Bringing Maddie Home
There are lots of things that can make a good romance work, and by the same token, there are plenty of things that can make a book not work. One can have idiot characters, weak writing, implausible plots, etc.. Sometimes, as with Bringing Maddie Home, the issues are a bit more subtle. As with every book of Janice Kay Johnson’s I’ve ever read, the writing is fantastic and I mostly like her characters. The problem here is that their story just doesn’t work as romance.
As a rookie officer, Colin McAllister found himself haunted by the disappearance of local teen Maddie Dubeau. Now a police captain, he has never given up on finding her, and when he sees her image on TV, he just knows that the woman he’s seeing is Maddie. She may live under another name in Seattle, but Colin just knows that he has found the missing Maddie Dubeau and he sets out to convince her to come back to the small town of Angel Butte, Oregon.
However, solving this missing persons case isn’t as easy as Colin might think. First of all, Maddie has lost a great chunk of her memory and since she’s blocked out what happened to her, she cannot tell Colin who she really is or what happened to her. Secondly, Maddie suffers from a great deal of anxiety and trauma related to her ordeal and she’s not exactly thrilled about the idea of giving up her anonymity and coming back to Oregon.
In the end, Maddie is persuaded at least in the short term. Upon her return, she sees her family and it becomes apparent that someone out there is not thrilled with Maddie being returned home. At this point, Bringing Maddie Home becomes quite an engaging mystery read. Things are obviously not as they should be both in the home of Maddie’s family and in Angel Butte in general, and I enjoyed watching Colin try to unravel some of these goings-on. However, as Colin tries to figure out Maddie’s past and some of the secrets in Angel Butte, a romance also starts to blossom between Colin and Maddie, and that’s a bit more problematic.
As a character, Maddie is likable but she’s obviously been through horrible past trauma and she’s very vulnerable. At times she’s a bundle of anxieties and since she is still working through what has happened to her, we can see in several scenes that deciding what she wants and planning for the future are both still quite difficult for Maddie. If this book took place over a long period of time and Maddie had time and space to heal, I could have bought the romance a bit more.
However, the plotting took place over a relatively short span of time and throughout most of the book, Maddie not only had to face her past but also has to contend with present-day threats on her life. The plot action makes for a good suspense read, but Maddie just did not seem emotionally ready for a complete HEA kind of commitment. The fact that she is a vulnerable, emotionally fragile witness getting involved with the investigating police officer got to me as well because even though Colin is truly a good guy, there’s still something of an uncomfortable power imbalance there.
If you read this novel as a mystery or as a view into all the turmoil that coming home years after a kidnapping can unleash, it stands up quite well. The writing works stylistically, and those parts of the plot held my interest. However, as a romance, it really doesn’t work. And since this is definitely being marketed as romance, I just cannot quite recommend it.