Friday, January 25, 2013

Bonus Review: The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home
By Mariah Stewart
Random House/Ballantine
Release Date: January 29, 2013

 Ellis Chapman has come to the small town of St. Dennis, Maryland, to try to put her life back together. Reared as the daughter of wealthy investment banker Clifford Chapman, accustomed to a privileged life of designer clothes, prestigious private schools, and first class accommodations on her world travels, she has nothing left—not even her name. When her father and fiancé were revealed for the thieves they were, Ellis lost her home, her car, her jewelry, and her bank accounts. Even though the FBI and SEC found her innocent of any involvement in her father’s illegal dealings, since even her salary as public relations director for CC Investments came from ill-gotten gains, she was allowed to keep nothing from her former life. For the past year, she has lived in the Boston townhouse of her best friend, Carly Summit, the only friend who stood by her when the scandal broke.

But the time has arrived to get on with her life, and the first step is to sell the house in St. Dennis that has been left to her by her mother. Because Lynley Sebastian bought the house and set up bank accounts to pay taxes, upkeep, and utilities out of money she earned as one of the first supermodels, it has not been confiscated with the Chapman assets. All Ellis has to do is meet the terms of her mother’s will by living in the house for six months, and then she’ll be free to take the money from the sale and construct a new life for herself. Only the family lawyer, Jesse Enright, knows that she is Ellis Chapman. To distance herself from the scandal and its devastating effects, she has chosen to be Ellie Ryder in St. Dennis, a New Yorker who bought the house from Lynley Sebastian’s estate for the express purpose of flipping it. Ellie expects her contact with the citizens of St. Dennis to be minimal, and so she feels no guilt about deceiving them.

Contractor Cameron O’Connor always thought he’d be the one to buy the historic house on Bay View Road when it was sold. He’s kept an eye on all these years, fist for Lilly and Ted Cavanaugh, then for their niece Lynley Sebastian, and lately just in memory of all the kindness the Cavanaughs showed him. His profession helps him appreciate the historical significance of the house, but it’s his personal history with it that is responsible for the emotional tie he feels. At first, he begins to help Ellie make repairs because he expects to buy the house from her, but the more time they spend together, the greater the attraction he feels for her. But the questions keep mounting too. Why is a woman too broke to pay someone to make the repairs she clearly is unqualified to do herself driving a Mercedes? Can it be mere coincidence that Ryder was also the maiden name of Lilly Cavanaugh? Why does Ellie look so familiar?

Ellie’s intentions to stay uninvolved during her stay in St. Dennis don’t last long when she’s confronted with the friendliness and good will of the townspeople. Visits to deliver cupcakes and freshly baked bread, invitations to beer and bakery tastings, and First Families Day, and the attention of a certain hot contractor all lead to St. Dennis feeling more and more like home. Add a dog that comes to say and the family secrets that link Ellie to the house in surprising ways, and she is soon establishing roots in what was supposed to be strictly a temporary refuge. But will the welcome and friendship extended to Ellie Ryder be there for Ellis Chapman. Can she create a home here for the young half-sister she has just discovered? Will Cameron be interested in Ellis Chapman? These are the questions Ellie longs—and fears—to have answered.

The Long Way Home is the sixth book in Mariah Stewart’s Chesapeake Diaries series. Ellie and Cameron appear to be ordinary, likeable people, but appearances are deceptive. Both have things in their pasts that brought them shame and pain. Both know what it means to be at the center of shocking events they had no part in creating, and they both have to learn to trust enough to share their secrets if they are to have the life they want. Like the other characters in this series, these protagonists reveal that life in this small town is anything but simple and uneventful. More sweet than sizzling, this novel is a welcome addition to a series that blends heartwarming romance with layers of mystery.

Readers who have been following the series will enjoy the new story and delight in catching up with characters from the earlier books. Lucy and Clay’s wedding is a particular treat. Readers who like the small-town series of Robyn Carr, Emily March, and JoAnn Ross will likely find in Stewart’s St. Dennis another place that makes them long for a return visit.

The small-town romance trend shows no signs of fading. It seems that almost every month brings a new entry for the subgenre. I’ve lost count of how many I read regularly. How do you feel about small-town settings? Are you happy to see more, or are you ready for more big city scenes?


irisheyes said...

I'm definitely not getting tired of them, Janga. I've even read a couple that have similar settings (Oregon coast, Eastern seaboard, etc.) and I still can't get enough. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with not wanting to say goodbye to beloved characters. It's the perfect solution to not wanting the story to end.

I'm bummed I missed commenting on your last blog in time but I put my 2 cents in anyway. :)

Nikki said...

I absolutely love the small town novels. And this one sounded so good that I'm digging out the first in the series from my TBR bookcase! Thanks for the heads up!!

quantum said...

I like the small town setting, but am just as happy with family stories which run as series. Like Catherine Anderson's Harrigan/Kendrick/Coulter books. Actually I guess that in a way, I think of a small town as an extended family!

I have a few of Stuart's suspense books waiting to be read, but somehow,something new and irresistible keeps appearing, demanding my reading time, so that some authors just sink down the TBR pile untried.

It's a bit frustrating having so many enticing parcels waiting to be opened .... but I am coping! LOL

Janga said...

The Northwest is a particularly popular area for the small-town series, Irish--Carr, Kleypas, Macomber, Shalvis, etc. I think Texas has the most, although all regions are represented. When I was working on a post about the small town in romance fiction for H & H, I counted 60 series that I had read. Even I was surprised at the number.

Janga said...

So do I, Nikki. I hope you enjoy the Stewart books. Thanks for dropping by.

Janga said...

Q, I think you are right in that series generally create a sense of community, but I think the small-town books feature setting more prominently and usually have a larger cast of characters.

One funny detail about my reading Stewart's Chesapeake Diary books. Home for the Summer, the book before The Long Way Home: the celebrity wedding that takes place in that book is that of Robert Magellan and his bride from the Mercy Street series, one of Stewart's romantic suspense series. So the Chesapeake Diaries book sent me back to reread the Mercy Street books.