Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review of HIS HOMETOWN GIRL by Karen Rock (and excerpts)...

Author: Karen Rock
Publication Date: March 1st 2014
Source: e-copy provided by Lola's Blog Tours for review purposes

He'd always managed to best her… 

Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co-op plan. And he's not playing fair. 

Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that's always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?

*I Hereby Award This Book 5 Wings!*

This book was totally amazing. I don't really know where to start or what to tell you without completely gushing and ruining your own enjoyment of this story. 
I was asked if I wanted to read and review His Hometown Girl and of course, I couldn't refuse. I adore Karen Rock and have read the Camp Boyfriend series she wrote with her sister, Joanne. I wanted to read more of Karen's writing and was desperate to get my hands on this book in particular. 
I thought I was prepared for this story, boy was I wrong. I fell into this particular journey believing that I would adore the characters, but I didn't know jut how much it would affect me. I fell completely in love with Daniel Gleason, but it wasn't just him that I fell for. I have no real words to accurately describe what this book meant to me. It's a love story of a different kind. It's a powerful, emotional story of the love a mother has for her son and the lengths she will go to in order to give him the life he deserves - she will not only protect him but she will do the things she vowed not to do because it means giving her son the best life she can. 
This story is about learning to open your eyes to the bigger picture and not just solely focus on one small part of it.
Tyler is autistic and so everything is just that much harder for single mom, Jodi. She wants to give him the best education she can, but with the fees for the private school being so high, Jodi has to really strive to achieve the promotion she is in line for. Midland have told Jodi that if she can go back to her hometown and acquire a certain amount of acreage from local farmers, then they will give her a bonus and a promotion. To Jodi, this is what she needs in order to give Tyler the best life possible. She doesn't really think of herself at all. She is, in fact, one of the most selfless characters I have come across. 
Daniel is her ex-boyfriend and also her biggest childhood rival, the competition between these two was always fierce. Daniel wants the local farmers to join his co-op in order to preserve their land, their farms, their families heritage but Jodi wants to swoop in and buy up all the farms in order to please Midland and get back to her life. Not only has her ex husband not seen Tyler, he has also sued to lower his child support payments. Life for mother and son is one obstacle after another and she needs to set things on a better path for their future. 

Going back home was harder than Jodi thought. It stirred up those feelings she had for Daniel, it made her yearn for "home" but competing with that is a mother's love for her son and just what she will do in order to give him the life he needs. 

For me, one of the biggest things was the fact that Daniel is amazing. He's got all the character traits that a girl could wish for, tall, handsome, winning smile - but what made him stand out for me was the fact that he was so accepting of Tyler. He didn't look at Tyler like he was disabled or a "problem to be solved" like many other people did. I am disabled myself and I know just how it is to be judged on your disability, not the person you are beneath the label. So when Daniel went and got Tyler the 'girl toy' (read HHG and you will know which scene I mean) it made me smile from ear to ear, and shed a tear or two because he's such an amazing guy. He's kind, thoughtful, patient, tender, loving and he loves Jodi and Tyler for who they are. 
Tyler deserves the whole world and this was Jodi's way of trying to give it to him. Was the journey hard? Definitely. Was it emotionally fraught? Definitely. Was it absolutely beautiful and compelling? HELL YES!

Would you like to read an excerpt from this amazing book? Yes? Then what are you waiting for? Read on... 

This was one of my favourite scenes:

