Kate Hesser has been in love with Jase Harrison since he courted her as a teenager. Unfortunately, her broke her heart at a tender age when he left her to return to his jealous lover, Olive Worth. After her grandmother died, Kate was left alone and without guidance, so when Jase came calling one day with a hasty marriage proposal, she jumped at the chance to make all her dreams come true. Regrettably, anything but that happened. Jase dropped Kate at the door of her cabin less than an hour after their wedding, and rode off to join the War for Independence. Six months passed without a single word from Jase until Olive began spreading rumors around town that he was coming home for Christmas - to her. No one quite knows whether to believe Olive, but Kate suspects in her heart that it may be true.
In the past couple of weeks, handsome trapper, John Hunter has come to Kate's aid twice, and decides to also do everything he can to stop Olive's wagging tongue from spreading more gossip. John has loved Kate from afar for years, but never thought that he had a chance with her. Now he will do everything in his power to make sure she has a chance with the husband she has never truly known, but if Jase does go to Olive upon his return, John has every intention of making his feelings for Kate known.
The Homecoming was an OK read, but it had quite a few weaknesses in my opinion. It started off with what was essentially a love quadrangle, which isn't something I typically like in a romance, and I initially had a hard time warming up to any of the characters. Kate seemed very naive and far too quick to marry a man who obviously didn't love her; Olive was a loathsome shrew, who in her jealously, gave Kate no end of grief; Jase was even more detestable for marrying an innocent woman simply to spite his lover, Olive, and never giving Kate the least bit of respect; and John had a pretty sordid past which also included having been Olive's lover. Luckily I did later warm up to both Kate and John. Kate finally grew up a little and saw her husband for the worthless weasel he was, and although in my opinion, John's prior relationship with Olive was a weak and unnecessary plot device, I was able to overlook it when his deep and long-standing love for Kate was revealed along with his tiring of the playboy bachelor lifestyle.
Ultimately, there was enough of an emotional connection between the Kate and John to make me like them, but at times the plot seemed rather forced and contrived. It didn't make sense that Kate's grandmother had ever let Jase court her when she never allowed other young men to socialize with Kate, and she herself said that Jase was just trying to make Olive jealous. Also, everyone in the settlement seemed to know that Olive had slept with half the men in town, but she was never ostracized from social events as one might have expected in a tiny community of that era. In fact, some people seemed to buy into her vicious gossip. In addition, Jase made a laughable comment about not wanting John's leftovers (ie Kate), when even if Kate had slept with John (which she hadn't), she would still be far more pure than Olive could ever hope to be.
There were also a couple of distracting continuity errors which a good editor should have caught. In one scene, Kate is studying John's features while he sleeps and thinking of how his lips had kissed her tenderly, but they hadn't kissed yet. The other is that the back cover blurb has little to do with the actual story and mentions a homestead in Kentucky when the settlement is actually in New York. The Homecoming did not really have as sweet a quality or tone as the first two novellas in the A Frontier Christmas anthology in which it is found. In the end, there was just enough in this story to hold my interest, but I thought it could have been done much better. This was my first story by Norah Hess, but the jury will remain out on whether I like her writing style until I have the opportunity to read more of her works.
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