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Juliana Stone

REVIEW:  The Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone

REVIEW: The Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone

Dear Ms. Stone:

This is the first book in a series involving three childhood friends who reunite upon the death of one of their members.

The Summer He Came HomeCain Black is a former star high school quarterback turned down a full ride scholarship to Michigan State University to pursue his dream of music. He and his band are on the upward swing of popularity. However, Cain’s confidence is shaken when he has a falling out with the drummer of his band who was the cowriter of much the band’s songs. He returns home to Crystal Lake, Michigan to find himself and his music.

Maggie O’Roarke is a single mother working on a illustrated child’s book and cleaning homes for a living, much as Cain’s mother did before she married well. She’s got a big secret (although based on her behavior it is fairly easy to figure out what her secret is).

Cain’s motivations come off as crass and selfish in the beginning. Maggie is a single mother and doesn’t put herself forward as seeking out a fling yet Cain pursues her despite his mother’s admonition that Maggie needs a man in her life who will stay, unlike Cain who left ten years ago and is just now returning. Not only does Cain pursue her but he begins to take her young son on outings like fishing.

I always struggle with the plotline where the guy pursues a girl just for sex when she is looking for something more permanent and he knows it. It comes off as very self serving. Can’t Cain go a few weeks without sex while he is back with his friends and visiting his mother?

Maggie, too, seems a little cavalier with this new man spending a lot of time with her son and although she does, later in the book, hold up her son as an impediment to a relationship with Cain it has less to do with the emotional damage her son would suffer so much as the physical jeopardy being with a famous person would be.

I guess the justification is that neither can help it. Early on in the book, Cain describes Maggie as inspiring unheretofore unmatched feelings, supposedly to bless his pursuit of a single mother in the text. But his time with her up until that point is so limited, I wonder how he knows that the stirring in his groin is somehow related to his heart.

One part of the book that was mildly interesting was the issue of class. I would have liked it if Maggie were just a house cleaner instead of an aspiring children’s illustrator because it is Maggie’s position as a maid that some townspeople use to question why famous rock star Cain who was once married to a famous Hollywood actress. Maggie has feelings of inadequacy that she has fought from her first marriage to a rich and powerful man. That Cain’s mother married a wealthy man, the town didn’t really forget her menial past. While this issue didn’t spool out to its fullest potential, the light touch on the issue of class provided a little freshness to this otherwise predictable small town romance.

There are no real surprises in this book. There is a man hungry rich bitch, bad reputations to live down, stupid men to threaten, and endangered women to protect. Despite the familiarity of the story, is readable and appealing. For readers looking for life on the road with the rockstar, the story will not fulfill that interest. And although there are a few scenes of Cain and his band, this is a small town story and a celebration of the small-town community.

The friendship between the three surviving friends plays a large role in the story as each of them get opportunities to lay the foundation for their own stories including bereft widow as the object of unrequited love by the surviving twin; and the burgeoning billionaire with major father issues. C

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  Collide by Juliana Stone

REVIEW: Collide by Juliana Stone

Dear Ms. Stone:

I tried to read, but did not finish, the first book in the Barker Triplet’s trilogy.  When the second book came along, I wanted to give this self published series another chance.  “Collide” is a re-united lover story.  The primary problem I had is that it felt melodramatic and the characters acted more like they were teenagers than adults.

Collide by Juliana StoneBobbi-Jo Barker and Shane Gallagher were high school lovers with a tempestuous relationship.  They would fight, break up, reconcile and repeat their behaviors continuously until one fight involved too many hurtful actions and they split for good.  This led Shane into a downward spiral where he ultimately ended up spending his time in “jail” for three years (actually this should be prison, jail is short term confinement).

Five years later, Shane is trying to remake a life for himself in his hometown of New Waterford, Michigan, and Bobbi-Jo is struggling with the major upheavals in her own life.  The book started out on a sour note for me. Bobbi-Jo jilts her fiancé at the altar, doesn’t contact him and runs off to a bar where she finds Shane and Shane takes her home. Throughout the book fiance Gerald is mocked for being uptight and boring.  But being boring really doesn’t deserve to be humiliated in your hometown by a) being stood up at the altar and b) having the entire town know that your wife to be went home from a bar with her high school sweetheart.

As a result of the jilting, Bobbi-Jo is fired from her “junior clerk” position at the law firm where Gerald works.  So Bobbi Jo is out of a job, out of a fiance and discovering that she still has feelings for her high school boyfriend who broke her heart.  The most logical course of action for Bobbi Jo is to fall in bed with Shane again.  Shane shows some feelings of animosity toward Bobbi Jo in the beginning but those feelings are quickly tossed aside as Shane decides that he and Bobbi Jo belong together.  The problem that haunts their new beginning is Bobbi Jo’s refusal to come clean about a big secret.

While the book deals with second chances and growing up, I didn’t feel like Bobbi Jo had come very far from her high school days.  The change in the relationship dynamic comes primarily from Shane refusing to fall prey to the emotional rages that dominated him prior to prison. I wish Bobbi Jo had undergone the same emotional transformation.  I also though the reveal of her secret  came far too late in the story, particularly given what drove them apart in the first place.  The secret brought up an issue that resonated with the same core issues of their past and the text leading up to it didn’t give me confidence that this situation could be resolved as easily as the post secret text wanted me to believe.

Shane’s reformed bad boy is an appealing archetype but he didn’t bring anything new to the genre, either.  What I did like was the healing that took place amongst Bobbi Jo and Shane’s families.  Shane had a troubled upbringing and was at odds with his stepmother but through a concerted effort on all their parts, Shane began the process of reconciliation.  Bobbi Jo’s family reconciliation started with Book 1 and her sister’s, Billie, return to Michigan.  But the third triplet, Betty, is still causing worry for the Barker family.

C

Best regards,

Jane

 

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