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REVIEW:  Homefront Hero by Allie Pleiter

REVIEW: Homefront Hero by Allie Pleiter

Dashing and valiantly wounded, Captain John Gallows could have stepped straight out of an army recruitment poster. Leanne Sample can’t help being impressed–although the lovely Red Cross nurse tries to hide it. She knows better than to get attached to the daring captain who is only home to heal and help rally support for the war’s final push. As soon as he’s well enough, he’ll rush back to Europe, back to war–and far away from South Carolina and Leanne. But when an epidemic strikes close to home, John comes to realize what it truly means to be a hero–Leanne’s hero.

Dear Ms. Pleiter,

Ages ago, one of our readers (sorry, I’ve searched through our archives but can’t find the comment) recommended one of your books to me but it’s taken this long before I took her up on the rec. Sigh…I’m bad. Anyway, what finally got me going is the time period you use here. Lately we’ve had a lot of interest at DA in “Edwardian” and “WWI” books so, for me, “Homefront Hero” was perfectly timed.

Homefront Hero by Allie PleiterThe story includes one thing I never thought I’d read about – knitting by men – and the 1918 influenza epidemic. Thinking back, the only other two books I recall with mass infection and death are an oldie from Paula Allardyce called “My Dear Miss Emma” that deals with the plague in 18th century Arles and the fantasy book “Warsworn” with its endless sweating disease. This flu is not exactly rainbows and fluffy bunny material but you make it work. After all, Leanne is a nurse, it is 1918 and it would be strange if this event wasn’t mentioned.

It’s smack in the middle of US involvement in WWI then the flu arrives yet the story is filled with humor. I wasn’t expecting this, to be honest. Most Inspies I’ve read have been more on the serious side so your sly wit caught me off balance. But it’s a good off balance, I liked it! This especially comes into play when General Barnes is desperately trying to come up with some way to punish John for going AWOL and staying on campus to face the flu to save Leane and John can’t come up with the type of glib excuse he used to anymore. The perfect solution presents itself and I totally believe it’s inspired (no pun intended) by God. Punishment by life in Washington, DC attending bureaucratic meetings and making speeches – it’s priceless.

Leanne’s initial reactions after meeting “big hero” John are a breath of fresh air. Leanne thinks he’s an arrogant stuck up officer and is determined to not fall for him as she’s sure so many other women already have. It’s a nice change that she doesn’t go all spastic and make a twat out of herself while sticking her nose up in the air in an effort to avoid and snub him. I’m getting so tired of heroines who suddenly can’t manage to put one foot in front of the other when they spot the hero they’re trying to get snooty about.

John reacts with that age old male drive to get a pretty woman to look at him. And that’s before Leane is tasked to teach him how to knit. You go girl with including a modern rage in a period correct way and leveling the romantic power playing field. I also like that Leanne sees John as he really is from almost the beginning without the light of hero worship blinding her. Sometimes he gets frustrated with his injuries and being sidelined and that’s before Leane has to teach him how to turn a sock heel. As a man of action used to getting his way and being athletic, his reactions to his limitations sound very realistic to me. His anger at how he’s being treated like a hero when his actions stemmed from simple self preservation vs the actions of those on the front line whom he considers to be the true heroes deserving of this praise also make sense.

So…the socks and knitting stuff is fun but, as I alluded to above, the book dips into some pretty serious stuff even before the discussions on religion. Leane learns the hard way about soldiers attempting to deal with post combat mental issues and the sad outcome makes the book seem more realistic. Then comes the flu.

Okay nothing pretty here but then it doesn’t sound like a walk through the park. Applause for not sugar coating anything yet still keeping the details from getting too icky. Most of the time I’m not looking for icky in a romance novel. Your descriptions also convey the terror, horror and helplessness everyone must have been feeling. I just hope we never see another pandemic like this again.

How the religious aspects of an inspirational are handled can keep me reading or cause me to call it a day. Leanne is already a very religious person so the inclusion of her faith in the book seems natural. I didn’t feel it was overdone or being jammed down my throat in an effort to convert me. As I mentioned in the review of “Her Rebel Heart,” I have an easier time reading historical inspies and since this is also a wartime setting, that helps too. Yet it’s not the war that convinces John but Leanne’s daily demonstrations of quiet faith during which she doesn’t attempt to harangue him towards God – and I so like that – plus the life or death situation they go through that gets the light to break through for him. I found his discovery of faith to be believable and again didn’t feel I was being preached at. The inclusion of some funny bits after the long, dark night helps as well.

