Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas

Sixteen-year-old runaway Reagan has always wanted a place to belong. She's never had a real home of her own, but perhaps she could borrow someone else's. Under an assumed name and identity, she moves to Harmony, Texas, but keeps her distance from the welcoming townsfolk. Until prairie fires threaten Harmony-and Reagan learns the true meaning of family, friends, and home.
This was a good small-town yarn. Thomas does a good job of setting up the atmosphere in the town and the suspense. But what really makes the book are the characters and their relationships.

First there's Reagan, a sixteen-year-old runaway who took care of Ms. Beverly Truman at the Shady Rest Home and in the process fell in love with the town of Harmony and its people through conversations, letters and newspaper articles. After Ms. Beverly passes away, she decides that Harmony is going to be her home and the dwindling Trumans her family. She assumes a false identity and goes to live with Ms. Beverly's cantankerous brother, Jeremiah Truman.

Then we have Hank Matheson and Alex McAllen the Fire Chief and the Sheriff. These two have been friends since childhood, but have a relationship fraught with guilt and hostility. Every Saturday night, while off duty, Alex winds up dead drunk at the local bar. The only person who can and will come to take control of her is Hank. She goes with Hank, but resents the heck out of him. The main motivation behind Alex's actions is guilt over her brother's death, just as a long-time attraction and love are behind Hank's.

And then, we have the undertaker Tyler. His is the quiet story of a lonely man who doesn't seem to relate well to people around him and finds himself relating to a woman on the internet. He doesn't think of himself as having real friends, just customers and their families. His virtual romance is sweet and gives him a great personal boost. The rest of the town is there as a supporting cast and ties up the story.

Out of these three main stories, there were more, the one I enjoyed the most was Reagan and Jeremiah’s. I loved the way young Reagan and the older Jeremiah slowly built up a trusting and heartwarming relationship and become family. Reagan also befriends young Noah, and through him understanding the meaning of friendship and trusting is further reinforced for this young runaway.

Hank and Alex’s relationship has a satisfying end, but it’s a frustrating journey there. Alex feels responsible for her brother’s death, yet in the process of guilt tripping and self-punishment, she also severely punishes Hank. Although I understood Alex’s grief, I saw her actions toward Hank as unfair and senseless and as a result couldn’t sympathize with her.

Tyler’s story was quiet and a bit innocuous, yet I loved the way he rose from the background to become the hero of the piece. I just wish there had been more for him at the end.

In conclusion, Welcome to Harmony, introduces some great characters. The suspense story with the fires set in the town is well done and I enjoyed it. I loved the small-town feel to story and the large cast of secondary characters. Having said that, Reagan's past is still a mystery by the end of this book and Tyler’s situation is left unresolved. So even with all the enjoyable parts, you know there's more to come by the end. This is a quick contemporary read and a good start to this series. I already have the next installment, Somewhere Along the Way, and hope to read it soon.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Harmony, Book 1
Publisher/Released: Berkley-June 1, 2010
Grade: B-

Visit Jodi Thomas here.

14 comments:

  1. I buy Jodi Thomas' historicals but just borrow her contemporaries from the library. They are not keepers for me but she writes some memorable characters.


    One exception wasTwisted Creek. A grandmother and her granddaughter overcome hardship together to form a community of friends (outsiders all) as the grandmother declines into Alzheimers.


    Here is the blurb for that book.

    Fortune smiles on Allie Daniels and her elderly Nana in the form of an unexpected West Texas inheritance from a mysterious Uncle Jefferson Platt, of whom Allie doesn't recall any talk. Raised by her grandparents, Allie quit college to take care of frail Nana at her grandfather's death, and, at 26, has held a variety of dead-end jobs. She and Nana are enchanted by the West Texas property on Twisted Creek and have soon reopened its rundown bait shop–cum–general store and cafe to serve the Nesters, an eccentric bunch who live lakeside year-round. Half-Navajo undercover ATF agent Luke Morgan is one of them, and he's intent on catching the killer of Uncle Jefferson, who was his own granddad's best friend—and to put some drug traffickers out of business in the process. Morgan tries to resist his feelings for Allie, but Thomas sketches a slow, sweet surrender, keeping the tension building to a rewarding resolution in this unsentimental, homespun romance.


    Do I ever miss the Phade, Hils!!!

