By Juliana Stone
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: April 2, 2013
It took a funeral to bring Cain Black back to Crystal Lake, Michigan. He left ten years earlier to chase his dream of becoming a musician rather than doing what the town expected their star quarterback to do and accepting a full football scholarship to Michigan State University. Now Jesse Edwards, one of the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake, is dead, killed in Afghanistan. His widow Raine, his twin Jake, his parents, and his life-long friends Mackenzie Draper and Cain are left to mourn him. Cain’s plan is to spend a couple of days in his hometown and then fly back to L.A. Coming off a grueling six-month tour with his band BlackRock as the opening act for Grind, he needs time to unwind and come to terms with all the changes in his life—the buzz that is propelling him to the success he’s dreamed of, the firing of BlackRock’s drummer and Cain’s co-songwriter, and his divorce from a publicity-addicted actress. But in Crystal Lake he runs head on into old memories and the new woman in town, single mother Maggie O’Roarke. Maybe a summer in the old hometown is just what he needs.
Maggie O’Roarke has found friends and a peaceful life for herself and her young son Michael in Crystal Lake. She cleans houses to earn a living for two of them and works on an illustrated children’s book when she can find the time. Maggie is not immune to the good looks and charisma of Cain Black, but she has no room in her life for the here today-gone tomorrow relationship that is all rock star Cain can offer. And she’s determined that no one in Crystal Lake will know anything about the life from which she escaped. But Cain is more than a rock star; he’s also the man who has her remembering that she’s a woman as well as a mother and has her son happy with all the male bonding over fishing, football, and other guy stuff. He may just be irresistible.
The Summer He Came Home, the first book in Stone’s Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series, is an appealing addition to the small-town stories that are still prevalent in contemporary romance. Crystal Lake has its share of warm, welcoming folks along with a few jerks and bitches, and it is not isolated from the larger world. Cain and his fellow surviving bad boys are sexy, interesting men with a history that evokes smiles and tears. The way they reconnect seemed real and heartwarming. Maggie is a woman still discovering her own strength, and Michael is an endearing kid who acts like a little boy. Supporting characters such as Cain’s mother and Jesse’s widow add interest to the story.
Readers who approach this book looking for a rock star hero may be disappointed since the focus is clearly on Cain in his hometown. His career is background and plot element, but the reader sees almost nothing of that part of his life. Maggie’s secret is one that any perceptive reader will figure out early on. But predictability can be part of the charm of romance fiction, and this is a well-written book with likeable characters who will have readers rooting for their HEA.
Stone reveals just enough about the troubled Jake who has the double wounds of his war experience and his twin brother’s death to deal with and Mac who must confront his own demons of an abusive past and a fondness for the bottle to leave readers hungry for their stories. I confess that the sibling triangle trope in any variation is one that often has an ick factor too high for my taste, but some authors have written stories strong enough to overcome my instinctive recoil. I’m interested enough in Jake to give Stone a chance to persuade me she’s in that company, and so I’ll be reading The Christmas He Loved Her, which releases October 1. I fell hard for Mac and am eager for his story.
If you are a fan of small-town romances or if you like your contemporary romance with a nice balance of sweet and sizzle, I recommend The Summer He Came Home. I predict you too will enjoy Cain and Maggie’s story.
Bad boy heroes seem to be popular in 2013 contemporary romance releases. Who is your favorite bad boy hero?