Here is a review I've been meaning to write for a long time. I hope you all enjoy it :)
Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas
published by Berkley in June 2010
Sixteen-year-old runaway Reagan has always wanted a place to belong. She's never had a real home of her own, but maybe she can borrow someone else's. At least for a little while...
At the nursing home where Reagan works, Miss Beverly Truman's fond memories of Harmony, Texas, seem to fill an empty space inside the girl. After Miss Beverly passes away, Reagan travels to Harmony, pretending to be the woman's granddaughter, and is taken into the home of Beverly's surviving brother.
Still, Reagan is afraid to trust the gruff kindness shown to her by Jeremiah Truman and the warm friendship offered by another teenager named Noah, who dreams of being a rodeo star. She keeps her distance from Noah's sister, Alex McAllen, who's the town sheriff and busy with her own stormy relationship with volunteer fire chief Hank Matheson.
But when prairie fires threaten Harmony, Reagan learns the true meaning of family, friends, and home...
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Harmony, Book #1
The Story: The book is pretty much as described in the back blurb. Reagan is 16 with no family and no roots, but she longs for some. She had a friendship with Beverly Truman who shared the stories of her hometown with Reagan and after Beverly's death, Reagan decides to go to Harmony to find a home. Everyone ends up believing that she's a Truman and thus, she goes and lives with Jeremiah Truman, a lonely, gruff, difficult old man.
While Reagan makes herself at home, readers discover the little town of Harmony. Back in the days, there were three family founders: the Truman, the McAllen and the Matheson. All three families are still there, interacting with each other...
My Opinion: I fell in love with Ms Thomas writing after reading Twisted Creek (review here and here). I just loved that book, there was something about it... something very soothing :P After that, I devoured all of Ms Thomas contemporary books :)
I was so glad to hear about Welcome to Harmony. I was very much looking forward to it, especially as it got very good reviews from Holly and Tracy. Unfortunately, Welcome to Harmony didn't wow me as it did them. I wanted to love it so much... In the end, I still enjoyed it, but I thought something was missing. I think it has a lot to do with the fact this is the first book in a continuous trilogy. I'm guessing that perhaps if I read the three books one after the other instead of waiting, I would enjoy it a lot more.
Welcome to Harmony is not a contemporary romance per se. There is romance, but it's not the focus. Instead, Welcome to Harmony is all about the readers embarking on a journey to discover the town, its inhabitants and their relationships. A bit à la Debbie Macomber and Robyn Carr... but Ms Thomas brings in something different with her writing and voice. I feel like all the storylines meshed better.
I really liked Reagan. I thought she was a very brave girl, going after what she wanted... and she was willing to work for it, to make it work. I enjoyed her budding friendship with Noah and I'm really looking forward to see where it's going to lead. Noah was simply a sweet boy with dreams of his own :)
My favorite part of the story was Reagan's relationship with Jeremiah. Everyone considers him as a bitter, difficult man... but in truth, I think he's just lonely. Life hasn't been easy for him and when Reagan comes along, he doesn't ask her too many questions and just takes her under his wing. I loved those kind of relationships, because it proves that you make your own family. It is also always so touching to see a young person bond with an older one.
I'd say my least favorite part of the story was the relationship between Hank and Alex. I didn't like the way Alex acted out... It has to do with her older brother's death and yes, it hit her hard... but I don't know. Hank was a great guy and lucky for her, he never gave up on her. Poor man though, surrounded by women LOL. Loved his relationship with his niece, it was very telling... but I think he needs to be more strict with the others - his mom, aunts and sisters.
There is one last storyline involving Tyler, the funeral home director. I thought his storyline was very interesting. How life goes by something without you realizing it and there you are, 40 years old and all alone. I do hope it will work out for him. Sigh.
With Welcome to Harmony, Ms Thomas created a very interesting world and attaching characters. I liked how realistic it felt, although some aspects made me feel uncomfortable. Harmony is a small town and so, making a living can be difficult at time. Like Hank and Jeremiah, depending on their lands... and with fires raging, they can lose everything in a second. They live a very hard-working life... It usually doesn't hit you as much when the characters are professionals with careers... I mean, yes, they are broke, but you know they'll rebound. However, when people depend on lands and what they hunt... it's more difficult. So yes, I liked how realistic it was, but at the same time, I couldn't help but worrying about them and their future ^_^; I guess it says something about Ms Thomas writing :)
My Grade: B. Overall, I thought Welcome to Harmony was a solid opening to the trilogy. It was all about the town, its people and their interactions and Ms Thomas did a great job. I'm really looking forward to the next two books (Somewhere Along the Way is coming out in November). It didn't wow me liked I wanted, but I don't think it has anything to do with the world building or writing, but everything to do with it being the first book of a trilogy. While it ended on a positive note, you know there is a lot more to come... Sometimes, it doesn't matter when you read the next book in a series, but other time... it's better to read them all at once and that's how I felt about Welcome to Harmony.