by Regina Hart, contemporary (2014)
Dafina, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-7582-8654-3
Regina Hart's Harmony Cabins is the second book in the Finding Home series, and aside from the main romance, there are several story arcs that are clearly carried forward from the previous book and would go on in the next book. I'm reading this book out of order, but I can easily follow the whole thing despite its rather large cast of characters. The series is set in Trinity Falls, another of those wonderful small towns where the scenery is always gorgeous, everyone knows your name, and the guys are always hot.
Audra Lane is a songwriter who recently won a Grammy. Unfortunately, she's been plagued by insomnia and writer's block ever since. Her business manager decided that Audra needed a change of scenery to get her muse back, so she booked Audra to a 30-day stay at Harmony Cabins in Trinity Falls. Audra finds out only when she arrives that there is only one other person around - Jackson Sansbury, the scruffy Big Foot-lookalike whom she assumes to be the guy manning the registration desk. She would soon learn that he is actually the owner of Harmony Cabins and he's really hot once he gets a shave and a haircut. Jackson just wants to be left alone to mourn the death of his daughter some sixteen months ago, however.
Meanwhile, there are subplots revolving around Doreen Fever (yes, that's her name) who's running for Mayor. uncontested, until she realizes that her boyfriend is not happy with the idea of her doing her thing and not having him as the sole focus of her life. Also, local reporter and future hero Darius Knight's father decides to run for Mayor too, which doesn't make Darius happy as there is a strong possibility that some skeletons in the family closet may fall out as a result of his father's antics. Life in Trinity Falls is certainly nowhere as dull as Audra initially thought.
Harmony Cabins is an interesting small town romance because, unlike many that I've read recently, this one is decidedly feminist. The man who doesn't want his girlfriend to be successful is depicted as a villain, and the women in this story are not ashamed of having ambitions beyond the kitchen and the man in their lives. These women are also very supportive of one another. The feminist elements are incorporated nicely into the story without the author coming off like she's on the soapbox and banging a gravel. It's all so charming, I have to say.
Jackson is a walking wounded hero, but he's actually nice when I was initially expecting a brooding asshole who uses his issues as an excuse to be a complete jerk. He and Audra have a very sweet romance. The author builds up their romance slowly, without rushing them into bed too soon, and there is a realness to the underlying emotions between them. Unfortunately, the author often gets too heavy handed with the whole "help the guy heal again" thing - Audra frequently talks like she's a shrink milking an appearance on Oprah for all it's worth, and I can only wonder how she ends up being like that. Also, the author introduces a conflict between Audra and Jackson late in the story that, unfortunately, arises from the tired old plot device of the hero listening to someone he knows he shouldn't trust. What happens after that feel like an unnecessary backward slide when it comes to his character growth. Still, while the romance has some issues, I find it a sweet and often poignant relationship that can really get under my skin.
The subplots are also interesting in that, at first, they make me cringe because the parade of sequel baits is a little too obvious. I mean, everyone (especially the guys) of appropriate age being uniformly hot? But the subplots soon become intriguing enough and I find myself thoroughly engrossed in their stories. The whole cast is thrown at my face almost from the get go, and it takes a while for me to sort them out, but it's easy to catch up. I also like the fact that the heroine often wonders out loud about the abundance of hot guys in the neighborhood. Some self-aware humor goes a long way, heh.
I have little expectations about this story in the beginning, but by the last page, I really like what I am reading. I've never read anything by this author before, but I'm hooked by how this story can be romantic, humorous, and emotionally hard hitting all at once. It's not perfect, but it's certainly good enough for me.
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