Forgive me if I include a rant about the term “y’all.” If you’re going to use this Southern phrase, please do it correctly. It’s used when addressing more than one person or when talking to one person but in reference to multiple people. /end rant

When the story ends, I completely buy into John’s new found faith and the love that they finally admit they share. It’s a hard fought battle on both sides as they initially are attracted yet feel they have no romantic future but the transition is one I believe and that I enjoyed reading. B



REVIEW: Wishes and Stitches by Rachel Herron

REVIEW: Wishes and Stitches by Rachel Herron

Dear Ms. Herron,

A few years ago it seems quilting in romance books was all the rage. Now it appears that knitting has taken over. I’ve resisted reading any of these books since I’m not a knitter but in my quest to expand my single title contemporary repertoire, I decided to take the plunge with your book “Wishes and Stitches” since it features an outsider heroine who’s also a doctor. I figured that way, she’s got some other interests besides yarn.

Wishes and Stitches by Rachel HerronNaomi Fontaine had a great time at a recent medical conference which included a hot night with a handsome fellow attendee. Thinking she’d probably not ever see him again, she let it all loose and both had a night to remember. So when Rig Keller shows up in the small town of Cedar Hollow, CA where Naomi practices Family Medicine (GP), she’s shocked. Her next stunner is when she discovers that her pretty much absentee partner is selling out and that Rig is taking his place in the practice.

Rig, so called because up til now he’s practiced on the Gulf oil rigs, enjoyed the time he spent with Naomi at the conference and has no intention of not pursuing a relationship with her now that they’re living in the same town and seeing each other on a day to day basis. But he can’t seem to figure her out. The warm, confident woman of That Night is not who he’s seeing. Yes, she’s an excellent doctor but outside of work, she keeps a tight rein on her emotions and doesn’t appear to want to let him back into her private life.

Her secret is that Naomi desperately wants to be a part of her new community but a natural reserve keeps her from just jumping into town life. Rig, on the other hand, seems right at home with a long established brother in the community. If he presses for more from her, will Naomi open up personally and professionally? And if she does, is Rig ready and willing to commit to a future together?

Good God the people of this town love to knit. Rig calls it correctly when he says something to the effect that this is the knittingest town he’s ever seen. I wonder if the townsfolk would shun someone because that person – gasp! – crochets or, worse, merely sews or scrapbooks? Is there a roadblock at the edge of town to check for balls of yarn before a person is allowed within the city limits? I like characters with outside interests beyond sex or their jobs but this borders on obsession.

Naomi Fontaine is reserved to the point of almost being an emotional stone wall in the face of others yet she’s got such a deep well of need to fit in and be accepted. That plus the fact that this is a small, blue collar town whose townsfolk feel a social gulf between themselves and the doctor don’t help her to fit in and be welcomed with open arms. Rig has an “in” since his brother has lived there for years and is an accepted part of the community. And he’s also a more “open” personality. Meanwhile, Naomi has spent her childhood and most of her adulthood, on getting good grades in order to fulfill her lifelong goal of being a doctor with little time spent socializing outside of those in her profession. Her difficulties in small talk and being part of the crowd might seem exaggerated but they also feel poignant and serve to show the glass wall between Naomi and what she wants – to be accepted.

Naomi’s got some baggage in the persons of her younger and – in Naomi’s mind – favored sister Anna and her mother with whom Naomi has never gotten along. These issues don’t feel made up or too far fetched. A lifetime of this also helps shade in the details on why Naomi would feel as if she’s trying but not getting anywhere with the people of Cedar Hollow. The flashes of anger Naomi shows when Anna appears on her doorstep expecting Naomi to fix the mess Anna has made of her life show that Naomi isn’t a pushover. The fact that Naomi doesn’t just tell Anna to take a hike show that deep down, she does love her sister but this time it’s going to be tough love.

Despite the fact that Rig is apparently more self assured than Naomi doesn’t count for much in their relationship. The book starts off with them already having met and spent a night of hot sexing at a medical conference and it’s Rig who spends the book chasing after Naomi while coaxing her into a repeat of the best sex of his life. This is a neat turn on the usual heroine who is shy of and bumbling at sex with a cool, confident hero. The Big Mis, when it came, arrived out of Naomi and Rig’s profession and seemed relevant to who they are and how they see themselves – plus a healthy dollop of family love. It takes Rig a little while to get over what happens but as he does, he comes to a greater and deeper understanding of this woman he loves.

I loved the humorous scenes scattered throughout the story. The one of Naomi running into Rig’s father Frank – in the condom aisle of the local pharmacy store – when Frank knows Naomi and Rig are about to go out on a date, had me in stitches – sorry bad pun. The men of the Keller clan were fun to read about and such…well, men. Of the two secondary romances, Frank’s worked better for me than the quickie of Rig’s brother Jake. That one is just too fast though the fact that both Keller brothers end the book happily living in sin at the instigation of their ladies is cool with me.

I will admit to a partiality for books with the hero chasing after his heroine so on that score, the romance in this one works for me. What I got tired of is the almost cult like mania for knitting. If this is a reader’s craft of choice then they’ll probably be happier while reading about it but for those uninterested in it – like me – it felt like a cup of Kool Aid along with a pair of knitting needles was being pressed on me by a group eerily smiling people. C+


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