Come Home to Deep River
Usually known for her alpha males, MC members and uncompromising billionaire mobster types, Jackie Ashenden takes on small-town Alaskan romance with Come Home to Deep River, focusing on the strained ties between an ex-soldier and current land tycoon, and the girl who loves him but whose loyalty remains with her hometown. Ashenden’s hero is still broody – and her heroine still a bit too isolated – but as always, she provides solid interpersonal drama, this time with a much lighter touch.
Airplane charter service owner Silas (Si) Quinn – a former military veteran who survived three tours in Afghanistan – has come home to Deep River, Alaska, his birthplace. Having left thirteen years ago to escape his alcoholic father and his mother’s death, and having no other real friends there, Si is tasked with a difficult objective – to inform the citizens of the oil reserves discovered beneath their feet and then get them to accept that he and his two closest friends now own the town after it was bequeathed to them by his late best friend, Caleb West, one of the two last descendents of the town’s founders (the others are Caleb’s sister and Deep River’s police chief). Si has a life back in Juno; his plan is to inform the town of its worth and let them choose to do what they will with the information.
Hope Dawson – proprietor of the Happy Moose, a tavern which was handed down to her by her grandfather – is a prime example of your average Deep Riverian. Anchored in town by both her responsibilities the Happy Moose and her mother’s emotional fragility, nothing’s changed for her for years, and her long-ago dreams of moving have died silently away.
Si has been avoiding Hope for years. She had a big crush on Caleb and was brokenhearted when he left town to join the military with Si, and Si had a crush on Hope but Hope remained oblivious. She’d always considered Si intimidating, but been intrigued by – if not attracted to – him.
Will Hope and Si build a real relationship? And will Si decide to tell the town that they have the deed claim to thousands of dollars? And what will that do to the town?
Come Home to Deep River proves that Jackie Ashenden can do tender, sweet and quiet with surprising aplomb. There isn’t much violent intrigue or derring-do in this book – though there is a subplot about a land grabber trying to steal the mineral rights from the town’s denizens.
Most of the book is about Hope and Silas’ attempt at surmounting the grief they’re both dealing with. Hope is mourning her grandfather and Caleb, following the latter’s death in a plane crash; Si is grieving for his mother and Caleb – and their confused feelings about one another. As they come closer to love, they begin to dream of new and different lives – Silas settling more firmly into Deep River, and Hope reconciling her place in town with her need to be put first.
I liked Hope and Si – Hope is spirited without being one of those dreaded headstrong spunky heroine stereotypes, and while Si has some broody qualities he doesn’t lack a sense of humor.
Together they’re sweet with the slightest touch of spicy humor. The sex – as I always expect from an Ashenden novel – is smoking, and filled with chemistry.
The minor characters – the town’s old salts and Hope’s depressed mom – work brilliantly. The narrative does suffer from a lot of telling and not showing, which is why I’ve docked a few points.
But Come Home to Deep River proves that not all of Ashenden’s heroes are alphas, and that, indeed, there is heroic depth in them thar hills. For her regular readers this book will provide a sweet journey – and a number of surprises.