The Way Back Home, by Carmen Jenner

The way back home

Grade: A

Doing it at: 79%

Catnip: Marines, Smoking Hot Ex-Military Guy, Wounded Warrior, Southern Boys, Small Town Romance, Strong Female Lead, Doggies, Bed and Breakfast, Sexual Healing, PTSD

Shame Scale: Zero

Book Description:

August Cotton shouldn’t be here. When a tragic accident calls him home to Magnolia Springs, this returned Veteran adds his parents to the list of things he’s lost in recent years, right along with his IED detection dog and his left leg. As the sole guardian of his four-year-old sister, August must rely on his Marine training in raising a tiny hellion who’s as stubborn as he is. But the Corps could never prepare him for this. Nor could they prepare him for Olivia Anders, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to get her way.

As owner of Paws for Cause, Olivia is no stranger to the broken men and women who return home from war. She’s no stranger to broken dogs either. In fact, she’s made it her mission to pair the two and enrich both of their lives, but pairing ornery and aloof August Cotton will take some work. The last thing August wants is some pushy southern woman occupying his parents’ bed and breakfast and forcing him to open up about the hell he narrowly escaped, but that’s exactly what Olivia intends.

They complete one another, and yet they can’t stand to be in the same room.

Can Olivia make this hardened Marine feel again and finally show his heart the way back home?

M: This is the first romance about a one-legged hero that Emily actually liked. She’s a total ableist about her book heroes. Plus the sex is way late and I didn’t even mind. That right there tells you that you should check this book out.

C: I feel a fair amount of shame about my able-ism, and what a bad person that makes me at my core, ok? But I really cared zero percent, because August was gorgeous hulk of sulk and scars and repressed sexual tension. Even with only one leg.

The Way Back Home was so good that I didn’t even realize the sex was late until I looked down and saw I was at 71%. Carmen Jenner is a hero.

M: The Way Back Home is about a cynical wounded veteran and the beautiful psychologist who is determined to heal him with a dog. It’s actually pretty moving you guys.

C: It’s very moving, and it came like that close to breaking my heart.

M: August Cotton (I love that name) has just been forced to move back home to care for his four year old sister after their parents died in a car crash. In his short time as a marine, he lost his leg and his dog in Afghanistan. He’s bitter and resentful, and completely at a loss for how to take care of his four year old sister.

C: It’s the best name. August was a dog handler, and he and his dog swept for bombs. I read this with my own giant beast lying on my legs (he likes to make it so I can’t get up and leave him to like pee or something), and it was making me teary imagining August losing his dog. No wonder he came back such an angry mess.

M: Olivia runs a very successful program that pairs trained shelter dogs with veterans, to help with anything from mobility issues to anxiety. It’s called Paws for Cause and I’m willing to look past the name. She comes to Magnolia Springs to open a new branch of her shelter, and to work with some of the veterans in town. Unfortunately, she arranged to stay at August’s parent’s bed and breakfast for a month. She unknowingly shows up the day of their funeral with a bunch of suitcases, and August is not thrilled.

C: Super not thrilled, like I get that his parents just died, and that Olivia kind of put her foot right in her mouth, but he was EXTRA jerky to her. He keeps being jerky to her, too. Even when she walks into the bathroom and catches him cock-in-hand. I’m a little sad to say she doesn’t get to see that cock again for quite some time.

August does agree to let Olivia stay for as long as she needs to, while she gets the shelter set up, even though he refuses to let her help him or his sister without a fair amount of bluster and bullshit. And its a good thing that he decides to let her stay, because the mean girl who runs the local rental agency keeps insisting that there is just literally nothing to rent.

M: Yeah what was up with that girl? I grew up in a tiny tiny town, and I don’t remember there being any kind of hostility to “outsiders.”

C: Can we talk about how awful most of the people in this town were? Like the Mayor encouraged her to come and set this shelter up, but everyone seems really awful to the veterans who live in the town, and to Livvie who has come to help said veterans try to conquer their demons and not commit suicide. I admittedly do not know what life is like for our ex servicemen, but this book painted an incredibly bleak picture. I wanted to go into the book and like knock some heads together.

M: There’s lots of great small town drama in this book, and I was really charmed by all the southern things. And all of the side characters are really well done – they have their own character arcs, and I cared about some of them as much as the main couple.

C: I adored the side characters who weren’t just being complete jerks, there are some teenage boys who are super charming, and I wouldn’t mind a spin off about the town vet, por favor, Ms. Jenner. He also has a great southern name and a sad back story that deserves a happy ending.

M: She had me at “looks like Matt Bomer.” If he doesn’t get his own book, I will riot.

C: Olivia and August have a wonderful push and pull slow burn, the book is full of long glances, and subtle touches — and fighting that everyone knows is really just flirting. And when they finally get with sexy times its explosive. A hot, brusque, rough first time that was totally worth the wait. Kind of like August himself. Seeing these two people, who both have sad, complicated backgrounds and demons to overcome find happiness was incredibly satisfying.

M: This was only my second book by Carmen Jenner, and I really love her style. Thoughtful plots, well fleshed out characters with minimal Dumb Book Behavior.

C: The only thing I had read by Carmen Jenner before this was Revelry ( go read it, go now!) and The Way Back Home probably could not have been more different. I love them both, and really hope I get more in BOTH series.

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