At last, off they went with a jerk that made her teeth knock together. Wow. The thrum of the machine beneath her and the sense of control as she steered filled her with a rush of adrenaline. It’d been such a long time since she’d driven a tractor, and the thrill of it returned to her. The wind whipped her hair behind her, carrying away her fear. Tyler’s screeching echoed her own elation and the air she breathed smelled slightly sweet, like growing things. When she looked over her shoulder, Sue waved and Daniel jogged beside them. When they rounded the last barn and headed out into lush, open fields, Tyler squealed and she wanted to join him. She hadn’t been surrounded by this much unbroken greenery in a long time. Even when she spoke with farmers, she met them in their homes, not on their fields. Perhaps she should have followed up on Midland’s purchases and seen the improvements they’d made as Daniel had suggested. She’d actually missed this. When she returned to Aunt Grace’s house, she would set up an appointment with a company farm and bring Daniel as promised. Daniel disappeared for a moment and she thought they’d left him behind until she felt the tractor dip in back and his voice whisper in her ear. “So far so good.” She shivered in awareness of his proximity as he balanced behind them on the storage box. His fingers rested on her shoulders as he stood to his full height. Jodi peeked up at him and took in the handsome picture he made. Beltless, low-slung jeans rode on his narrow hips and a thin T-shirt stretched across his well-defined chest. From this angle, his jaw looked more square than ever, his muscular neck rising from broad shoulders. The bright blue sky behind him contrasted with his dark hair and hazel eyes. Another bone-jarring mud hole made Tyler flap his hands and Jodi return her eyes to the straightaway. And that’s when she saw them… Strawberries. The sun-kissed rows of plants stretched to a distant tree line, the berries so blood-ripe, so rich and lovely, that the invitation to pluck and sink her teeth into them was irresistible. How long since she’d gathered fruit? Delight filled her. “The local schools and families have picked most of the fields, but this section is unharvested,” he hollered over the engine’s roar. “Okay.” She slowed the machine, feeling shaky but victorious when it rolled to a stop. Since her father’s accident, she’d avoided machinery like this. Now she’d conquered it, and a feeling of lightness grew within her. Daniel jumped off and held out a hand, his eyes dancing. The sun brought out the lighter brown in his hair and made the yellow flecks in his eyes shine like gold beneath thick lashes. “Ready?” More than, she thought, her excitement hard to contain. She wanted to rush through the rows of plants, trailing her fingers along the crinkly leaves, inhaling the earthy goodness. Her hands fumbled to take out Tyler’s earplugs before she undid the buckle and handed him to Daniel. He held the wiggling boy with one hand and extended another to help her down. “Thank you. Oh.” An idea pulled her up short when her heels sunk into the ground. “What will we put the berries in?” 
Daniel grinned, set down Tyler and raised the lid on his storage bin. He dumped some tools from a container and lifted his shirt to wipe it, exposing a toned stomach that Jodi did her best to ignore. She took the container and followed the twosome into the strawberry patch. The site of him shuffling beside her son, his large hand enveloping Tyler’s as they trod down the plant rows, made her heart skip a beat. Tyler peered up at Daniel the way he’d looked at the tractor. And maybe for him, the two were in the same category. For the past year it’d been just her and Tyler, and now seeing him with Daniel made her wish her son had a strong male role model. Daniel glanced over his shoulder, his profile outlined by the sun streaming over distant treetops. “How does this look?” He swept his arm in a circle, and all around, plump berries peeked through jagged-edged oval leaves. “Perfect. I mean, fine.” She cleared her throat. “This is good. Thanks.” Why was she babbling like a schoolgirl? This was Daniel. Not a man she’d see romantically. Not again. Daniel got on his knees, pinched off a deep red fruit and handed it to Tyler. “Want one?” Tyler shoved it in his mouth, then patted Daniel’s cheeks. Daniel smiled up at her. “I’m thinking that’s a yes.” She got on her knees beside him and kicked off her horrible shoes. It warmed her from the inside out to see Tyler so excited and interactive. She wouldn’t let her rivalry, or her conflicting emotions with Daniel, spoil this moment. “I’d say so!” Happiness added a lilt of laughter to her voice and Daniel eyed her, his expression wary. Maybe he was afraid of her charms for a change. She plucked berries and placed them in the container. Daniel followed suit and, to her amazement, Tyler grabbed a few, as well. They might have been squashed, flattened even, but they were the best berries in the world as far as she was concerned. 
