03 April 2014

Review, Guestpost and Giveaway: His Hometown Girl by Karen Rock

This is my stop during the book blitz for His Hometown Girl by Karen Rock. The book blitz runs from March 31 till April 13, and you can view the complete blitz schedule on Lola’s Blog Tours.

He'd always managed to best her…

Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co-op plan. And he's not playing fair.

Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that's always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?



5 Words: Heartwarming, family, friendship, love, loyalty.

This was a particularly sweet story.

I liked Jodi right from the start. She'd been through so much but was so strong and she knew her priorities. Her ex-husband Peter was a complete and utter arsehole and men like him should just be chemically castrated because they don't deserve to have children. I felt very strongly about how Peter acted and treated Jodi and Tyler and it riled me up a little. Ok, more than a little. The scumbag.

Daniel was an interesting character and my views on him did chop and change - but ultimately I quite liked him. He too knew what he wanted and was determined to get it.

I loved the relationships between the characters. I loved all of the conflict. But most of all I loved how Jodi loved Tyler so so much. She'd do anything for him and it really was heartwarming. You learn a lot about love from Tyler.

I loved the ending too. It just fit so perfectly into the story that it couldn't have worked any other way for me. But I don't want to spoil it so you'll have to read for yourself.

Pick this book up if you need your heart to swell and to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's a great read.


Karen Rock Farm Anecdote: The Proof is in the Salsa

Although I wasn’t raised on a farm, I spent every Sunday and lots of weeks in the summer on my grandparents’ Century dairy farm in Malone, New York. A Century farm means that it’s a farm that’s been owned by the same family, continuously, for over a hundred years. My family had raised cattle on that land in upstate New York for over two hundred plus years. It always gave me so much pride whenever we took the turn up their long, sugar maple-lined drive because I’d imagine that Almanzo Wilder, another Malone farm kid, would have grown up seeing the same things I did. As a huge fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Little House on the Prairie, this meant so much to me.
Although there were lots of things I loved doing on the farm, spending time with neighbors was also a big favorite. There were lots of excuses to get together and the best ones involved potluck suppers. While these gatherings were friendly affairs, there was something a bit electric and competitive feeling about those suppers. Women brought their best main courses, side dishes and desserts and anxiously watched to see that their pan was scraped clean. My grandmother was just as eager to have her cooking skills praised and/or recognized as the rest. Whenever a potluck approached, we’d spend lots of time discussing what she’d bring… everyone loved her three bean salad, but last time Nancy Martineau had brought the same dish which meant we’d come home with- gasp- leftovers. That could not. Would not. Happen again.
We’d picked blackberries and her cobbler could not be beat, so we were all set for bringing a desert. As for a main course, we settled on meatloaf with a sweet ketchup sauce on top. It wasn’t my Gram’s favorite thing to make, but Bernice, who usually provided this staple, had broken a hip and no potluck was complete without it. As the Vice President of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter (DAR), my grandmother had the clout to fill Bernice’s shoes- temporarily. But a side dish… the agony… what if Nancy breeched the unspoken etiquette of who brought what and produced another three bean salad? Gram could make coleslaw but another neighbor always made that. The same was true for potato salad, pasta salad and fruit salad. Pistachio and Ambrosia salads were also popular but other ladies had claimed those long ago too.
So perhaps a hot dish? I voted for scalloped potatoes but Gram reminded me that Marlene always made them. When I suggested baked beans and bacon, the green bean salad topped with fried onions, or creamed baby onions she just shook her head sadly. Nope. The politics of a potluck supper ran deep. It was an insult and a bit of a challenge to bring the same dish another neighbor was known to contribute. Yet we needed something extraordinary to avoid loading a half-filled aluminum tin in the back of the pick-up on the way home.
Then it came to me. Salsa! We’d been picking tomatoes for days. Jarring them too. And since we also had fresh peppers and onions, we couldn’t miss. When I suggested it to Gram, she looked puzzled and shook her head. It would stick out. Sounded too exotic. People wouldn’t know what to make of it. But I pressed on, certain that our old-fashioned Yankee potlucks could use a little updating- though I never wanted us to lose the bread pudding or banana cream pies! Finally, if only to make me happy, she gave in and we took a rare trip into town to get some cilantro, hot sauce and tortilla chips.
We ran into Marlene who was very curious about what we had in our shopping cart by the way she kept looking. But I had to hand it to Gram. Once she committed, she was all in and didn’t give away a thing other than to observe that – yes- the corn was coming along nicely this season. I could have laughed at the shocked look on Marlene’s face when she caught sight of the hot sauce jar.
Back home, we chopped, diced and mixed and the smell was so good even my Uncle Bob, a notoriously picky eater, wandered into the kitchen to investigate. We set the bowl in the ‘fridge and, since I was spending the night, went to sleep. The next morning, I rushed to the kitchen to find Gram with her head stuck inside the refrigerator, checking on the salsa. It smelled even better than yesterday, but she decided, after tasting it, to add a little sugar to sweeten it. Gram was never big on measuring. She tasted, she looked and she smelled. That’s how she cooked and despite the lack of scientific measurements, her dishes won prizes at fairs and were the talk of potluck suppers. She was widely known as one of the best cooks in the county. Would her reputation stay intact after this risky potluck contribution?
At the supper, long foldout tables were laid out, end to end in a long ‘L’ shape with deserts down on one end, main dishes at the other and the sides in the middle. We arrived early to set up and I noticed that, although Gram had set out her meatloaf which earned her cautious praise (no one dared say it looked better than Bernice’s), and her berry cobbler, the salsa was nowhere to be found. Had she left it in the truck? After a quick trip to check, I came back empty handed. We’d worked so hard. Maybe we’d left it at home. My heart sank. I just knew people would have liked this new treat and now they’d never taste it.
Locals filed in and the noise grew even louder until the minister raised his hand for the blessing. We all bowed our heads, though mine was already low. I barely listened for thoughts of the salsa until I heard him actually say the word. Salsa. What’s more, he mentioned me. He was giving thanks to me for bringing my first dish to the supper and when I peaked up I saw my grandmother behind the table, her sparkling eyes meeting mine as she nodded at the bowl on the table in front of her. The salsa!
After grace, I joined her to help serve, and she told me she’d wanted to surprise me. I was so happy that my feet didn’t feel connected to the ground. Even better, people were lining up to taste this fresh garden salsa… and coming back for more. Suddenly, I felt the pressure and responsibility of having brought a tasty dish. It wasn’t until someone scooped out the last spoonful that I breathed easy and shared a jubilant hug with Gram. I’d done it! My contribution was a hit- especially with the men who confided that they liked spicy food- something you rarely heard up North.
The ride home was full of excited chatter… mostly mine. Uncle Bob asked me if we’d kept any more of the salsa back home and I promised him I’d make more. In fact, from there on out, I always made salsa for potlucks. It became my dish. While I never quite earned my grandmother’s reputation as a great cook, I was happy to contribute to our neighborly gatherings. It’s the best part about being in a close community like ours.

