Enduring Love

As Sara Jarrod:

Arranged in Heaven

Heaven Above

Heavenly Bliss

Coming Home by Ann Josephson
(Zebra Bouquet 33, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-821-76485-3
Ann Josephson has given us a gentle story of two bruised souls who are afraid to love, each having suffered losses. Yet through their loss and sadness, they ultimately realize that the happiness and joy they have together are worth any risk.

Thanks to his software company, Jared Cain has enough money to do what Thomas Wolfe says is hard. He's coming home after twenty-four years. Jared has bought Big Bear Mountain in northeast Georgia and has built a home not far from where he grew up. His memories of his first twelve years are good, but he remembers his mother struggling after his father died.

Walking through the site of his old home, he finds a quilt scrap, one his mother had worked on. Unable to name his feelings, he decides that he needs a quilt in the same pattern for his new home.

Althea Simmons, who owns the local craft store, is intrigued by Jared, but has promised herself that she'll never risk her heart again. A year ago her fiancÚ, a man she'd loved since seventh grade, was killed. Their dream had been to start a craft co-op to benefit the local mountain artisans, but since his death, Althea is having a hard time getting financial support for the co-op.

Jared and Althea begin to see each other, initially because of the quilt that she's making for him, yet each holds onto the idea that their hearts will remain untouched. Jared succumbs first and realizes that this kindhearted, special woman is making his life complete. Althea is a bit more cautious. She's afraid that Jared will tire of her and the country, and will be drawn back to the fast life in Atlanta.

The co-op thread looms over most of the book, foreshadowing problems. Jared has decided that his company will buy more desirable land than what Althea could have afforded and will build a building to house the co-op. In addition to helping the community, it will be a good tax write-off for his company. He knows that Althea wants to succeed on her own, but he genuinely thinks that his plans will be better in the long run. His assistance is not some sort of macho power play, but stems from an honest, heartfelt desire to help.

The dread, the waiting for Althea to discover Jared's plans lessened my enjoyment in their love story. His plans are better, and I found her insistence in her independence to be a bit hard to swallow, considering that she saw daily how the co-op would benefit the local people. This fit of petulance seemed out of place, seemed petty in light of what benefits could be gained.

One thing I did notice is that authors who write for the Bouquet line have more freedom in their writing to explore the sexual and sensual sides of their characters. There were some scenes which are more spicy than what I'm used to reading in category romances. It's a change and a freedom that I highly applaud. Just be aware that the intimacy scenes are more frank and daring that what we're likely to find in some category lines.

Coming Home fills a niche if you're looking for a story of two people who really do need each other. If you're willing to overlook Althea's occasional bouts of what I consider peevishness or if you can appreciate her concerns more easily and readily than I was able, then you're in for a satisfying reading experience.

--Linda Mowery

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