Title: Return to Homecoming Ranch by Julia London
Pine River Series Book Two
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Curly-haired Libby Tyler never stops smiling…until her beloved boyfriend suddenly forces her out of their home and away from his adoring kids. When she learns he dumped her for his flighty ex-wife, Libby’s sadness turns to fury—and she very publicly smashes his truck with a golf club, earning herself a trip to a mental health center for some “rest.”
Handsome, hazel-eyed deputy Sam Winters has been sober for two years. Afraid of backsliding, he lives in the mountains and keeps his distance from people. Yet he never forgot Libby, his former colleague at the sheriff’s office whose charm and cheerfulness always warmed his days.
Now Libby’s back, ignoring the townspeople’s whispers (and her ex’s restraining order) while desperately trying to make Homecoming Ranch a successful event destination. She keeps causing trouble for Sam, but he finds her smile more beautiful than ever…and his touch gives her thrills she’s never felt. Could these two lost souls mend each other’s broken hearts?
Return to Homecoming Ranch is the second novel in Julia London’s Pine River series. This installment features another one of the Tyler sisters and it is a poignant and very heartwarming story.
Return to Homecoming Ranch opens not long after Libby Tyler’s very public breakdown where she attacked her ex-boyfriend’s truck with a golf club. A week of intensive, inpatient therapy has helped her regain her equilibrium, but she still has hopes of regaining her lost family. A recovering alcoholic, Deputy Sam Winters knows what it is like to pick up the pieces after a public fall from grace. So when Libby violates the restraining order her ex took out on her, instead of arresting her, Sam takes a softhearted approach and lets her go with a stern lecture. Libby keeps getting into trouble, Sam continues to rescue her and before long, their somewhat uneasy friendship leads to romance.
Libby is a passionate, vivacious and giving young woman but she is also impulsive, reckless and stubborn. The end of her four year relationship blindsided her but it was losing her ex’s two young kids that really broke her heart. Libby has irrational and unrealistic expectations of salvaging her relationship with the kids and nothing and no one can convince her otherwise. It is incredibly frustrating watching her self-destruct time and again and while Sam’s efforts to help her are well-intentioned, he should have let her deal with the consequences of her actions much, much sooner.
Sam works hard to maintain his sobriety and he now leads a solitary, quiet, peaceful life. He is incredibly patient with Libby and his feelings run much deeper than just friendship. Sam has serious reservations about becoming involved with Libby, and he is very upfront about what he needs from her to make things work between them. But Sam’s expectations are impossible to maintain and Libby makes a rash and impetus decision that jeopardizes their relationship.
Adding to Libby’s problems is the future of Homecoming Ranch. She and her sister Madeline are struggling to turn it into a hotspot for destination events, but they are running into numerous snags while working on their current project. Libby is also having problems with a fundraiser she is spearheading and in order to make it a success, she needs the expert assistance only her estranged sister Emma can provide and her arrival sets the stage for the next book in the Pine River series.
Return to Homecoming Ranch is a wonderful novel and Julia London deftly handles very difficult subjects with ease. Sam and Libby are well-developed, imperfect protagonists who eventually (if somewhat painfully) triumph over their personal demons. All in all, this heartfelt romance is compelling, entertaining and emotionally satisfying.