Monday, April 1, 2013

Unwrapping: Review of THE SUMMER HE CAME HOME by Juliana Stone

If you're a regular follower of this blog then you know I'm a HUGE fan of Juliana Stone's many novels and novellas. I first started reading her work with her paranormals but when she made the switch to contemporaries, I followed right along like a faithful fan. I was very excited when she first started talking about her Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series and so when the galley for the first book in the series, THE SUMMER HE CAME HOME, came available, I leaped at the chance to read it.

***eARC provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.


Sometimes the best place to find love is right back where you started…

Falling asleep in a different bed every night has made it easy for Cain Black to forget his past. It’s been ten years since he packed his guitar and left Crystal Lake to chase his dreams. Now tragedy has forced him home again. And though Cain relishes the freedom of the road, one stolen moment with Maggie O’Rourke makes him wonder if he’s missing out on something bigger than fame.

For Maggie—single mother and newly settled in Crystal Lake—love is a luxury she just can’t afford. Sure, she appreciates the tall, dark and handsome looks of prodigal son Cain Black. But how long can she expect the notorious hellion to stay?

The last thing either of them wants is something complicated. But sometimes love has its own plans.

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Cain Black is a man who loves music, his mother, his best friends, and until he returned to Crystal Lake for one of his best friend's funeral, he'd forgotten how much he loved the place where he grew up. Nervous about returning after leaving the place, and people, of his youth behind ten years earlier, Cain is surprised at the warm welcome he receives from nearly everyone. He hadn't intended to stay but long enough to pay his respects, spend a little time with his mother, and his remaining two best friends, but then he meets a young single mother with red hair and a little boy, who manages to worm his way into his heart within minutes, and his quick visit turns into a summer that will change his life.

Maggie O'Rourke is a single mom with a dark secret. She keeps to herself, keeping busy trying to make a living to support herself and her young son, Michael, but has buckled to the in infectious friendliness of the Crystal Lake community. The friends she has made are loyal, caring, and suspect that there is more to Maggie than she's revealing. When their prodigal son, Cain Black, returns and takes an instant liking to the little redhead, she's told by more than one person that Cain is not the man she believes him to be, and that if she isn't willing to give him a chance - leave him be. No one wants to see Cain get his heart broken.

Let me begin by saying that Juliana grabbed me by my heartstrings in the very beginning and had me reaching for tissues before I got out of Chapter One - funerals do that to me. I took an instant liking to Cain, his mother, Raine, Mac, and Jake, as well as all the other townspeople we meet as we come to know those who live in Crystal Lake. I became as protective of Cain as were all his friends. It's because of this desire to see him happy that Maggie is not one of my favorite Juliana Stone heroines. She runs so hot and cold that I just can't bring myself to like her. One minute she's climbing Cain's frame like he's a ladder to ecstasy and the next, she's telling him that she wants nothing more to do with him because he's a man she can never put her trust in and who will only break her son's heart. I kept thinking - honey, you don't know what you're doing - Cain Black is the best thing that ever happened to you and Michael, and you should bending over backwards to make sure he knows it.

Crystal Lake is a place that feels like home. It's the people, the stories, the coming together for whatever needs doing, and it's the caring for one another that make this a place that anyone would want to live. Maggie is ready to abandon it rather than ask for help from the people who have come to care for her and the man who will do anything for her. Michael is far more together than his mother, even at his young age, and recognizes more readily who is good people and who is bad. I enjoyed the underlying stories that are beginning to form about Raine and Jake, and the wounds that Mac carries from his childhood. I'm confident that as we journey deeper into the world of Crystal Lake and the lives of the Bad Boys, Juliana will do as she always does, and pull the brilliance from her muse.

THE SUMMER HE CAME HOME by Juliana Stone is the first book in a series and although it's not her finest, it's a beginning, and a huge hook into the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake that will leave you wanting more. The strength of this book lies in its characters - characters that will pull you in, just as they do Cain, and make you feel as if you're coming home. You will feel their sorrow, their joy, their humor, and their anxiety but you will enjoy them immensely. Had Maggie been a more likable character, this story might be perfect - who can resist a man who goes to such lengths for a romantic first date, huh?

I can easily recommend THE SUMMER HE CAME HOME by Juliana Stone not because it's an exceptional novel, but because it's a wonderful beginning to a series. I have no doubt this series will blossom, expand, and shine because I know that once Juliana becomes comfortable in the world of Crystal Lake, her characters will sparkle as bright as the stars I know they are. If you're ready to fall in love with a place that feels like memories, then THE SUMMER HE CAME  HOME is a contemporary romance worth reading just so you can look forward to the next installment of the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series. It's worth it - Cain is worth it.

Happy Reading Everyone!

THE SUMMER HE CAME HOME, a Bad Boys of Crystal Lake novel by Juliana Stone, Sourcebooks Casablanca, releasing April 2, 2013 in print and ebook formats.


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