Mariah Stewart’s contemporary romances have been comfort reads for me for years and I was delighted when she returned to the genre after years of writing serial killer romantic suspense. Leigh gave this a B- review here at AAR in print format finding too many returning characters and a too perfect small town detrimental. I like this more than Leigh and believe that if you’re a fan of Mariah Stewart’s contemporary romances, you will enjoy the audio version.
I’m not the first to say it but it bears repeating – Xe Sands is a marvelous narrator. But what can I say about Ms. Sands that hasn’t been said before? Her voice has a wonderful tone and her pacing is always spot on. She gives each character a unique voice appropriate for their age, gender, and emotions. I believe I could listen to her read the phone book and be entertained. Fortunately this has a lot more going for it than that.
Almost Home takes us back to St. Dennis on the Chesapeake Bay. This third in the Chesapeake Diaries series features ice cream shop owner Steffie Wyler and brewer Wade MacGregor. Steffie had a crush on Wade as a girl and was devastated when he left town for Texas and never returned. Wade’s back for a visit before relocating to Connecticut with his young son. The setup is interesting as it provides a genuine conflict in Wade and Steffie’s rapidly developing romance. Steffie is firmly grounded in St. Dennis with many friends, family, and her business. Wade has a great job opportunity in Connecticut. I enjoyed seeing how they worked things out. All of the passion and anguish they go through trying to figure out their relationship reverberates through Ms. Sands’ performance.
I haven’t read every book in this series but fortunately did read Home Again. It features the romance of Wade’s sister, the movie star who returns to St. Dennis. I’m afraid if I hadn’t read that, I might have been a bit lost, or irritated by all of the time spent with Wade and his sister.
Yes, this is another small town romance, and yes, there’s a lot of interaction between characters from previous – and probably future – entries in the series. But I enjoyed the story and Xe Sands narration enhanced the experience. That being said, this isn’t my favorite of Ms. Stewart’s contemporaries. I could’ve done without the ghost/spirit plot.
I’m also intrigued that one of the secondary characters is related to the Enright family of Ms. Stewart’s earlier contemporaries (Devlin’s Light, Wonderful You and Moon Dance) and wonder if any of those characters will appear in future entries in the series. I hope so. And I hope that Ms. Sands continues to narrate the series. She’s wonderful.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A and Book Content: B Unabridged. Length – 8 hours 48 minutes