Review: The Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone

Summer He Came Home by Juliana StoneFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Bad Boys of Crystal Lake, #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Apr. 2, 2013
Number of pages: 386 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Publisher’s website | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Sometimes the best place to find love is right back where you started…

Falling asleep in a different bed every night has made it easy for Cain Black to forget his past. It’s been ten years since he packed his guitar and left Crystal Lake, Michigan, to chase his dreams. Now tragedy has forced him home again. And though Cain relishes the freedom of the road, one stolen moment with Maggie O’Rourke makes him wonder if he’s missing out on something bigger than fame.

For Maggie—single mother and newly settled in Crystal Lake—love is a luxury she just can’t afford. Sure, she appreciates the tall, dark and handsome looks of prodigal son Cain Black. But how long can she expect the notorious hellion to stay?

The last thing either of them wants is something complicated. But sometimes love has its own plans.

My Thoughts:

The Summer He Came Home is part small-town romance, part second-chance love story and part, maybe mostly, a story about what happens when bad boys grow up and become men.

They were kings, and they didn’t know it, or so says one of the main characters, Raine, Jesse’s widow. The story starts with Cain Black’s arrival at Jesse’s funeral, his first time home after ten years.

Jesse and his twin Jake left Crystal Lake for Afghanistan. Only Jake came back. Mac left his home and his abusive father for a high-flying legal career in in the big city. And Cain left first, because his life was his music, and the only way he could find the fame and fortune he craved was on the road.

Jesse’s death found him on tour in Europe. He dropped everything to come back, burned out and almost completely used up. His marriage to a flashy model over in a bitter divorce, and his songwriting partnership finished with an onstage brawl in the middle of concert.

Cain Black arrives in the middle of Jesse’s funeral to celebrate his friend’s lost life, and finds his own. Cain thinks he’s leaving Crystal Lake in just a couple of weeks. Instead he decides that being with his remaining best friends, the men he knows in his heart are still his brothers, is the soul-deep healing that he really needs.

And he’s met one woman, one real woman, who isn’t interested in him for his music or his money. Maggie O’Rourke doesn’t want a bad-boy rocker in her life at all. And she certainly doesn’t want him in her son’s life. She just wants to keep her head down and scrape by.

Cain is too intrigued to stay away, in spite of his mother’s warnings not to hurt the shy young widow.

But he can’t get Maggie out of his mind, so he begins a cautious and careful courtship, not just of the beautiful Maggie, but of also of her precocious son, Michael. Cain’s deepening involvement brings him back into the life of the town, and back into the lives of the friends who need him.

He just brings Maggie back to life.

Then he discovers the terrible secret that she’s been keeping, and he almost loses everyone that is precious to him, just in the moment of discovery.

Verdict: You would think that starting the story with a funeral would be a real downer, but it actually isn’t. It turns out to be a terrific device for introducing all the characters, and explaining why Cain left Crystal Lake and his hesitation at coming back. It works.

Cain and Maggie start out from very different places. He’s a bit selfish about pursuing Maggie. Maggie has a huge secret that the reader figures out pretty easily. She doesn’t want a relationship and is clear about it. Because Cain doesn’t know what the secret is, he continues a gentle, non-threatening pursuit until she is willing to let a kind of courtship start. While he’s sweet about it on the one hand, there is an element that he isn’t clear until the end what he’s planning to do when the summer ends and he goes back to the band. Maggie has a child to consider who has become attached to him.

It is obvious to the reader what Maggie’s secret is. Her previous relationship was abusive. The only questions are whether the asshat is her husband, ex-husband, or boyfriend, and whether he is in or out of prison. It’s all too easy to see that Maggie is afraid of being found.

The development of the relationship between Cain and Maggie, and between Cain and Michael, her son, was slow and sweet, not that there isn’t a lot of simmering sexual tension between Cain and Maggie. A lot of this story is about healing, and it takes a while for Maggie to heal enough to let herself have a relationship with Cain.

