Black Widow

Coming Home by Laurie Breton
(Neighborhood Press, $12.99, PG) ISBN 893105511-7
In the spring of 1974, Casey Bradley is 18 years old, still living at home in Maine, and engaged to her childhood sweetheart. It is when she meets a struggling musician, Danny Fiore, that her life drastically changes. Danny has talent to burn, the voice of an angel -- what he does not have is original material. When he hears Casey’s lyrics, he convinces her to come home with him to Boston. Casey is soon breaking off her engagement, married to Danny, and composing music with their mutual best friend Rob MacKenzie.

Over the course of the next decade, Casey bears the burden of responsibility, nurturing Danny’s incredible gift, while she struggles to keep them afloat. Through it all, they face the obstacles of marrying young, uncertain careers, and ultimately, a meteoric rise to the top. It is only when tragedy strikes that Casey realizes how lost she really is - and ultimately finds herself among the wreckage.

While Coming Home is more mainstream fiction, there are many aspects to this story that appealed to this romance reader. First and foremost, Casey is a character that is hard not to like. She is giving, with a mother earth spirit that draws people to her. While she sacrifices quite a lot over the course of this story, one never gets the impression that she is a doormat. If anything, she is one of the strongest female characters I have read about in recent memory.

Danny is everything that young love symbolizes rolled up into one messy package. Still haunted by the shadows of Vietnam, abandonment by his mother, and the stigma of being a bastard, he’s getting by on his charm. Casey sees something in him, nurtures his talent, and believes in him in a way no one has before. They fall for each other fast and hard, with an obsession that leaps off the pages.

Rob MacKenzie was ultimately what sold me on Coming Home, and has me strongly recommending it. This is a guy I fell in love with from the time Breton first introduces him. While Danny is like a raging forest fire, Rob is the comforting warmth of a fireplace on a cold winter day. Sweet, charming, and supportive, he is the best of friends to Casey and Danny, providing a quiet strength that only gets more appealing with each passing page.

The one shortcoming of this story is that the author covers 13 years in the lives of three people all in 360 pages. Naturally, something has to give. There were a couple of occasions where I wanted more information and did not necessarily get it. A good example of this would be when Casey breaks her engagement and marries Danny. The author does not go into detail concerning the fallout. While she does offer an explanation later on regarding the jilted groom’s feelings, I could not help but think that it was the easy way out.

That said, with characters like Casey, Danny, and Rob it was hard for me to hang on to my quibbles. In addition, the author includes some well down, heart-wrenching moments, which include Danny’s memories of Vietnam. The way Breton writes about the problems faced by returning soldiers, and struggling musicians trying to get a break, made for fascinating reading.

The author has indicated that her future writings will most likely be in the romantic suspense vein of her first release Black Widow. If Coming Home is an example of what she can do outside that genre, I am hoping she does not completely abandon the idea of another mainstream fiction novel.

--Wendy Crutcher

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