Hometown Girl – Courtney Walsh – Waterfall Press – Published 19 September 2017
Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.
Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.
Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?
What’s not to love about a book that celebrates life’s challenges, love, the support of a small-town community, and finding your purpose. Hometown Girl takes all these themes and wraps them in a charming novel that combines romance with self-discovery, and even adds a dash of mystery.
Beth never expected to be living at home in the small town of Willow Grove so many years after finishing high school. The plan was to leave town and never look back. But sometimes you can’t predict heartbreak or making some of the biggest mistakes of your life. So Beth is still working at her family’s mower construction company, trying desperately to make up for the errors that cost her family so much. When her sister buys a run-down farm, Beth expects it to go like so many of Molly’s other crazy schemes – nowhere, fast. But instead, Beth is drawn into the project, reluctantly at first, but soon it grows on her. But she can’t restore the farm to its former glory without the help of newcomer Drew Barlow. Drew is tight-lipped about his reasons for being at Fairwind Farm, but events might just work to bring Drew and Beth together, if first they can both work through their pasts.
A charming rural backdrop, a decades-old mystery about a missing child, a run-down farm in need of some serious love, two broken hearts that need mending – seriously, what’s not to love. Courtney Walsh manages to bring all this together in Hometown Girl. I especially liked Beth’s journey towards forgiving herself for her mistakes and coming to accept that the ‘right’ path for her future isn’t what everyone tells her it should be, it isn’t even what she thinks it should be or should have been. Along with Beth’s journey, through alternating chapters we also have Drew’s perspective. Drew is hurting after years of confusion, guilt, grief, and the kind of pressure that should never have been placed on a young child. Returning to Fairwind Farm is his attempt at closure, but it also gives him a purpose for the future.
The romance in Hometown Girl is equally sweet and tortured as it takes Drew and Beth a while to begin to trust each other and open up to one another. I loved the way in which Beth learns to show Drew the patience and understanding he needs, to accept him as he is. Drew in return gives Beth the opportunity to discover who she would like to be – outside of expectations.
I also really liked Beth’s family. She has two brothers and a sister who each have so much promise and potential for stories of their own (please, Courtney? I’m sure I won’t be alone in wanting a whole Whitaker family series.) But if this is to be a standalone, it is hugely enjoyable in its own right, a delightful story.
Genre: Christian contemporary.
Themes: Family, grief, missing persons, crime, memories, farming, forgiveness, faith, romance.
Published: 19 September 2017 by Waterfall Press
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 380 pages.