Review: Returning Home by Toni Shiloh

~ About the Book ~

Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?

Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Release date:  26 September 2017
Pages:  266
Publisher: Independent

Amazon US  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

Evan let out a whoosh of air. Jo Baker stood illuminated in the doorway by the sun’s light. He knew returning home raised the potential of running into his former classmates, but he never thought he’d see Jo again. He figured she’d be long gone by now. The last time he’d seen her, she’d had braces, frizzy hair, and big-framed eyeglasses and was walking across the graduation stage.
The woman standing before him now was a far cry from the awkward teenager he used to tease. It was obvious she fell into the late bloomer camp. Sure, she had dressed in a long-sleeve shirt and overalls, but her curves couldn’t be ignored. Her black hair had been swept into a ponytail. Was that the reason her cat-shaped eyes seemed more pronounced? Gone were the glasses and braces. Her copper-colored skin glowed and her cheeks held a rosy hue.
Was she wearing makeup?
He hid his surprise. He never pegged her as the type to wear the stuff. Despite her shockingly good looks, the venom in her facial expression couldn’t be ignored. Her rich brown eyes seemed to drill a hole right through to his soul. He froze at the shock of her anger. No one had ever glared at him like that. Especially since he had landed in a wheelchair.
“Good afternoon, I’m here to see Mrs. Carter.”
There was no mistaking the frost in the air. Jo’s voice had traveled into winter territory. It took every effort not to gape. He couldn’t believe it. She acted like she didn’t remember him. Acted like she didn’t see him in the stupid chair. Everyone stared at the chair. Everyone.
He puffed up his chest, trying to appear taller. If she wanted to cop an attitude, he could definitely oblige her. “And hello to you, Four Eyes. Although, I suppose I’ll have to find a new name for you.” He gestured to her face, referencing the lack of glasses. Hopefully the snide look on his face came across as strongly as he intended it to.
“Ah, still up to your old ways, I see. Why did I ever imagine you could have grown up?” She walked right past him as he struggled to move out of the way. He rolled backward and let go of the door, hoping the weight would close it.
He turned around and found her waiting impatiently. So, she did remember him. How dare she act as if seeing him in a wheelchair was an everyday occurrence.

~ Review ~

Well, the sparks sure do fly in this novel—once the frosty atmosphere lifts for long enough for them to light up, anyway! Jo Ellen Baker and Evan Carter seem to have enough angst in their lives without adding each other into the mix, but that’s exactly what happens when Evan has to return home and Jo is asked to do the renovations that will better accommodate his new situation. What’s more, neither of them is happy with God. Evan is angry about his accident, and Jo resents the fact that she’s lost the one person in her life who accepted her the way she is. And if her mother is an example of what God is like, Jo’s not interested in Him anyway.

Forgiveness and trusting God through the hard times are major themes in this story, both for Jo and Evan, and for some of the secondary characters. One of this novel’s strengths was the way in which the characters explored these tough issues through their Bible study group, only to discover that applying what they’re learning in their own lives isn’t always easy. Anyone else able to relate to that? 😉

Another thing I appreciated was that the focus wasn’t just on Jo and Evan’s relationship. There’s a lot of friction between Jo and her mother and sister (both of whom I could have happily strangled at various points in this story!) and Evan has to work through the emotional and physical struggles that follow his amputation. And, of course, the path to true love isn’t going to be smooth for characters as strong-willed and sparky as these two! But as they mature in their walk with the Lord, they also mature in their relationship with each other.

If you’re after a contemporary romance with flawed but relatable characters and strong spiritual growth, then this is your book.

I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.

~ About the Author ~

SONY DSCToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the president of the ACFW Virginia Chapter.

Connect with Toni:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Pinterest

Posted by Katie Donovan.