GIVEAWAY

How about an international giveaway to celebrate this lovely, sweet book of love and loyalty? Here's what you could win...
  • Grand Prize: $50 gift card and a signed copy of Karen Rock's earlier Heartwarming, Wish Me Tomorrow and her YA contemporary romance, Camp Boyfriend.
  • Two runner-ups both win a 15$ Amazon gift card

9 comments:

  1. This book looks beyond cute. I really want to read it. Great post :)

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

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  2. You make me want to read it soon! Thanks so much for sharing!! I'll try to consider this in my reading list! :D

    by the way, I just started a book blog myself. Could you please check it out? If you want to follow each other, please let me know so I could do it immediately! Thanks again!! xx

    MY BLOG: jilliansbooks.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for sharing the link, Jillian. I will definitely check it out :) I hope you do get a chance to read the book. If you are ever looking for a guest post, please let me know- karenrock@live.com. Have a great weekend!

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  3. Thank you so much for this lovely review :) It mean so much to me because my niece, like Tyler is autistic, and these children can teach us so much about love, as you astutely pointed out!!

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  4. I love the Salsa story, Karen, and the book sounds great.

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  5. I love this premise. As a teenager, I had a secret crush on the smart guy at school who always competed with me on grades. Alas, he never knew.

    http://bethcarpenterbooks.blogspot.com/

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  6. Nothing is better than fresh salsa--my only craving when I was pregnant:)

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  7. It sounds like you are a blue ribbon writer who has achieved great success, Karen. I'd like to read your book because I have a grandson who walks for Autism,(he has Asperger's Syndrone).. Now I'm trying to find out how to enter your contest!

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Thank you so much for your comment.

If you've left a link back to your own blog, expect a visit from me very soon - I spend pretty much all day reading blogs and taking part in bookish discussions!