I loved His Road Home SO DAMN MUCH. This is a novella that excels across the board – great characters, great writing, great story, and excellent construction. It’s hard to cram a romance into a novella and have it feel fully developed but this one uses some clever tricks to tell a long story in a short space.
His Road Home is a contemporary and although I don’t read many contemporaries I had to read this one because the heroine is a marine biologist. I have to read and review every contemporary with a scientist hero or heroine. It’s in my Geek Reviewer Contract and also it’s a federal law.
I was also excited to read the book because both main characters are people of color – the heroine is Korean-American and the hero is Mexican-American, and he is missing two legs. The great thing about this romance is that it directly addresses race, class, and disability without becoming a Very Special Episode. It’s never preachy or soapy – it’s sexy and funny and fun while also having some tearful moments (DUDE. HAVE TISSUES AVAILABLE).
Behold the plot. Special Forces Medic Reynaldo Cruz is in Afghanistan and he has to convince an Afghan leader that he (Rey, not the Afghan leader) is married, for political reasons. He has to find a photo of a woman who looks like she might be his fiancée, who is fairly modestly dressed in the photo and isn’t smoking or drinking alcohol, which given the fact that Rey likes to party means most of the girls he has photos of don’t qualify. He ends up finding a photo of Grace Kim, a friend of his sister’s. He photoshops the photo to make it look like an engagement picture, prints the photo and promptly steps on an IED which…I don’t know how to type the noise I made when I read about that. It’s bad. The takeaway here is that Rey isn’t trying to stalk Grace or anything – he’s just trying to get out of a difficult political spot without anyone getting offended or hurt.
But of course someone does get hurt, that someone being Rey, who loses both legs. A reporter takes a photo of the shredded clothes and blood and the engagement photo – so suddenly Grace is getting all these people congratulating her on her engagement and offering condolences and sick leave and her employer sticks her on a plane to the hospital, and she’s like, “WTF?” And when she gets to the hospital to find out what’s going on, Rey can’t talk to her very coherently, because the blast caused serious speech aphasia and he can’t get more than one word or so out at a time. They end up having a running joke about how many syllables he uses, because they are the kind of people who joke about things like that, which is why I LOVE THEM. So confusion reigns, but Grace stays for the one week of her leave, because she doesn’t want to leave the guy on his own in the hospital.
One thing Grace helps Rey figure out is that although he can’t write by hand, he can type. So she goes back to Seattle, where she works as a marine biologist and studies Orcas, and they text each other every day. He works through his therapy, gets prosthetics, and learns to walk, and she texts him about the orcas every day. No, she never becomes sexually attracted to any Orcas. We are denied a crossover with The Orca King. She just does her job and talks about it, which is awesome, because science is sexy.
And then, it’s time for Rey to go home, and someone has to drive him. So it’s road trip time for Grace and Rey, and they argue about race, class, and music, and share hotel rooms, and oh my gosh, it’s just the greatest romance ever because I love these people and I love road trip romances and I just think everyone should read this book immediately.
The mastery of tone in this novella is astoundingly good. Is it heavy? Well, it certainly has heft. It’s about a guy who just lost both legs and struggles to speak and who also has some survivor’s guilt with just a dash of PTSD. And yet overall the book is fun and sexy and funny. Neither Grace nor Rey are very interested in drama and they aren’t much for wallowing. So yeah, you’ll want tissues. You’ll be emotionally involved in this book. I cried just reading the freaking introduction. But the book never depressed me. I was entertained and inspired, but not in a treacly way. Rey and Grace never stop having fun together and that means I had fun, too.
There’s a couple of things that the author leaves out of the story. I missed them but I also liked the fact that they were missing. First of all, we never see a scene in which Grace finds out why everyone thinks she’s Rey’s fiancé. Of course I would have liked to have seen that play out, but there was also an advantage to not seeing it. The author just matter of factly states that as soon as Rey could type a message to Grace he explained what had happened, like any sensible person would do. The fact that there’s no drama to report says a lot about both characters. He explained as soon as he could and she understood. Grace is a pretty levelheaded individual and it’s actually a fairly simple situation.
The other thing we don’t see is Grace or Rey struggling with Rey’s altered appearance post-amputation. The first time Grace enters the hospital, she sees a different person’s amputation site and it freaks her out a little. But by the time Grace and Rey have sex, they both accept the amputations as just part of Rey’s body, matter-of-factly. On one hand, I think it could have added a very honest, human element to the story to show Grace going from being off-put by amputation sites to simply accepting them. But there’s also something interesting about skipping that transition. Presumably, after Grace spends some time in the hospital, she becomes accustomed to what Rey looks like, and Rey’s stumps are simply a part of his body, a body that she loves. They do have some issues with sex related to balance, his meds, and his brain injury, but no problems with body image, and I found that to be refreshing.
This book is beautifully developed even though it’s short. There’s a solid cast of supporting characters and there’s a great sense of history behind the lead characters. This is one of my favorite couples, ever because they had so much chemistry – not just sexual chemistry but that ease that comes between friends. The joke around, they confront problems, and they clear up misunderstandings promptly. The closing scene between Rey and Grace is so freaking romantic I could pass out. I’m giving this book an A instead of an A+ because in my brain I think that there are some places where the book could have been exapnded, but in my heart it’s an A++++.
Would you like to win a copy of this book? We're hosting a giveaway – have a look.
And if you're thinking, NO RIGHT NOW I WANT A COPY RIGHT THIS MINUTE GET OUT OF MY WAY, His Road Home releases
tomorrow TODAY! (My bad!). You can find it at Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks