Title: Welcome to Harmony
Author: Jodi Thomas
Release date: June 1, 2010
Sixteen-year-old Reagan grafts herself onto the Truman tree. She is working at the Shady Rest Home in Oklahoma City when she meets Miss Beverly Truman and listens to her tales of Harmony. Deciding that Harmony sounds like the home she has been longing for, Reagan runs away from the last in a long line of foster homes and runs to this Texas town where time seems to have stood still. She adopts Truman as her last name, identifies herself as the granddaughter of Miss Beverly (who was not really a Miss but a widow), and wins the grudging acceptance of curmudgeonly Old Jeremiah, the last of the Trumans, who lives on the family land. She is befriended by Noah McAllen, the youngest McAllen sprig, a rising rodeo star and an embryonic horse rancher while still a high school student.
Noah’s sister, Alexandra, is the town sheriff, a dedicated law enforcement agent who goes wild every Saturday night in an attempt to escape the guilt she feels over her older brother’s death. Hank Matheson is her Saturday night savior. He struggles to keep the Matheson ranch afloat, care for his flock of female relatives that includes his widowed mother, two maiden great-aunts, two divorced sisters, and a handicapped niece, and he serves as the town’s volunteer fire chief. The flames of attraction between Alex and Hank burn as hotly as the arsonist-set fires they combine forces to fight.
A third story thread involves the town undertaker, Tyler Wright, a shy eccentric whose roots in Harmony are nearly as deep as those of the McAllens, the Mathesons, and the Trumans. He proves himself an unlikely but gallant knight, and his budding romance with an online friend is sure to tug the heartstrings of many readers.
Thomas is a multi-Rita winner and the newest member of the RWA Hall of Fame. Readers unfamiliar with her romances will discover immediately the superb story-telling skills that earned her such recognition. She has the gift of creating characters readers care about. From Edith, the waitress at the Blue Moon Diner with a “good heart and a husband who wasn’t worth the iron in his blood,” the first Harmonite that Regan meets to the strong-minded federal arson investigator, the last character to walk on stage, I loved these people. I rarely think of characters in terms of actors who might play them, but I saw Jason Alexander in every one of Tyler Wright’s scenes.
Welcome to Harmony may not be the best choice for those who want their romance fiction along conventional lines with an unwavering focus on a central H/H relationship, but for those who like a large cast of characters, a small-town setting, and what I call an unconventional hybrid of romance and women’s fiction, I highly recommend the book. I’m a big fan of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River books, Susan Wiggs’s Avalon books, and Toni Blake’s Destiny books. I have added Jodi Thomas’s Harmony books to my list. I’m eager to see loose threads picked up and new threads introduced in this series. I’m primed for Book #2.