Are you convinced to read this book yet? Of course you are! But I'll entertain you with another little sneak peek first...
The music began and Mary gave Daniel a little shove. “Have at her. Indulge us for old times’ sake. Everyone thought you two would make a great couple when you weren’t scrapping.” He looked down at a dismayed Jodi. “Guess we can’t disappoint our fans.” She threw her hands up and he swept her into his arms. And just like he thought, the feel of her brought back their middle school days. He recalled his sweaty palms on her tiny waist and how much he’d tripped because, instead of counting the steps, he’d counted the freckles on her nose. Kind of like now. “Mr. Martin had some crazy taste in music,” she surprised him by saying, a far-off look in her eyes. “How did that count as exercise?” Being around her raised his blood pressure. She was the best cardio he could imagine. They moved across the crowded floor, weaving in and out of other couples. “No idea.” When the tempo changed he twirled and dipped her, their mouths nearly touching as he bent her over his arm for a long, breathless moment. The feel of her made his blood surge. “Let me up,” she said in a rush, and pushed at his chest, her touch electric. When he straightened, he pulled her closer and smoothed the hair that had come loose from her bun, her locks like silk. He inhaled the light, fresh scent of her and his body tightened against hers. His eyes dropped to her lips and he remembered her taste: honeysuckle and lemon drops. Kissing her had felt like kissing sunshine and for a moment he lost himself in the glow of that memory. “Daniel,” she whispered, her eyes shimmering up at him, her voice husky. “People are watching.” “Let them.” When she trembled in his arms, he knew she was remembering the afternoons he’d held her this way. How they’d lie snuggled in the deep grass together, the blue sky their only witness. It’d been magic. The ultimate trick, however, was her disappearing act. The thought sobered him and he loosened his grip. She challenged, exhilarated, frustrated and attracted him like no other. Yet she had crushed him, too, and he sensed that could happen as easily now as it had then if he wasn’t careful. He wasn’t just at war with her, he also battled himself. As he guided her through the swaying couples, their bodies moved in perfect sync. Suddenly he thought of her ex and felt a rush of jealousy at the thought of her in another man’s arms. “I’m sorry to hear about your divorce,” he said, and felt her stiffen. “I got through it,” she said lightly, her eyes sliding from his. “Do you still see him?” An irrational need to know how much time she still spent with the man seized him. It didn’t matter—or it shouldn’t—yet somehow, it did. A laugh-snort escaped her and her gaze flew to his. “Not since he left.” “What about Tyler?” he blurted. The guy might be a fool for not returning Jodi’s love, but he must at least care for his own child. The music ended and he led her to a table by the window. After pulling out her chair, he straddled his. Jodi caught her lower lip between her teeth and gazed outside. The sun had set completely and the moon was up, a wedge of creamy white casting its reflection onto the 
lake. Night wind rattled tree branches, knocking them against one another. “Not Tyler, either,” she said at last, her voice sounding empty. Scraped out. He found her cold fingers beneath the table and wrapped his palms around them. “He’s a terrible father.” And a horrible person. Who would abandon his wife and child? He’d known she was a single mother, but he’d never known that she was raising her son entirely on her own. After this night of revelations, she’d surprised him again and he admired her even more. What a strong, caring person. Jodi nodded, her face bleak and beautiful. “Tyler wouldn’t stop crying after his dad left until—” She froze, then yanked her hands away and stood. “I’ve got to go.” “Jodi.” His voice stopped her. “I—I—” He broke off, searching for the right words the way he might grope for a light switch in the dark. She glanced around the bar, the faraway look gone, her expression sharp. “We shouldn’t do this. It’s not good for either of us to get this personal. My focus is on Tyler. Not bars. Not men.” She gazed at him, her eyes pleading. “Not you.” Before he could stand, she flew out the door, leaving him again. 

Well, now you should definitely be convinced to go and buy it. So what are you waiting for?

Thank you for stopping by my blog to see what I thought of this amazing story. Thank you to Karen for writing a book that I never knew would become so close to my heart. Thank you for creating Daniel, Tyler, Jodi... I am so pleased I got to meet them. 

Here are the buy links for you to check out:

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