A Soldier's Homecoming
When I first began to read series romances, one of my favorite continuing series was the one Rachel Lee set in Conard County, Wyoming. I still have several of the books tucked away in my comfort read box, and I re-read them ever so often. The last book in the series was the 1999-published Involuntary Daddy, which was only average. I was thrilled to discover that Rachel Lee has revived the series for Silhouette Romantic Suspense and bought A Soldier’s Homecoming the first day it appeared on the shelf.
Things have changed in Conard County since the last book. Sheriff Nate Tate has retired and Gage Dalton, (from Miss Emmaline and the Archangel) is the new sheriff. There’s a new junior college in Conard City and a new manufacturing plant that provides jobs. The population of the county is growing, but the crime rate is still low.
Connie Halloran is a deputy on the police force. She is Nate Tate’s niece and for several years she was a police officer in Denver. After her abusive husband Leo kicked her when she was pregnant, she divorced him and moved to Wyoming with her daughter, Sophie. Connie loves her job since she spends most of her time helping people, not just jailing them.
The book begins when Connie picks up a hitchhiker. The man, obviously of Indian ancestry, is wearing fatigues, and the look of a soldier about him. He turns out to be Ethan Parish, and he’s coming to meet his father, Micah Parish (from Cherokee Thunder). Micah and Ethan’s mother once had a relationship, but she never told him about his son. The meeting comes off with almost no tension and the two men bond immediately. I would have liked a little angst myself.
The plot begins to move when Sophie and a friend of hers come to Connie terrified because a man with a beard tried to talk to them. Naturally, suspicion falls on Ethan, but he has an air-tight alibi. Connie fears that a child abductor may be loose and Gage arranges for Ethan to move into Connie’s house to watch over them. Need I tell you what happens next?
Most of the rest of the book is filled with background. Connie’s past marriage was a bad one and she is filled with unresolved issues. Sophie is beginning to wonder why she has no Daddy like all her friends do, and Ethan suffers from his experiences in the war. Finally, the villain (no surprise there) comes into the picture but he turns out to be a rather de-fanged character and ultimately rather pitiful.
A Soldier’s Homecoming touches on some of the themes that Rachel Lee has used in earlier Conard County books, such as the difficulty that returning soldiers have in fitting back into the population, and abusive relationships and the effects they have on family members. While this book is not bad at all, and can be touching at times, it is muted and truncated compared to Lee’s older books. I dug out my copy of Miss Emmaline and the Archangel, which has 250 pages of much smaller type. This book has 216 pages and the type is larger. That may be easier on the eyes, but it doesn’t allow for much character development or storytelling.
I expected a more impressive story after nearly a decade of waiting for Rachel Lee to revisit Conard County. My guess is that with a longer page count, she might have achieved it.