Reviewed by Emma Crowley
1945. Finally, peace has been declared. Cathie hardly dares believe that Alex, the fiancé she has not seen for nearly two years, is coming home. And, finally, life can begin again for Cathie and the orphaned baby in her care.
But the Alex who returns is not the kind, loving man Cathie remembers. He’s cold, selfish, sometimes even frightening. So Cathie has a choice: stand by him, and try to contain his violent temper? Or hold her tiny baby close…and run from the man she has yearned for.
Freda Lightfoot is a new author for me although looking inside the front cover of this new release Home is Where the Heart is it seems she has a very healthy back catalogue. She appears to be a prolific saga writer having written several series as well as historical romances and biographical historical books. It's always nice to discover a new author and reading through the blurb for this book I thought I would be in for a good read. Something which would not be too heavy nor too light but would hopefully strike a fine balance between the two. Boy was I surprised by the depth and emotion throughout the book and the superb storytelling. This was no run of the mill simple story, instead the plot was full of twists and turns and full of characters that had you feeling sympathy one minute and then the next you were shouting at the page in frustration because of their actions. I changed my mind numerous times over as to how I wanted the book to conclude almost like our main protagonist Cathie does. Basically this book was a brilliant read that once I picked it up I found it increasingly difficult to put down and read it in an evening it was that good. I think fans of family sagas centred on during and after the war would gobble this up and enjoy it just as much as I did if not more.
The book opens with Cathie Morgan receiving a letter from her fiancé Alex who had been away for the duration of the war. Now he is finally returning home and Cathie couldn't be more excited. It has been two long, tortuous years of wondering whether Alex would survive all the war had to throw at him? Would he return home the man she had fallen in love with? Yes their union was brief before Alex was sent away but the love Cathie has is what got her through the war years and the traumatic loss of her sister Sally and Sally's husband Tony. Cathie did the one thing she knew would honour her sister and took over the care of her baby Heather. The only problem is she never told Alex about this and now Cathie faces the problem of how Alex will react - arriving home to find a young baby in the care of his fiancée. Needless to say miscommunication and mistrust abound.
Cathie's mother Rona is nothing only a selfish person, who has a string of lovers and treats both Cathie and Heather with the utmost of contempt. Poor Cathie, although what she did in taking in her niece was so admirable. Yet her mother couldn't care less and leaves everything to Cathie to sort out regarding the baby and the house. She struggles to get by and to provide a safe,comfortable home and future for Heather with little or no affection or support from Rona. Cathie losing her jobs does not help matters in the slightest. Cathie herself for so long has been deprived of parental love and clearly does not want the same for Heather, Alex will just have to man up and do what is right.
In my mind Cathie really should have told Alex about the baby in a letter while he was away. It would have given him time to become accustomed to the idea and become comfortable with it. I understand it was no mean feat taking on a child that wasn't yours but time would have allowed for acceptance and an embracing of love for Heather and his newly created family. When Alex returns he is clearly not the same man Cathie once knew and danced with in dance halls. Who could remain unchanged after enduring such hardship, devastation and loss with friends killed right before your very eyes? But god he was so ungrateful, mean and lacklustre towards Cathie who was maintaining a balancing act whilst keeping the grief for her sister at bay. Cathie had such ambitious dreams for after the war but maybe they needed to be more realistic and truthfully she should have been more open with Alex. Alex was a completely changed man once he arrived home and sunk deeper into dealings he should have kept well away from. Initially through his letters Alex seemed nice and caring but really he was hiding secrets that eventually came to the front and exposed his true nature. He was a cold, cruel, bully and nothing only a scoundrel and rotten to the core. How Cathie could ever have pictured herself living with him for the rest of her life is beyond me? Alex's actions just proved how unpredictable and irrational he really was if only Cathie could see before things may take a more sinister turn.
There were elements of mystery and suspense within the novel and the cast of supporting characters in the book were excellent. Each had their own storyline which gelled well with the overall plot. Cathie's friends Davina and Brenda seemed quite supportive at first and the scenes where the friends meet for tea and try and discuss their problems and set the world to rights were well written and engaging. But as I have said each character had their story to tell and the more we read the more the characters, their actions and appearances all became intertwined culminating in a brilliant conclusion. A conclusion so far removed from what you would think from reading the opening chapters or even glancing at the cover. I feel that is what made me enjoy the book so much the fact really that I got a deep, gripping read that I wasn't in the least bit expecting.
The cover and the blurb sell the book short, there is so much more going on here than meets the eye. We have the romance element that sagas are famed for but it's not all plain sailing and this non conforming to the rules of saga writing make for a thrilling, gripping read and a heroine in Cathie you will have the utmost of respect for. Freda Lightfoot is an author who I will certainly have to go back and explore her back catalogue as Home is Where the Heart is proved to be one of the best books I have read this year. Make sure you pick up a copy as soon as possible.
Many thanks to Julia at Midas PR for sending me a copy of Home is Where the Heart is and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.