narrow world of two, but extended family, community, and nature. Don’t mistake London’s Homecoming Ranch, however, as a story sombre and serious; Miss Bates spent four hours non-stop reading this novel … alternating between snorty guffaws and sniffy sobs. This novel fulfilled that most difficult of tasks in the romance writing world, to create a beautifully written story that is highly entertaining, deeply moving, and utterly believable. Continue reading for more of Miss Bates’s thoughts