However, the sudden arrival of Maggie’s ex and his capture seemed anti-climactic. There was no suspense, he just knocked on the door and started slapping Maggie around. Then Cain showed up and “boom!” the ex was arrested and locked up.

On the other hand, the friendships between the “bad boys”, Cain and Mac and Jake, make a big part of the book. The loss of Jesse is like the ache of a phantom limb, they all feel it. Painfully. I’m looking forward to Mac and Jake each having their own book, because in spite of the sudden ending, I really enjoyed The Summer He Came Home and want to read the rest of the series.


I give The Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone 4 stars!

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Wrong Side of Hell

Wrong Side of Hell by Juliana Stone is a teaser novella for her new League of Guardians series. If you are one of the readers who is duly teased by this link between Stone’s Jaguar Warrior series and this one, don’t worry, you won’t have a long wait. The first League book, Wicked Road to Hell, will be released on April 24.

I was definitely teased. This was a terrific introduction to a new series!

Logan Winters is one of the baddest of all “bad boys”. He’s a hellhound. His job on Earth is to pick up souls marked for damnation, and escort them to their proper place in Hell. If Logan is sent to get you, you’ve earned yourself a spot in District 3. This means you were a very, very wicked person during your life.

Nothing about contract signing or selling yourself to the Devil. That’s not Logan’s end of the business. He handles pickup and delivery. If there is someone handling “sales”, we don’t see that part of the process. And this doesn’t seem like that kind of worldbuilding.

The person we do see is Askelon, except he’d rather be called “Bill”. He cloaks himself in glamour to appear as a short, round middle-aged man, but “Bill” is really one of the most powerful beings in any of the dimensions. And “Bill” bats for the opposite team from Logan’s. I don’t mean sexually, I mean metaphysically.

Logan is a hellhound. Askelon is a being of the heavenly dimension. And one pretty high in the hierarchy at that. Seraphim generally are.

Askelon blackmails Logan into doing him a very, very big favor. Which doesn’t sound all that angelic. He demands that Logan go into purgatory and rescue the soul of a young woman that Logan already returned once from death.

The first time Logan rescued Kira Dove, he spent millenia in The Pit for his crime. (Time passes differently in the infernal dimensions). And he did it because Askelon blackmailed him then, too. Also because the Seraphim convinced him it was the right thing to do.

The same thing is happening again. Neither heaven nor hell should be interfering in one human’s life this much. The Seraphim is convinced that too many fates depend on this one young woman’s survival, and not just human fates either.

Logan tries to convince himself that none of that matters to him. He owes the Seraphim, so he’ll take care of what he has to. But he still remembers that girl, after all those centuries in The Pit.

The difference is, Kira Dove is a woman now. When Logan Winters saved her the first time, she believed in him. She continued to believe in him, and everything she saw when she died that first time and Logan brought her back.

Even though everyone said she was crazy. And committed her for it. Experimented on her. Abused her. She still believed in what she saw, who she saw.

Kira Dove was dead again, but all she knew for certain was that everything she remembered was true. And Logan came to rescue her. Again. But this time, she could fight beside him.

But would he let her?

Escape Rating B+: As an introduction to a new series, this story really whetted my appetite for the first full-length novel. This particular story, although it seems like it resolved to an HEA, also feels like it sets up the series as a whole. I think there are a lot of trials and tribulations ahead for Kira and Logan, even as the focus of the series moves to other members of the League.

Kira reminds me a little of Sarah Connor from Terminator 2, at the beginning when Sarah is in the State Hospital. She has that vibe of “I know I’m not crazy and I have to keep myself strong for the day I’ll need to fight my way out”, but with a hint of vulnerability that Sarah didn’t have or need.

This is intended as a bridge story between Stone’s Jaguar Shifters series and this new series, as Logan appeared as a side-character in the earlier series. But if there are details that I missed, they didn’t hamper my overall enjoyment of the story.