RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Homecoming Ranch by Julia London


Title: Homecoming Ranch
Author: Julia London
Publication Info: Montlake Romance August 2013
ISBN: 978-1611099577
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Homecoming Ranch This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Emily A. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Contemporary Romance category.

The summary: 

A lonely childhood and an irresponsible mother has lead Madeline Pruett to create a predictable, solitary world for herself. But she is shocked from her cushy cocoon when a father she never knew dies and leaves her an inheritance, and two unknown sisters. Madeline intends to fly to Colorado, meet these mysterious sisters, and quickly return to Orlando to close the biggest deal of her budding real estate career.

For years, Luke Kendrick has juggled school and career and rescuing his family from illness, death and financial crisis, all without losing sight of his goals: building and selling his own dream homes. On the verge of realizing his dream, Luke is called home to Pine River to reclaim the ranch his father has inexplicably lost. Luke’s family knows he will put his life on hold to rescue them. . .again.

Luke is not prepared for an uptight yet sexy woman in impractical shoes who thinks his ranch now belongs to her. Madeline isn’t sure how to put order to a rundown ranch, a pair of sisters who do not cooperate, or a place where roads have names like Sometimes Pass and men as ruggedly handsome as Luke Kendrick behave unpredictably.

Sparks fly as Luke and Madeline clash over the future of the ranch. Madeline knows what she wants…until Luke teaches her a thing or two—about breaking down walls, finding home, and the true meaning of family.

And here is Emily A.'s review:

This is a shortish book with a lot of content.  It's a kind of a mess. It felt crammed. Like the author took a lot of ideas and characters shoved them in there. In general, I like books with a large supporting cast, but this felt all over the place. Normally, in a romance the hero and heroine meet in chapter 1 or interact in some way. The h/h in this book don't meet until chapter 4 and have limited interaction in the first half of the book. Literally I made a chart that describes this.

A chart showing each chapter, whether the hero is present or the heroine is,or both, and whether they mention each other - doesn't happen consistently until chapter 5

That doesn't make this book good or bad, but surely it should have some effect on how it's perceived in a romance contest. Another thing that might bother some people is the book is told in both third person limited omniscient and first person from the point of view of the hero's brother. It worked for me a tenth of the way in, when it was explained the hero's younger brother Leo was dying from Motor Neuron Disease (like ALS.)

I usually like characters who sacrifice for the families, but I hated this hero. Luke kept griping about losing his family home, which is also a business. His father, Bob, has sold the ranch because it's too much work with very little reward. Entitled is a word I dislike and think is overused, but it describes the hero perfectly. He thinks he should be entitled to inherit the ranch even though he lives in Denver and is pursuing his dream of being architect and owning his own architecture business.  I think it's fine to have your own dreams and I think it's fine to want to inherit the family business, but it's not fair to expect your 58-year old dad to almost single-handedly run the ranch and nurse your dying brother so you can inherit it, while dealing with physical, emotional, and financial stress when you're not there most of the time. Bob had trouble running the ranch when Luke was in high school, when his brother was healthy and the mother was alive. Bob, by the way, is really nice and wants Luke to “fulfill his dreams.” 

Luke is not only mean and angry with his dad. He is usually nice to the heroine, but I disliked how he acted all superior towards her.  He calls her Maddie after she asks to be called Madeline, which where I'm from is rude. He also lectures about how life is about going with the flow. SPOILER (Highlight to read):  He keeps telling her to go with the flow after she makes a 3 million dollar real estate deal and he, on the same day, was told he was in jeopardy of losing his major business deal and flunking out of business school. HE SHOULD BE ON HIS KNEES, BEGGING HER TO TEACH HIM HER ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS!

The heroine, Madeline, is mostly organized, but goes on a trip with one pair of shoes. (Heels!) I personally recommended never leaving home overnight without at least two pairs of shoes in case you fall in a puddle or pool, especially if your shoes are leather.

