Acts of Mercy

Brown Eyed Girl

Dead End

Moon Dance


Voices Carry

Wonderful You

Coming Home
by Mariah Stewart
(Ballantine, $7.99, PG)  ISBN 978-0345-52033-3
Vanessa Keaton did not have it easy growing up.  Her mother searched for love by going from man to man, never really finding one who would stick around.  When in her twenties, Vanessa came to St. Dennis on the Chesapeake Bay to find her half-brother Beck and found Hal Garrity. Hal is Beck’s natural father. Vanessa’s mother had Beck when Hal was in Vietnam.  She never told him about his son, and one day, just dropped him off.  Beck was a restless teen and Hal had his hands full.  Now they are settled and thrilled to discover there was a girl who needed their love too.  Hal provided stability and love while Beck embraced his sister and they forged a friendship as well as a familial bond. 

Vanessa dreamed of owning her own shop and Beck and Hal helped her get it.  She opened Bling and has found she is settled in this little town on the bay.  After two failed marriages prior to coming here and her rough childhood, she has sworn off men, assuming she is like her mother.  She is happy but at times lacks confidence.  She is thrilled to be involved in Beck’s wedding to Mia, a beautiful girl who is also Vanessa’s friend.  Mia’s parents passed away when she was younger and her three brothers, Brendan, Andy and Grady, raised her.  Andy is married and Brendan is dead, having been involved in shady dealings, including killing a woman who was married to Grady.  Since that death (which is explained but generally glossed over), Grady lives in Montana, retired from the FBI, living on his own and being reclusive. 

Coming Home follows the celebrations as Mia and Beck are getting married.  Grady comes to give the bride away.  He and Vanessa hit it off.  They get thrown together a lot since Mia is determined that Grady participate in a week of pre-wedding activities and that he is not reclusive.  So Vanessa is “assigned” to ensure he is involved.  They spend time and realize they like each other.  Even knowing that there is nothing that can come from this, they slowly build their relationship, their sexual attraction and their need for the other.

When someone from her past tries to hurt Vanessa by breaking into her house and her store, Grady joins Hal (who is the retired police chief) in keeping Vanessa safe.  This ups the intensity to their relationship and they end up fighting their feelings as they give into their attraction to each other.

Coming Home is crafted along the lines of Debbie Macomber and Susan Wiggs.  This is a series and is based on characters from previous Stewart books.  There is a large cast of characters from this little town and many are set up to be recurring.  There is town gossip and there are a lot of small town activities, and the main idea is that St. Dennis is a good place to live, settle down and grow roots.  Vanessa wants them and Grady is scared of them.  Yet, as he heals his heart and realizes what he ran from, he seeks out Vanessa and realizes she just might have the answers to questions he didn’t even know he wanted to ask. Vanessa struggles with her fears and her past as she hopes she and Grady can figure out a future.

I liked this story but as I sit writing the review, I realize that it did not stay with me and I’m struggling to remember details.  I enjoyed the pacing, and the suspense added just enough to make the plot engaging.  There is a lot of backstory that has to be laid; the subplot about Grady’s wife was never fully explained;  and the whole issue that is causing Vanessa problems now comes up out of the blue.  Their romance was interesting and the two have enough complementing strengths to make their love feel good to the reader.  Coming Home is a little like a quiet afternoon on the lake -it is fun while it lasts but there isn’t much to take away except the sense of enjoyment.  Sometimes, that is not all bad.  

--Shirley Lyons

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