Homecoming begins immediately following the conclusion of the previous book, where we find several of the Stewart Mills residents in the hospital following the aftermath of Coach McDonnell’s apparent heart attack on the football field. While recovering, Coach wants Sam Leavitt, former Eagles championship quarterback, to come home from Texas and coach the team. Even though Sam agrees, he does so knowing it is temporary because he will never move back to Stewart Mills, the place of his nightmarish childhood.
Jen Cooper grew up in Stewart Mills and loves her job as the high school guidance counselor. After her amazing one-time hookup with Sam back in the summer when he was home (for the first time in over a decade) for the football team fundraiser, Jen never wanted to see bad boy Sam again. Yet when he shows up in Stewart Mills to stay for a while, Jen isn’t sure she can deny their strong attraction.
Homecoming is the third (and presumably final) chapter in the Boys of Fall series, which features the goings-on of small-town Stewart Mills, NH. The town fell on hard times a while back, and I love how the town finds joy and regains hope through their high school football team. I like that while each book is a standalone, each builds upon the previous as far as character development. By the time we get to this third book, I care about each of the characters. I also like that we see the town mend and grow. The tone of the books progressively become more positive and hopeful because of the changing circumstances.
Overall, I loved Jen and Sam individually and as a couple. Both have their heads on straight and don’t tend to do ridiculous things or make silly relationship mistakes. Jen rocks and has her life together, which I appreciate. I love that she’s smart and caring, which is perfect since she is a respected guidance counselor. What I admire most about her character is that she THINKS like a counselor. She isn't making stupid decisions or letting Sam get away with crap. Ms. Stacey carried her personality through every action and decision.
And Sam is also a good, smart guy. While he does have a rocky past, he’s learned to deal with it like an adult. He takes into consideration others and how his actions will impact those closest to him. And while he still deals with lingering negativities from his youth, he doesn’t let the dark thoughts control his actions. This is SOOOOO refreshing. Homecoming chronicles Sam’s growth as he learns what it means to forgive his alcoholic mother and coach these young, impressionable boys.
Another great aspect of this book is the humor, which felt so much more than what was found in the first book. This is probably because of the football team’s success giving the town hope. Here is one example that made me laugh:
As Jen walked around the truck, she heard Sam talking to [Police Officer] Kelly. “Can you turn the lights and siren on?”
“No, you’re not getting a police escort to O’Rourke’s.”
“If I go first, then it’s more like a police chase than a police escort.”
“Get in your truck before I shoot all your tires out and leave you here while Jen and I go have burgers.”
There were only a few small things that detracted slightly. One very small hang up is what creates a wedge between the pair near the end of the book. I wasn’t happy with how cut and dry Jen was about the issues, apparently unwilling to even consider how to make things work. While I do agree they could have dealt with it by talking it out, I think that the reactions were true for the characters. Change is very hard, and most people's first reaction is to resist it and find reasons why it can't happen.
In the end, Homecoming is another wonderful small-town romance from Shannon Stacey. Ms. Stacey creates lovable, relatable characters and gives them life through her magnificent storytelling. This story is not only a wonderful romance, but also a heartfelt tale of man, and town, healing the wounds of the past.
My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot
Review copy provided by publisher