This book had a whole mess of side characters, most of whom weren't that likeable. I really disliked both the sisters, especially the “nice” one Libby. Libby has an agenda of flowers, love, friendship, but she is as intractable, controlling, and delusional as Vladimir Putin. She, like Luke and most of the characters in this novel, can't have an adult conversation.

Considering the heroine has a full-time job that makes good money and is able to be self-sufficient you would think she would be the mentor here. But no, because self-sufficiency and being an organized professional are bad things y'all. Time and time again, she is lectured to relax and go with the flow. Everyone lectures and yells at her, and she doesn't have the spine to stand up for herself. I felt at the end both Luke and Libby owed her an apology, but she was the one groveling. Primarily because logic and having a good job always lose out to love and free-spirits. I wish she had a spine to stick up for herself. (That she's a cliché, the emotionally-stunted urban professional, didn't help.)  I also wish that someone else was in her corner.

This book just didn't work for me. The worst part was that it wasn't fun to read. There was too much fighting and drama without it being crazy sauce.  These people need a lot of therapy. There was humor, but some of it didn't work for me. (I particularly disliked the scene where the hero's ex, Julie, let her baby unplug his poor brother's catheter.  Julie is in way too much of the book as it is. I did like the hero's brother – he was very interesting, but didn't add enough to romance.)

I am still not sure if I think either of these two characters belong together. When not talking about the ranch and organization, they have cute chemistry. The sex scenes didn't work for me, particularly as they lacked any hint of protection. Luke seems like the kind of idiot who gets someone pregnant when his life is in shambles.

The heroine at one point plays a game a called “I wish, I wish, I wish.” I wish the hero had done something for her and not just himself. I wish the hero had at least come to Orlando, even if he didn't want to stay, to acknowledge her life had merit. I wish he and Madeline moved there and he flew home once a month when needed. My final wish is that when Leo dies ( sniff!) that Bob gets to start over and be the hero of his own romance.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    DonnaMarie says:

    I wish you had back the time you spent on this. Thanks for taking one for the team!

  2. 2
    LaineyT says:

    @Emily A.
    Sounds like Luke would have hated that you created a spreadsheet for this review…whereas I thought it was AWESOME!! 

    Sometimes romance can work when the h/h are apart for much of a story (a la Sleepless in Seattle) but it sounds like there were way too many other issues going on here that would have drove me nuts too.

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    I love that Emily created a spreadsheet. LOVE.

  4. 4
    LauraL says:

    I have read many of Julia London’s Regencies and have enjoyed them, especially The Last Debutante. Have not felt the same about the few contemporaries she’s written that I have read. And now, I have Emily’s spreadsheet suggesting I would also be disappointed in Homecoming Ranch.

  5. 5
    Jo says:

    Ugh! I’m so sad to see both SBTB reviews were fairly negative for Home Coming Ranch. Different strokes for different folks and all, but I really enjoyed this book!! The real shinning star for me was Luke’s brother Leo. Loved his POV! He added so much wit and insight to the story. Hope some readers will give this book a try. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

  6. 6
    Emily A. says:

    Keep in mind the spreadsheet is only for the first half of the book. The second half came together more.
    (Of course that being said it’s short book.)

    I adored Leo, but he couldn’t make up for the fact that Luke was horrible. Any man who wants someone to have his baby better have his act together. He totally belittled everyone in his life (I left out a scene that bothered when Luke is being an bit of ass to a person who is working for him.)  He needs to get it together. The last review which echoed a lot of mine (except she liked Libby and I didn’t. She mentioned Madeline was bitchy and Libby wasn’t and I had the opposite view of the sisters.). The other reviewer pointed out Luke was manipulative which I didn’t mention, but doesn’t add much to his favor.  Luke kept a lot of things from the heroine and was sort of using her but not really got called out.

    A huge part of my frustration with this book is that a lot of the things that bothered are recycled over and over again in the romance genre. Having a job, being logical, having a plan for life are really good things and important things. Unless you really rich (which these characters were not; the hero has money problems)  than you need a plan in life.  Maybe not a big career plan/ladder, but enough to pay your bills. And logic is good in general in terms of problem solving and the like. 

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