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REVIEW: Home by Nightfall by Alexis Harrington

“In 1918, Susannah Braddock is devastated by the news that her beloved husband, Riley, has been killed in battle in France. Heartbroken, she turns to Tanner Grenfell for support. Though technically the Braddocks’ hired hand, Tanner has been helping Susannah run the family horse farm since Riley shipped out, and he has become a true and trusted friend. As time passes and Susannah’s grief begins to ebb, her friendship with Tanner deepens into love. They marry, committing their lives to running the farm and raising Tanner’s two young nephews.

But Susannah and Tanner’s newfound happiness is short lived. Two years after being reported dead, Riley Braddock returns home, shell-shocked and with no memory of his life before the war. All he can remember is Véronique, the French woman who rescued him during the final days of the war and nursed him back to health. Now the Red Cross has returned him to America—and to the wife he no longer knows. As for Susannah, she is torn between her love for Tanner and her loyalty to Riley.

Dear. Ms. Harrington,

I have read some of your older westerns so when I saw this on offer to us to review, I decided to check it out. There aren’t that many romance historicals set during/immediately after World War I so this is tailor made for my current fascination with the period. While I can tell that this is at least the second book in a series, I easily followed what had happened before and never felt lost in the past relationships.

Home-by-Nightall
And what an unusual opening – who is this man? Even he doesn’t know nor does the woman who’s taken him in. I love that she’s just an ordinary – though incredibly strong both mentally and physically – woman and not tarted up to be a French sexbomb. It’s the little details included in these scenes – and later ones that compare to them – that grab me and give me a “you are there” feel. The land is torn up, the house is a wreck with chunks gone from the plaster but the roof doesn’t leak and I imagine in those days of “just being past the time of the shelling and artillery fire,” that is a major thing to be thankful for. These two don’t have much but they have each other and that’s enough. But the whole time I’m reading this, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop – and I do wonder why we aren’t shown this scene.

Meanwhile back in Oregon, the land is fertile and doesn’t smell of death and chemicals. Livestock are plentiful instead of merely hoping you can find a bull to mate your single cow to in order to keep her producing milk. People have changes of clothes and aren’t too worried about finding food. And so many fewer people have haunted eyes and injuries.

It’s a lively cast of characters but they all come to life. The family isn’t perfect and I have to agree with Jess’s assessment of their father-in-law, one that is shared by most – including other family – who know him, as a rotten tooth on two legs. Someone ought to say to him “old man, I’ve got a shovel and lots of space out on the back forty.”

Thank you for not restricting Riley to be an angsty, noblely suffering martyr. He’s pissed that what he knows has been yanked from him by an Army that can’t help him and now he’s dumped with a bunch of people he doesn’t remember in a town and place that hold no memories for him. Then there are the secrets and how he discovers them. He’s got a right to be mad and it would have seem foolish for you not to let him be. His resorting to a whiskey bottle also makes him more realistic. Riley redeems himself somewhat by helping to end a sinister plan – one that also limps along past the point where I’d think people in a small town such as this would have begun to look puzzled at two idlers.

I wonder how many widows found themselves in Susannah’s shoes. That would be a juicy bit of scandal for the day. Susannah’s decision not to tell Riley about the changed circumstances is initially sound given how little they know about Riley beyond his amnesia. but after a while, when his sessions with the doctor have started to show results, it seemed odd for Susannah and Tanner not to get back together. By the time they’d both decided “enough is enough,” I was long past that point and on to “FFS, move back in with the man you love and stop being wishy washy.” This section of the book reads like a dreaded “saggy middle” to me. Lots of on and on.

Unfortunately the book suffers from “end of series syndrome” wherein everyone’s story needs to be tied up and finished. Draggy, draggy, draggy. On and on. I’m definitely a “Rawhide” kind of reader. “Rollling, rolling, rolling. Keep them doggies moving.” [Whip crack!]

As I neared the end, I wondered how you would wrap a few relationships up. One took me by surprise but a nice surprise which then lead me to think, “Well, what’s she going to do about the other one?” I found out. And though I’m happy that Riley got his HEA, I am pissed as hell about how he got it. Angry and pissed. To the point where I would always need to flip to the end of any of your books to make sure who survives and who doesn’t. I’ll give you props for how you handled some of these situations that arose in the book. You showed the good, bad and ugly of a lot of people. Some things are realistic as hell and that took guts. But one character truly did not deserve what happened to him. /rant

Most of the book gets a B-, mainly because of the daring you showed in giving some of these characters warts and wrinkles of the soul. But that ending for one character, [shudders] that gets a F.

