Homecoming by Laura Abbot
(Harl. Super.#937, $4.50, G) ISBN 0-373-70937-4
Homecoming is the third book in the Riverbend series. If you are unfamiliar with the series, Riverbend is a small town in Indiana, home of the ďRiver RatsĒ--a group that have been friends since high school. River Rat Tom Baines is featured here, paired with a most unusual heroine (at least in my reading experience) Lynn Kendall, Riverbendís minister.

Tom has been away from Riverbend for years, traveling the world as a well-respected foreign correspondent. He has returned to his home on the outskirts of Riverbend to recuperate emotionally after the death of his close friend, photographer Gordy Maxwell. Gordy and Tomís award-winning eight year partnership established them as the pinnacle of print journalism. That all came to an abrupt end a year earlier in Dublin, Ireland, when Gordy is killed by a terroristís bomb.

Tom attempted to continue without Gordy, but he soon realized he was merely going through the motions. He no longer had the stomach to continue to write about the worldís violence and the pain it causes. His globetrotting career destroyed his marriage and separated him from his children. He hopes time in Riverbend will help ease his discontent and give him an opportunity to reestablish a relationship with his estranged teenage son and daughter, who live in nearby Chicago.

Riverbend minister Lynn Kendall is enjoying a well-deserved four week vacation. Although she is staying only a few miles from town, no one but her best friend Kate knows sheís nearby. If her congregation were aware she was so close by, her responsibilities would inevitably draw her back into work. She desperately needs this time for rest and meditation.

Lynn has tried to be satisfied with her life. She loves her vocation and although it leaves her without much time for a personal life, its rewards are immeasurable. But lately, she has come to the realization that her life would be more fulfilling if it were shared with another. In her experience, most men are put off by ďthe minister thingĒ, and she wonders if any man will ever see beyond that to the woman inside.

So when Lynn and Tom meet, Lynn tells him only that she is on vacation. Soon sparks begin to fly, but as she expected, when Tom discovers her vocation, he immediately pulls back. Lynn is definitely attracted, but it remains to be seen if Tom can accept her role as Riverbendís minister.

Tom is attracted to Lynn from the start, especially to the sense of peace that surrounds her. He hungers for that kind of serenity in his discordant life. But a relationship with a minister? No way.

Homecoming is an engrossing story populated with lots of fully developed secondary characters. Tomís kooky elderly aunts are a hoot, and his teenage children are realistically depicted. They got under my skin just like any real sullen teen could.

The emphasis in this book is on Tomís reconciliation with his kids and on the demands of Lynnís vocation. Author Laura Abbot clearly demonstrates the demands Lynnís ministry makes on her time and personal life. Lynnís unselfish giving of herself gave me new respect for all members of her calling.

What didnít work as well for me was the romantic element. Once Tom discovers Lynn is a minister, any sexual relationship between the two before marriage is impossible. At that point, the focus of the book turns to the subplots, effectively separating the two and making it difficult for the reader to experience the development of their relationship.

Even so, I enjoyed the time I spent with the inhabitants of Riverbend, most especially Reverend Lynn. Homecoming is heartwarming story and one that readers looking for a sweet romance will particularly enjoy.

--Karen Lynch

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