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  2. Mmm, it sounds like town saga. I usually I don't really like them, I don't tend to like having too many characters :(

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  3. Actually it is a Lake community of about a half dozen people who live there all year long.

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  4. Reny, I miss the Phade too! The ladies, the book discussions, the great recommendations and comments... *sigh* Thank you so much for this recommendation. I've heard about Twisted Creek, but haven't read it yet. I'll definitely look it up. You know how much I love these type of books. :)

    Clavie, Welcome to Harmony is definitely a town saga with quite a few different characters. The three stories I highlighted are central to book. It looks as if the next book will highlight other characters that were introduced here and will further develop others. So, if you don't like town sagas this series is not for you. :)

    Reny - wow half a dozen people? That's a small Lakeside community! I'm checking it out now since I'm in the mood for reading Jody Thomas. :)

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  5. The heroine runs a General store so fishermen, postal workers, the sheriff etc stop in to buy food etc. But the year round community is small.

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  6. Reagan has been my favorite character in this series so far. She becomes more developed in the second book.

    I wasn't crazy about Hank & Alex - a little too frustrating for me. I did like the couple in Somewhere Along the Way better.

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  7. Hi Hilcia!
    Oh I've never read this author before, but I like sagas, I love when there's family and friends around in a romance novel.
    I think I'll try to get it...thank you!

    By the way, I don't know where else to put this, but I just wanted to say I already read A Companion to Wolves a long time ago(the book you've put on your 'currently reading book montage') and although it seems strange for a bit, in the end I loved it! It's really imaginative and different and great. I hope you like it too.
    Kisses

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  8. Reny, thank you! I sent for the book! ;P

    Leslie, I liked Reagan the best also! I'm glad she's further developed. I wanted to know more about her past. I'll be reading that next book. :) Alex and Hank? I liked Hank, Alex... really frustrated me too.

    Sonia! I hope you enjoy this series. I'm looking forward to continuing with it and this is a good first book. :)

    This is a fine place to comment on what I'm currently reading. *g* I am LOVING A Companion To Wolves too! I'm almost at the end, but I agree! It really is creative. I love Elizabeth Bear's writing and it just seems as if the collaboration between her and Sarah Monette is seamless in this book. I'll let you know what I think when I'm finished! I glad to hear YOU loved it! ((Hugs))

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  9. I agree with Reny, Twisted Creek!!

    I think Ms Thomas is trying to reproduce the feeling from Twisted Creek in this series and she is successful to a certain degree. I just enjoy her writing style and characters :)

    Alex and Hank though was so-so...

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  10. I am looking forward to the new Jodi Thomas western this month, Texas Blue. The last three books have been about the McMurray brothers. This new book starts the stories about the McMurray daughters and sounds great.

    Her is a review

    http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=8338

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  11. Nath, I got Twisted Creek on Reny's recommendation yesterday! So now I'm looking forward to reading it. So glad you second that opinion. If it's better than this series, I'll definitely enjoy it. Alex and Hank... sigh...

    Reny, Texas Blue! I have some of the other books in my TBR or my TBB list, but haven't read them yet. I've been meaning to start on this series for quite a while and never have... maybe if I start with this book, I'll get to it. Thanks for the review link. :D

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  12. Hi again!
    Humm...so, to keep the conversation about A Companion to Wolves, does Elizabeth Bear only writes fantasy-like m/m books?

    I've read Melusine by Sarah Monette once. It's a dark fantasy story, very rich and interesting. I think You'd like it, try it if you have the chance. It's the first in a series!
    kisses

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  13. Hey!

    Sonia, the answer to that is no. Bear writes fantasy that she weaves with other sub-genres like mythology and sci-fi. She does include sex in some of her books which is unusual in fantasy, but the sexuality is not restricted to male homosexuality. As a matter of fact the books I've read include a wide variety... from straight male/female relationships (Blood and Iron) to the homoerotic and homosexual encounters (All the Windwracked Stars-Edda of Burdens series & A Companion to Wolves), to lesbian, hemaphrodite, asexual, and ungendered characters (Dust, Jacob's Ladder series). And so far I've also encountered some sexual taboo subjects in there too.

    I haven't read Melusine yet, but it's on my list! I'm definitely going to read it. :D

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  14. Ok, thank you...an author to research some more, I've read A Companion to Wolves and nothing else by her.
    Take care!
    ****

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