~Jayne

*This book is published by Amazon Montlake and is currently available only in Kindle format although you can order a print version from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

AmazonBN

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

17 Comments

  1. MrsJoseph
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:45:44

    Can I beg and plead for a spoiler???

  2. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 13:08:53

    @MrsJoseph: Do you mean the reason for the “F?”

  3. MrsJoseph
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 14:03:12

    @Jayne: Yep. I think I know what it is. But the reviews I’ve been able to find all say how “touching” the romance is. I hate sad endings and avoid them as much as possible.

  4. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 14:31:09

    @MrsJoseph: Okay, here goes.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    Near the end of the war, Riley is discovered with a head wound after a shell hits the ambulance taking him to a hospital. He is taken in and tended by the Frenchwoman Vivienne. Two years later, the Red Cross arrives, it’s discovered who he is and the US Army hauls him back to the US leaving her alone. Shortly after that, she discovers that’s she’s pregnant. The village priest sends a French war veteran who appears to be mute and homeless to help her with tasks around her farm. Vivienne is skeptical and less than welcoming but Eduard slowly earns her trust.

    It turns out that he had lost his family to the Spanish flu and the horrors he witnessed on the front have caused him to stutter, thus he speaks little. They begin to communicate by writing. The priest urges her to marry this man in order for her child to have a father but it takes a long time before she finally will. The baby is born, all seems happy and this poor, tortured man looks like he’ll get a HEA that he never thought he would. Until – he is killed by an unexploded shell. This neatly moves him out of the way and allows Riley to show back up and slip into his place.

    Some characters you just know are going to die. Sometimes it takes you by surprise. And sometimes a reader feels betrayed by a character’s death. This was one big, huge, heaping betrayal. Eduard got put through the wringer, survived, lost almost everything, was slowly finding his quiet happiness and a future then gets fucking killed off. I. Was. Pissed.

  5. Sirius
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 14:41:07

    I am not a big fan of sad endings either to put it mildly although sometimes I will make an allowance for excellent writing ( not just good – excellent) and read one, but not too often. The ending like this? When character is created which you know is going to die and you feel for him and still know that he is no more than a plot device? Would piss me off too. Thanks for the review.

  6. Maili
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 15:11:36

    @Jayne: That’s like seeing someone kicking a puppy, doesn’t it? I’d feel the same if I came across that scenario in a book.

  7. MrsJoseph
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 15:35:56

    @Jayne: Oh God! That’s just horrible! It is like kicking a puppy!

    Yeah. This one is a no go for me. :-( I’d close the book sobbing.

  8. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 16:03:23

    @Maili: @MrsJoseph: Yep. First rule of films and books – never kill off the puppy. It made me think of “Independence Day.” Yes, that movie. I remember near the beginning when Will Smith’s girlfriend along with her son and their pet dog are trying to escape LA. They’re stuck in a tunnel of unmoving traffic when the aliens unleash the WMDs and a fireball starts racing towards where our plucky characters are. The girlfriend and son make it out of the way and the dog is barking and trying to follow. I remember muttering something like,”oh no, not the dog!” My friend replied (slightly cynically), “don’t worry. They can’t kill off the dog. This place (the theater) would riot.”

    After I read Eduard’s death, I felt like rioting.

  9. Katherine
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 16:16:52

    Is it just me or does the plot sound eerily similar to A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore.

    I don’t enjoy sad endings like that either, which is why A Hint of Wicked was nail-biting for me, in terms of how she could possibly choose? Some or all were going to be hurt, there was no happy ending for all.

  10. Kelly
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:10:56

    @Jayne:

    Jayne – can you use the “shush” tag for the spoiler?

  11. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:21:26

    @Kelly: Nope, sorry. Tried twice and can’t get it to work. But then for some reason I can’t get a lot of tags and “neat and nifty” such things to work for me.

    Oh, wait. It did work.

  12. LisaCharlotte
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:42:35

    Is it just me? I can’t see the spoiler on my iPhone or iPad.

  13. LisaCharlotte
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:45:13

    I had to hold it to get an option to open. Got it!

  14. Kelly
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:46:14

    @Jayne:

    I see it too – thanks!

  15. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:49:49

    @LisaCharlotte: Good, I’m glad you figured it out. I have no iThings (yes, seriously) and had sent a distress email to Jane about it.

  16. Alexis Harrington
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 00:22:15

    Since you addressed this directly to me, I feel compelled to respond. Ah well, I can’t please everyone. I write from the heart and that’s my only defense. Bad things happen to good people. Other times we sit back, aghast, that a thoroughly lousy person seems to sail through life.

    Alexis Harrington

  17. Liz
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 23:15:00

    @Jayne:

    Originally they killed the dog, but they realized that would be a BIG mistake, so they reshot that sequence.

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