Return to Homecoming Ranch by Julia London

91-scRm-+VL._SL1500_Title: Return to Homecoming Ranch

Series: Pine River #2

Author: Julia London

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb: Curly-haired Libby Tyler never stops smiling…until her beloved boyfriend suddenly forces her out of their home and away from his adoring kids. When she learns he dumped her for his flighty ex-wife, Libby’s sadness turns to fury—and she very publicly smashes his truck with a golf club, earning herself a trip to a mental health center for some “rest.”

Handsome, hazel-eyed deputy Sam Winters has been sober for two years. Afraid of backsliding, he lives in the mountains and keeps his distance from people. Yet he never forgot Libby, his former colleague at the sheriff’s office whose charm and cheerfulness always warmed his days.

Now Libby’s back, ignoring the townspeople’s whispers (and her ex’s restraining order) while desperately trying to make Homecoming Ranch a successful event destination. She keeps causing trouble for Sam, but he finds her smile more beautiful than ever…and his touch gives her thrills she’s never felt. Could these two lost souls mend each other’s broken hearts?

Thoughts: This is book 2 in the Pine River series and I didn’t read the first.  This book felt like a standalone, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.  It is possible that the readers of Pine River #1 were able to become more emotionally connected to the characters, though.

This was a very different kind of romance than I generally read and I struggled at times.  Libby is our main character, but she is going through a difficult time.  She’s spend the last four years living with her boyfriend, Ryan, and raising his 2 kids.  They act in every way like a family and she adores the kids.  Everything changes when Ryan tells her that it’s over and she needs to move out….immediately.  When she finds out that he’s been cheating on her with his ex-wife, she loses it and attacks his truck with a golf club.

They now have a restraining order against Libby.  While Libby wants Ryan to come crawling back to her, the biggest problem is her love and devotion to the kids.  She can’t let them go.  She loves them and they love her.  Even more, who will take care of them if Libby isn’t around?

Libby has repeatedly violated her restraining order and Sam, the town sheriff, is the one that puts her in her place.  Sam has known Libby for years and what he remembers most is her smile and kindness.  Sam is a recovering alcoholic.  He’s sober, but he still takes life one day at a time and avoids drama at all costs.  He’s doing everything he can to keep the peace and help others.  He’s been trying to help Libby ever since her life spiralled out of control.  He remembers her as one of the few people who always brought light to his day.

That’s not the Libby we see in this story.  She drives by Ryan’s house and watches the kids at school.  I felt both horrified and sad for Libby.  The entire situation was villanous.  Ryan was a terrible person and being ripped out of the children’s lives was horrible.  The way that Libby responded was just as bad.  I visibly winced several times reading this.  I can’t sympathize with the stalker persona.  Since we got Libby’s POV, her thoughts were provided.  When this is the case, I can typically understand a person’s actions.  That wasn’t the case here.  I was so confused at times.  For example, when Ryan catches Libby sitting in her car across the street from his house, she drives away and he follows her to confront her.  After the confrontation, Ryan tells Libby he’s sorry.  I understood that he meant he was sorry for screwing her over and causing her all of this pain.  She understood that he was sorry for leaving her and wanted her back.  WHAT???  I wish I could understand the appeal of the situation from Sam’s perspective.  Libby is full of drama and obviously not over Ryan.  When Libby got involved in the town charity projects and basically gave the other church ladies the finger, I was able to feel more connected to her character.  She made a point to harp on how she couldn’t let the anger go and I am not sure if she ever did.  Sam pushes Libby away at the end and Libby responds in a pretty healthy way.  I guess that is the character progression we get for Libby, but I wanted to be able to tie back to the girl Sam remembered…the happy girl who always smiled.

Sam is pretty great, but he isn’t your typical book hero.  He takes care of the people in town to the best of his ability (even when they don’t want it).  He’s been in a bad place and he doesn’t hide from that.  Without even realizing it, he gives new life to Homecoming Ranch.  When Sam feels like Libby is causing his life too much drama and pulling him away from his purpose, he pulls away.  Can Libby make Sam realize that he’s been avoiding more than drama in life?   Like opening himself up and love? Can Libby get over her feelings for Ryan and the kids?

Grade: B-


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