A passionate reader, I always approach e-books with a bit of caution. This has nothing to do with snobbishness but with my slightly more fervent reading habits. To my shame, I have been known to physically abuse books that weren’t to my liking (I might give them an extra big dog-ear or energetically throw them aside). Although barbaric and inexcusable, this habit of mine has never inflicted proper damage to any of my library. The case is slightly different (and definitely more costly) when you are reading on your laptop and get a sudden urge to throw it out of the window. Fortunately for my finances, Robyn Anders’s e-romance Hometown Hero, that despite some loose ends, grammatical errors and occasional outbreaks of pathos, is definitely entertaining.
War veteran Russell Lyons returns from the Middle East a literally changed man. Suffering from amnesia, the small town hero of Shermann Missouri has no recollections of his golden boy past. Worse still, his injury seems to have brought on a change in personality. The new “Russ” is an altogether more mellow fellow who has lost his appetite for big business as well as for his sexy, clever, beautiful, rich, blond, popular, ex-cheerleader (you get the picture) fiancée Heather. Desperate to become once again Mr. Perfect, Russ recruits his old schoolmate and now-journalist Cynthia to help him research his past and trigger his memories. Little does he expect that the pretty reporter will stir up more than just memories and will make him wish that “Russell” would never return.
Ever since she was a chubby and nerdy four-eyes, Cynthia Meadows has had a major crush on high school god Russell. Back then, she had major confidence issues and he barely knew she existed. Now, she has toughened up, toned up (the woman seems to run 5 miles a day for fun) and she has long outgrown any teenage crushes. Or so she thinks. But when the ex-golden boy asks for her help, Cynthia is irresistibly drawn towards this new, more sensitive and philanthropic, Russ – well knowing that anything between them might vanish as soon as the old Russell returns.
As in Blind Date (2000) and Dynamiting Daddy’s Dream House (2003), Booksforabuck regular Robyn Anders utilizes the emotionally conflicted war veteran as her romantic lead. And she doesn’t do a bad job at it as well. Russ is a well drawn-out and sexy hero whose internal struggles and confusion add depth to his character. Despite her slightly intimidating fitness regime (as you can tell, I’m more of a couch potato), Cynthia is equally likable. What remains of her teenage angst and her low self-esteem are probably things we all faced at one time or another. Her Cinderella-esque transformation and conquest of Russ bear all the feel-good traits of the stereotypical “nerdy girl gets Superhunk and defeats rivaling Miss Perfect” storyline. Ex-beauty queen Heather is a disgustingly perfect combination of beauty, brains and breeding. Yet, to Anders’s credit, this is how far as the cliché goes. Instead of the notorious good girl-bad girl dichotomy, Cynthia and Heather grow to be friends. How could they not since they share all the girly rituals of bonding, from getting drunk together and overdosing on chocolate to dognapping a puppy (don’t ask)?
Anders does well in creating characters that can still surprise. Even better, the sexual chemistry between Cynthia and Russ definitely sizzles. The love scenes are steamy…and frankly quite exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, the joys of multiple orgasms make for an enticing read. Nonetheless, as I was reading, I couldn’t help feeling that I needed some serious lessons in the gym or a survival course if I ever attempted such bedroom miracles. Good old Cynthia is either a gymnast or a trained deep-sea diver (underwater blowjob, anyone?).
The biggest problem however I had with this novel was the premise that “Russ” would disappear for good after “Russell” would return. I am admittedly not a psychiatrist but this felt more like a case of Jekyll and Hyde split personality rather than a case of amnesia. Although this device added a sense of urgency to the love story and worked well on the level of plot, it just didn’t totally make sense to me. Perhaps more so because it was resolved in a bit of a rush at the end. Then, of course, there are the smallish problems that someone overly fussy like myself will pick up on but more cordial readers might graciously overlook: the tiny inconsistencies (how did Russ’s shirt get unbuttoned if Cynthia was tied up?), the few grammatical errors, the overuse of the same analogies, the occasional superfluous pathos (Cynthia’s “Quixotic crush on Russ” that leads to a “miasma of gloom”), the silly dognapping incident and the loose strands (why hint at a love interest between Heather and Cynthia’s boss Andrew and then leave it aside at the end?).
All in all, Hometown Hero is an enjoyable read with an engaging storyline, interesting characters and some pretty hot sexual encounters. Although it could have done with one more editorial run and although the HEA does feel a bit rushed, this one earns a qualified recommendation.