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on 22 March 2014
Ali and Jericho Silver married young—perhaps too young. Their marriage was wrought with struggles right from the start, exacerbated by family animosities and Jericho’s drinking problem. When Jericho walks out on Ali just after she discovers she’d pregnant with his child, Ali decides it’s for the best. She devotes the next seven years to raising her son, Chance, as best she can, while taking over her family’s ranch and turning into a stable that can provide equine therapy for children with learning disabilities. Just when her life seems to be on track, Jericho unexpectedly returns to town.

Jericho has had plenty of time to get his life together, but he hasn’t been confident enough to return home to Ali until now. Having kicked his drinking habit and found faith in God during his time in the army, he hopes that Ali will take him back. His plan to reunite his family is disrupted when he realises that Ali is now a mother. He’s not sure if Chance is his biological son, but Jericho is committed to loving him whether he is or not. But Ali doesn’t know if she can trust Jericho to be a responsible husband and father, especially after he’s been gone for so long. She knows she should forgive him, but she’s carried the immense burden of pain for so long that it’s hard to truly let go of it.

Is there any hope of happiness for Ali and Jericho, or will their past hold them back?

Writing a compelling romance with a hint of mystery and a handful of fleshed-out secondary characters is tough to do in 224 pages, but Home for Good surprised me with how much it packed into so little space. Writing such short novels is a skill, and I sometimes find Love Inspired novels rather hit-or-miss because of this. Fortunately, Jessica Keller’s debut is definitely on the “hit” side, and I’m glad I took a chance on this novel.

I definitely prefer small-town or country romances to those set in cities or exotic locations, and Home for Good fits the bill with the ranch setting and all of the family members and ranch employees who flit in and out of the story. I was a little wary of the details about the equine therapy, but that side of the story turned out to be pretty fascinating. Although I grew up half a mile away from a riding stable, I’ve never been terribly interested in horses, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the details about Ali’s work. I appreciated that Jessica took the time to introduce different ranch employees, as well as Ali’s sister. Even if Ali is a single-mother, it’s clear that she’s had a lot of support when raising Chance, which is why Jericho’s arrival in town throws her into a loop.

Ali’s situation is difficult, given how much she’s changed in the seven years Jericho has been gone, and it slowly emerges that they had plenty of problems even before Jericho left. She might not have signed any divorce papers, but it’s pretty clear that Ali has given up hope of reconciling with Jericho. I thought I’d be annoyed by Ali’s staunch refusal to let Jericho back into her life (in spite of her son’s meddling and Jericho’s determination) but the more I got to know her, the more I understood her fears.

Ali and Jericho’s situation lends itself to a beautiful message about forgiveness. Forgiveness might be a slightly predictable topic for a Christian novel, but I loved that Home for Good focused on the benefit to the forgiver, as well as the one being forgiven. Withholding forgiveness and bottling up bitterness can be incredibly damaging, and it can almost become a way of life if such feelings are clung to for many years. Ali is in danger of becoming one with her bitterness if she doesn’t let go of the hurt Jericho caused her seven years ago. Forgiveness isn’t an instantaneous occurrence, especially for someone like Ali, but even making the smallest step can be incredibly liberating. I was touched and encouraged to witness Ali’s journey.

As well as the main storyline about Ali and Jericho getting to know each other again after seven years, and Jericho trying to figure out if Chance is his son, Home for Good also packs in a little mystery about someone sabotaging Ali’s ranch. I had my suspicions about one character fairly early on in the story, but I did get swayed away by a red herring at another point, so the suspense definitely kept my interest! My only complaint about this part of the story is that the motivations of the “red herring” character (who wasn’t entirely squeaky-clean, even if he wasn’t the saboteur) didn’t seem entirely believable. Likewise, his friendship with Ali didn’t sit entirely right with me. Although I can understand a struggling single mother accepting any help that comes her way, he was rather pushy and demanding of her, and I didn’t entirely buy Ali not standing up to him early in the story.

Although Jericho and Chance have the opportunity to interact with each other from very early in the novel, Ali holds off tell Jericho that he’s Chance’s father until she knows she can trust him and accept him back into her life. Since it takes so long for this revelation to be made, it feels a little anti-climatic, since Jericho has pretty much figured it out by then. Although he seems momentarily stunned by the news, it didn’t seem entirely realistic, given that he’d been thinking about the possibility of being a father for most of the novel. I understand why Ali didn’t tell him until then, but the revelation wasn’t quite as dramatic as it had been built up to be.

There may have been a few, small details about Home for Good that weren’t perfect, but otherwise this is a fantastic debut novel. The sweet romance, engaging secondary characters and pinch of mystery make for a satisfying read, which is all the more heartfelt for its beautiful message of forgiveness. I will definitely be on the lookout for Jessica Keller’s next novel.

Review title provided by Love Inspired.
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