Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen Hewitt: A RITA finalist for Contemporary Series Romance
Cash's childhood home is filled with memories of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mentally ill father. It's little surprise he hasn't been back until now. A country singer, he has returned at the request of a childhood friend. At his arrival, he finds his friend has died and he meets Emma, the very pregnant widow.
The last thing Emma needs, on top of running the farm and parenting her two children, is a broken man on her doorstep. However, she can't turn him away and before she knows it, he's constantly underfoot, working as an unpaid farmhand. Cash needs to let go of his past, Emma has to figure out her future, and the present is filled with surprises for them both.
I got about half way through the story when I noticed that the kids on the cover are a) both boys, b) neither of them of them appears to have Down's Syndrome and c) by the time Cash & Emma get together, she's already given birth. So that bothered me. The story itself wasn't too bad. It was interesting to read about farming life in a modern, practical setting. Cash's status as a country music star was downplayed. There were repeated references to how country music has "changed," but no concrete examples were given. If I had to guess, I would imagine it was about the rise of pop-country, but I shouldn't have to guess.
I have to say, though, for such a short book, it packed a lot of complexities: child abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, financial woes, single motherhood, religion fanaticism, special needs children, etc. It was almost like reading a soap opera's plot arc. I did think it was better than Zoe and the Tormented Tycoon. I'm not sure how many of the other Contemporary Series nominees I'll get to read as Mills & Boon is a UK publisher. Good thing I work in ILL!