REVIEW: Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry
Dear Ms. Mayberry:
I think this might be your most emotional romance yet. I certainly felt a little misty eyed (damn you) at the end of the story. Hannah Napier and Joe Lawson meet under inauspicious circumstances. Joe is exhausted and all he can hear is the loud sound of an engine next door. It’s keeping him from enjoying some solitude and it’s bound to wake his kids. Hannah is working on her motorcycle. Once it’s finished, Hannah is going on a long awaited road trip, escaping her ex fiancé and her sister who have found love together. She thinks Joe is good looking but a jerk and Joe, well, he doesn’t appreciate Hannah’s physical attraction either.
Joe lost his wife, Beth, in a car accident a couple of years ago and he is left to parent their two children. He feels like he is losing control over his kids. He does not want to be over his deceased wife Beth. He resents his body’s attraction to Hannah.
Worsening the situation is that the one place where Hannah felt safe, a bar/restaurant called The Watering Hole, has been purchased by Joe. It was Beth’s dream to own a restaurant and when she died and he found himself needing to be with his kids, he quit his job as troubleshooter on oil rigs and bought this restaurant. I found the scenes about and in the restaurant to be unnecessary. It seemed contrived that Joe would buy the one place that Hannah enjoyed hanging out. Given that they lived next door to each other, I wasn’t sure why this was even included. It didn’t add anything to the conflict and after a couple scenes, the bar was almost forgotten.
These are two reluctant lovers. Hannah hasn’t really recovered from the body blow to her heart and ego when her fiancé jilted her for her sister. Joe is trying to reconcile his love for Beth and his feelings for Hannah. Hannah is so much one of the guys that the holding of the door open for her is something that gives her pause. She feels completely out of here element. Their first date is a study in awkwardness. Problematically, Hannah is getting near completion of her bike and Joe can hardly bring himself to talk about the wife’s death without choking up.
They both acknowledge that they are too screwed up to be dating and from then on, the flirting, the talking, the companionship comes easier and harder. Easier because there is no pressure and harder because neither are ready to expose themselves to vulnerability by admitting that there might be a future for them.
It was really wonderful watching the two of them fall in love and it was heartbreaking to see them face difficult challenges. This was a very emotional book and I admit to feeling a tiny bit manipulated at the end. I kept thinking that they had both already suffered and now you were laying this on top of it???
Ben and Ruby were very conflicted about their dad dating, as were Hannah’s mother and Joe’s mother. Everyone seemed to question Joe and Hannah together. I liked it when Joe responded to his mother’s request that Ben come stay with her: “No. We’re a family. He can’t opt out when it suits him. We have to work this through.” There weren’t easy solutions for any of them although Ben’s resentment over Hannah’s inclusion in their lives resolved rather quickly toward the end.
I loved Hannah and the way that she grew back into believing in herself with the help of Joe and Ruby and even Ben. And Joe as the struggling single father falling back in love was sweet. B