Review written By Kathy Altman, USA TODAY
When I think of Mariah Stewart, I think of romantic suspense. Or I used to, anyway. In Stewart’s Hometown Girl, I discovered I’ve been missing out by not reading her Chesapeake Diaries series.
In Hometown Girl, Brooke Bowers struggles to establish a life for herself and her young son back on the family farm in St. Dennis, Md. Two years earlier her husband was killed in Iraq, leaving Brooke heartbroken and in desperate need of the love and support only her hometown can provide. She works like a fiend as she finishes her degree and launches her cupcake business, but the one thing she can’t bring herself to do is become romantically involved. She tries to be social, but she’s determined to remain independent. A first date never leads to a second, earning her the nickname “one and done.”
Jesse Enright moved to St. Dennis to take his grandfather’s place as head of the family law firm. But Jesse is the only one who’s confident that the small town is where he belongs — he has a lifetime’s worth of his father’s screw-ups to live down. But he’s determined to prove himself and to raise a family of his own in the community he’s grown to love. If only the elusive Brooke Bowers would cooperate, their future together could be as delectable as her signature desserts.
While Jesse plots ways to spend time with Brooke without actually dating her, Brooke deals with the remnants of a less-than-admirable past and searches for the strength to make room for love in her future.
I haven’t (yet!) read the previous books in the Chesapeake Diaries series, but Hometown Girl is a wholly satisfying story in its own right. At first I did feel a bit of an outsider in St. Dennis and somewhat overwhelmed by Brooke’s friends and their romantic histories. I believe my unfamiliarity with the community explains why I found the book’s opening to be slow. But it didn’t take long for Stewart to entangle me in the world of St. Dennis, and she did it as subtly and as irrevocably as Jesse ensnared Brooke in his. The characters were appealing and three-dimensional, their challenges not only believable but engaging. I enjoyed the relationships among Brooke and her female friends. Besides, who can resist a wedding — or two? Throw in a personal redemption, an emotional reconciliation, a ghost, and a mysterious set of initials, and you have an engrossing story with poignant, relatable themes like grief, forgiveness, friendship, and rebirth. No big surprises, but a heartwarming read. So settle back and enjoy Hometown Girl with a cup of tea and no fewer than two cupcakes.
Kathy Altman writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense.
Next in Mariah’s series is HOME FOR THE SUMMER on sale May 29, 2012 – click here to see the full series: