The Long Way Home
This was a bit of a mixed read for me. The heroine is fantastic, and I like that the author tackles some serious issues. However, it’s also one of those “one incident changes your life” books. The hero has allowed one tragic event to shape his entire life, and I don’t like who he is in that life.
Natalie Kimball has moved back to her small hometown. She hopes to take over the family law firm when her father retires, but faces a major roadblock. Her father doesn’t want her to work for the firm, let alone run it. He thinks she lacks the “communication skills” necessary for a small town firm as Natalie suffered significant hearing loss as a child. Her father has no faith in Natalie and plans to sell his law firm to a big national company; Natalie hopes to prove him wrong and change his plans by bringing new business to the firm.
Natalie’s efforts lead her to key businesswomen in town, and the sister of her high school crush, Bruce Cole. Growing up Bruce was the most popular boy in town and earned a spot at the US Naval Academy. But when a horrible accident led to his friend’ s death, everyone in town blamed Bruce. Bruce left town soon after and hasn’t returned, leaving his sister to take the brunt of the town’s anger. Bruce’s sister strikes a strange deal with Natalie: if Natalie serves as a bridesmaid at her upcoming wedding and helps make the visit easier for Bruce, she might give some business to the law firm.
Bruce plans to stay in town for only one day to attend the wedding, but gets roped into staying for an extra week while the rest of his family leaves town. Bruce’s grandfather was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and someone needs to be there. Bruce’s sister arranges for a place for Bruce to stay, a ramshackle cottage on Natalie’s property, throwing Bruce and Natalie into frequent contact over the week.
Natalie is a great heroine, and her hearing impairment plays a key role in several plot lines. Despite her love of small towns, she’s kept her hearing problem a secret, afraid the townspeople won’t take her seriously as a lawyer if they know she’s hearing impaired. This creates a number of misunderstandings for Natalie, including her initial meetings with Bruce. I especially like how Natalie isn’t willing to settle for second (or third) best, either with her father or with Bruce.
I didn’t care for Bruce initially, and it took me a long time to warm to him. Bruce is a computer consultant who flies wherever the jobs are. The section introducing Bruce was too heavy on the Road Warrior jargon for my taste. I can understand why Bruce left town as quickly as he did, but it’s years later and he hasn’t been back. He’s refused to create ties with anyone since the accident and lives by his code. I tired pretty quickly of the code. He’s free, independent, and unencumbered. He likes women as meaningless hook ups. At one point he actually tells Natalie, “I’m a rock. An island. ” I began to warm to Bruce in the way he handles Natalie’s hearing impairment; it showed me he isn’t quite as cold as he believes he is.
I liked the story featuring Bruce’s grandfather, particularly since it was a time when Bruce’s normal confidence comes crashing down.
While I did eventually come to like Bruce, I wanted him to grow and change much sooner than he did. As a result the end felt rushed and somewhat incomplete. But I like Natalie enough that I gave this a higher grade than I might have based on Bruce alone.