…His Hometown Girl by Karen Rock

HHG2

He’d always managed to best her… 

Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co-op plan. And he’s not playing fair. 

Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that’s always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?

Jodi Chapman returns home to Cedar Bay to secure a future for herself and her son, Tyler, by getting local farmers to sell their land to her firm. The only thing stopping her is Daniel Gleason, her high school sweetheart, who has plans of his own.

Karen Rock charms us with her second novel. Jodi and Daniel…and Tyler’s story makes you laugh out loud, sigh with longing and ball your fists in frustration and cry at the happily ever after. Readers will be completely blown away by this heartwarming tale and grabbing for the nearest box of tissues.

The story and characters are so subtly intricate. Each character had a story of their own but learning about these people, and loving them, didn’t bog down the novel. Rock gracefully weaved each one through the story like a basket. She made each character special, gave them little touches, not just a lump of townsfolk.

Even the most loving mother’s let their best intentions cloud their judgement. The conflict that Jodi has; wanting what she believes is best for her son, one of the most prestigious schools in the country, and for him to be “normal”. Her journey in realizing that it is okay for her not to be perfect and that Tyler was meant to be just the way he was made for a gut wrenching read because it struck a cord, which was the point. Jodi was vulnerable because of past experiences with her family, Daniel, and her ex husband. So much self doubt inflicted by those people Jodi loved and trusted caused her to doubt herself even more and be even more determined to be perfect, even if she didn’t quite know what perfect was. Daniel was strong yet vulnerable. His soft spot was Jodi…and Tyler, which was so sweet, watching their blooming relationship flourish, Daniel accepting Tyler just the way he was, and helping Jodi to do so was so fantastic. Daniel’s faithfulness to his family made him even more likable. The banter between the Gleason family, especially Daniel and his sister, was funny and witty. Both of the main characters changed and grew during the story in a natural progression, they learned from one another which made them stronger. I also loved how they were “enemies” at first but then worked together.

As a testament to Rock’s ability to yank, not just tug, on the heartstrings, I was a few pages into the book, where Jodi was struggling with her ex and how he blamed her for Tyler’s condition, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish the book. It had so much emotional pull that was raw and wonderful. It opened up personal wounds that I wasn’t sure I wanted to revisit, but isn’t that the point of a great book, to open up wounds? This book was highly personal to me because my own son had ADHD, a condition a lot of people don’t understand, and I saw myself in Jodi. I was struggling with her.

I can’t wait to read more from this sweet lady in the future!

Scroll down for a sneak peek of His Hometown Girl! (which is one of my favorite scenes in the book)

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The music began and Mary gave Daniel a little shove. “Have at her. Indulge us for old times’ sake. Everyone thought you two would make a great couple when you weren’t scrapping.”

He looked down at a dismayed Jodi. “Guess we can’t disappoint our fans.”

She threw her hands up and he swept her into his arms. And just like he thought, the
feel of her brought back their middle school days. He recalled his sweaty palms on her
tiny waist and how much he’d tripped because, instead of counting the steps, he’d
counted the freckles on her nose. Kind of like now.

“Mr. Martin had some crazy taste in music,” she surprised him by saying, a far-off look
in her eyes. “How did that count as exercise?”

Being around her raised his blood pressure. She was the best cardio he could imagine.

They moved across the crowded floor, weaving in and out of other couples.

“No idea.” When the tempo changed he twirled and dipped her, their mouths nearly
touching as he bent her over his arm for a long, breathless moment. The feel of her made
his blood surge.

“Let me up,” she said in a rush, and pushed at his chest, her touch electric. When he
straightened, he pulled her closer and smoothed the hair that had come loose from her
bun, her locks like silk. He inhaled the light, fresh scent of her and his body tightened
against hers. His eyes dropped to her lips and he remembered her taste: honeysuckle and lemon drops. Kissing her had felt like kissing sunshine and for a moment he lost himself
in the glow of that memory.

“Daniel,” she whispered, her eyes shimmering up at him, her voice husky. “People are
watching.”

“Let them.”

When she trembled in his arms, he knew she was remembering the afternoons he’d
held her this way. How they’d lie snuggled in the deep grass together, the blue sky their
only witness. It’d been magic. The ultimate trick, however, was her disappearing act. The
thought sobered him and he loosened his grip. She challenged, exhilarated, frustrated and attracted him like no other. Yet she had crushed him, too, and he sensed that could happen as easily now as it had then if he wasn’t careful. He wasn’t just at war with her, he also battled himself.

As he guided her through the swaying couples, their bodies moved in perfect sync.

Suddenly he thought of her ex and felt a rush of jealousy at the thought of her in another
man’s arms.

“I’m sorry to hear about your divorce,” he said, and felt her stiffen.

“I got through it,” she said lightly, her eyes sliding from his.

“Do you still see him?” An irrational need to know how much time she still spent with
the man seized him. It didn’t matter—or it shouldn’t—yet somehow, it did.

A laugh-snort escaped her and her gaze flew to his. “Not since he left.”

“What about Tyler?” he blurted. The guy might be a fool for not returning Jodi’s love,
but he must at least care for his own child.

The music ended and he led her to a table by the window. After pulling out her chair,
he straddled his.

Jodi caught her lower lip between her teeth and gazed outside. The sun had set
completely and the moon was up, a wedge of creamy white casting its reflection onto the lake. Night wind rattled tree branches, knocking them against one another. “Not Tyler, either,” she said at last, her voice sounding empty. Scraped out.He found her cold fingers beneath the table and wrapped his palms around them. “He’s a terrible father.” And a horrible person. Who would abandon his wife and child? He’d known she was a single mother, but he’d never known that she was raising her son entirely on her own. After this night of revelations, she’d surprised him again and he admired her even more. What a strong, caring person. Jodi nodded, her face bleak and beautiful. “Tyler wouldn’t stop crying after his dad left until—” 

She froze, then yanked her hands away and stood. “I’ve got to go.” 

“Jodi.” His voice stopped her. “I—I—” He broke off, searching for the right words the
way he might grope for a light switch in the dark.

She glanced around the bar, the faraway look gone, her expression sharp. “We
shouldn’t do this. It’s not good for either of us to get this personal. My focus is on Tyler.
Not bars. Not men.” She gazed at him, her eyes pleading. “Not you.”
Before he could stand, she flew out the door, leaving him again.

Happy Reading! 

Lizzy

P.S. Buy Karen’s book March 1st! 🙂

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