Just Down the Road
By Jodi Thomas
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Jodi Thomas takes readers back to Harmony, Texas, for the fourth time in Just Down the Road. Life in Harmony continues as the community buries Jeremiah Truman at the end of a long and productive life and welcomes into the world Brandy Lee Smith, the new born daughter of Tyler Wright’s housekeeper. Although the stories of favorite characters from other books (Welcome to Harmony, Somewhere Along the Way, and The Comforts of Home) are advanced, the central story of the fourth book is that of Tinch Turner, a grieving cowboy who doesn’t much care what life does to him, a young boy in a desperate situation, and Dr. Addison Spencer, who runs to Harmony in an attempt to seize control of her life and falls for the cowboy and the boy.
Since his wife Lori Anne died, Tinch Turner has just been going through the motions of living, spending too much time in the Buffalo Bar and Grill and ending too many nights with brawls. But Tinch’s life is about to change. First, Addison Spencer, a woman as uninterested as he in relationships, stitches him up and gains his attention. Then, Sheriff Alexandra Matheson, brings five-year-old Jamie Noble, the son of Lori Anne’s half-sister to Tinch. Dead in suspicious circumstances, the half-sister has left her son to Lori Anne and Tinch. With Lori Anne dead, Tinch is the boy’s only known relative, and the men who murdered his mother may be after him. Tinch agrees to keep Jamie safe, but Jamie, intimidated by his new uncle, agrees to stay only if his “angel,” Dr. Spencer, stays as well. Bonding over their mutual commitment to Jamie, Tinch and Addison soon find themselves irresistibly attracted to one another, but Addison believes her escape from the life her father has planned for her is temporary. Any relationship between her and Tinch must end when she returns to the job and the man her father has chosen for her.
Reagan Truman is heartbroken over the loss of her Uncle Jeremiah, the man who gave her a name, a home, and a family. Brandon Biggs, as always, is there for her when she needs a friend, and rodeo star Noah MacAllen seems to be further and further removed from the generous boy with big dreams with whom she fell in love. But there are some surprising developments in this triangle.
Kate Cummings has one final, dangerous deployment that must be completed before she can settle permanently in Harmony with Tyler Wright. Tyler is eager to marry Kate, but Kate seems reluctant. In their relationship, too, unexpected developments bring significant change. And young Beau Yates is impressing a lot of people with his skills as a singer/songwriter. People are predicting big things for him. Woven among these plot lines are bits of the lives of other Harmony characters, the familiar and the new.
Jodi Thomas is one of the best storytellers in genre fiction, and in the Harmony books she has created a town that fits the small-town trend and yet remains a distinctive place with characters who are refreshingly different. One of the reasons I love this series is that Thomas takes the characters who would be limited to secondary roles in more conventional books and moves them front and center to feature their lives and their romances. Tinch Turner is no more a typical hero than is Harmony’s undertaker Tyler Wright, but Thomas reveals both as men with a wealth of courage, tenderness, and romanticism.
Thomas also avoids the common fault of comparing two loves, usually to the detriment of the early relationship. Tinch and Lori Anne were childhood sweethearts who married young and loved one another devotedly until her death. Three years later Tinch is still devastated by his loss. When he falls in love with Addison, he doesn’t see it as a greater, or lesser, love but as one that is different.
He tried to fall asleep, thinking of Lori Anne and all the gentle nights of loving they’d shared. They’d been best friends, forever friends, she used to say. He could read her thoughts, and she knew him so well sometimes he swore they could go weeks without talking. They breathed together, always knowing how the other would act.
. . . They were two halves of a whole. They always had been. When she died he felt like someone had cut him in half and then left him to stumble around.
[Addison} was totally different. Not only did she not know what he thought, but Tinch had a strong feeling that most of the time she didn’t care. Making love to her would never be calm and comfortable. It would be a battle, half surrender, half conquest.
I’d love the book for that treatment alone.
It’s possible to read Just Down the Road as a standalone, but readers who do so will miss much of the richness of the continuing stories. I’m not certain it will be a five-star read for readers new to the series, although Tinch, Addison, and Jamie’s story is enough to make it a strong book. But for readers who already know Harmony, it is one not to be missed. I highly recommend it.