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REVIEW: A Place Called Home by Jo Goodman

Dear Ms. Goodman:

I am a huge fan of your work and there is rarely a book in your bibliography I haven’t responded favorably to.  I’ve even lamented about the fact that your work doesn’t seem to be getting the proper attention.  I am also a fan of the langourous fashion in which some of your books unspool, like a beautifully crafted scroll slowly unwinding.

A Place Called Home	Jo GoodmanHowever A Place Called Home takes langourous storytelling to new levels and the unwinding was so slow that I felt like I had only moved a few millimeters after 100 pages.  Mitchell Baker and Thea Wyndham are thrown together when their friends die and leave them the guardians of three children.  Neither Mitch or Thea want to be the parents.  Mitch is close to proposing to his girlfriend and Thea is engaged to a wealthy older man.  Mitch proposes a shared custodial situation whereas Thea wants to visit.  Thea resists heavily and Mitch reluctantly agrees to be the primary care provider.

Mitchell and Thea have been pushed together several times by their friends but neither bit.  However, Thea hasn’t been immune to Mitch.  She’s always been uncomfortable around him because her attraction to him made her uncomfortable.

Mitch’s relationship with his girlfriend, Gina, is strained when he takes on three children. He doesn’t have time to date her or bed her.  Thea begins to reexamine her relationship with her fiance Joel. She doesn’t love him and likely he doesn’t love her but they are comfortable together.

In many ways, I felt that this was more mainstream fiction than romance because the focus isn’t the relationship between Mitch and Thea but their coping with becoming unexpected parents and growing into responsibilities they weren’t prepared for.  For Mitch, there is no longer any sleeping in, there is dealing with a depressed and distraught preteen eleven year old girl and twin boys.  No longer thinking of himself first and everyone else second. No sexy Gina in his bed.  Mitch learns how to be a dad in a matter of days and weeks instead of years.  For Thea it is just coping and coming to terms with her secret (why this was hidden for so long is a mystery to me and I think aided the unreasonably slow unwinding of the story).  Thea perhaps because of her problems is more understanding and more patient than Mitch and thus turns out to be more adept at parenting than Mitch.

The story starts picking up speed around page 100 or so and honestly if I hadn’t been a fan of your work in the past, I doubt I would have made it this far.  The dialogue of the story is smart and the emotions are strong and thoughtful.

“I’m apologizing.  Again.”

Thea smiled. “I’m not keeping score.”

“Good.”

“Not on the number of apologies,” she said. “I like to judge them in terms of form and contrition.”

“How’d I do?”

“Not bad. I give it a seven.”

He laughed. “I hope that’s on a ten scale. I lost points for my late delivery, didn’t I?”

She nodded.  “You appeared properly abashed but there was a certain lack of responsibility in your language.”

Max and Thea’s respect for each other deepens, bonded by their loss and gain and their new mistakes and triumphs.  The attraction that likely simmered between them for ten years is given full release.

Yet the ending was so conventional, particularly as it relates to the jilted fiances.  How Harlequin, I thought (no offense Harlequin).  Then there was the triteness associated with some of the sexual situations (Thea had never been able to orgasm with someone before Mitch).

Thea is a complicated heroine and one not written about often. I recall a Kathleen Gilles Seidel book featuring a country singer who had a pill problem but female protagonists don’t often have these types of problems.  From the outside Thea may have looked perfect. Gina, Mitch’s girlfriend, envied Thea’s glossy perfection but the Thea that the readers know is a tentative, scared, and uneasy person who is so afraid to love anyone who she thinks she could hurt that she copes by staying away.  Both Thea and Mitch were  portrayed as flawed and vulnerable, both learning to be  better than even their own expectations. In the end, despite my problems in the beginning, it was a charming romance. Too bad about the slow pacing and the triteness of some of the plot points.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Janine
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 15:40:04

    I’ve even lamented about the fact that your work doesn’t seem to be getting the proper attention. I am also a fan of the langourous fashion in which some of your books unspool, like a beautifully crafted scroll slowly unwinding.

    However A Place Called Home takes langourous storytelling to new levels and the unwinding was so slow that I felt like I had only moved a few millimeters after 100 pages.

    I really wanted to love this author’s books because she crafts complex characters and lovely dialogue. But I have tried her historicals no less than five times and it almost always comes down to a choice between skimming and (literally) falling asleep, due to the glacial pace. Such a shame because I have the feeling that if only she could fix this one aspect of her writing, I would be on her like a child on chocolate.

  2. Karenmc
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:03:07

    It took me a long time to get through Never Love a Lawman, although it was a good read. Because NLAL took so long, I’ve not gotten to Marry Me. The older books, The Compass Club, etc., never seemed to be paced so slowly.

  3. Ducky
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:25:07

    I hope the heroine in this one doesn’t have sexual abuse in her history. Every single historical Goodman I have read has had a heroine with a sex abuse background.

  4. orannia
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:36:30

    Thank you Jane!

    Then there was the triteness associated with some of the sexual situations (Thea had never been able to orgasm with someone before Mitch).

    Hmmm. I’d really like to read about a heroine with this particular issue (as it’s not something I see very frequently [read never] in romance novels), but…is it a quick fix? If it is a quick fix then I won’t pick up the book because I will invariably rant. (There’s still a book I harp on about in which the heroine, who couldn’t touch anyone, was miraculously cured by the hero. Just him. My blood pressure rises just thinking about it. While I’m sure there are such miracles, it usually takes time…and patience. Did I mention time and patience? Perhaps not conducive to a romance novel of a certain length, but…)

  5. Ros
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:09:30

    @orannia: There’s an old HP about a heroine with actual vaginismus which gets dealt with slowly and appropriately. I didn’t enjoy the book all that much because it felt a bit more like a medical tract than a romance at times. Google tells me it’s this one: http://www.lucymonroe.com/AbouttheBooksBIM.htm

  6. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:35:53

    @orannia As I recall the first time they have sex, she orgasms and shyly reveals it is the first time she has orgasmed with a man.

  7. Kristie(J)
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 11:57:42

    Hmmmm, this review has a few warning bells going off. But I have so loved her books, I think I’m going to have to try this one anyway, and if the warning bells hit me, think ‘well, Jane warned me’. :-)

  8. Jeannie
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 12:07:09

    I felt the same way about NLAL but the dialogue and emotion between the H/h were just so damn good I soldiered on, and in the end, I’m glad I finished it. Is it one of my favorite books? No. But Marry Me is free for Kindle right now (at least it was last night) so I downloaded it to give it a try. I think I’ll pass on this one. The plot, along with the slow pace, would probably put me to sleep.

  9. Lil
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 19:42:27

    Gotta say, I really like a slow pace. I like to take time to get to know the characters, and I like them to take time to get to know each other before the fireworks go off.

    But then, I like 19th century novels too.

  10. Kaetrin
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 05:01:31

    Hmm. For some reason I haven’t experienced Jo Goodman’s books as glacial or even slow. I see it is a common ‘complaint’ but I haven’t noticed it at all. Go figure.

    Is this a new release?

  11. Brynte
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 16:01:59

    There is no clue as to why someone as close to perfect as Mitch would be attracted to Thea. Her vulgar utterances – i.e. plowing lower forty, the look of her”ass”, the gratuitous masturbation scenes – in addition to her bland personality, do not contribute to the overall truly wonderful quality of this story.

  12. willaful
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 16:17:03

    @Ducky: Since no one else responded — the heroine has been abused, but not sexually.

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