How about a lightning fast (or maybe so not fast), three for one book review? Because that's what this blog post is gonna be. Pro tip: if you're requesting an ARC, maybe make sure it isn't part of a series that you haven't read yet 😅 You'll hear me talk about the Midnight in Dallas series by Melissa Grace on the next episode of the podcast, but here's a little more about the books!
Spoilers ahead for books one and two of the Midnight in Dallas series (Home Is Where You Are and Home Again).
Home Is Where You Are is a dual POV contemporary romance following bakery owner Olivia Sinclair and Midnight in Dallas frontman Jaxon Slade. Liv has given up on her hopes and dreams and is content to focus on the life that she has now. Jax is experiencing a case of writer's block while up against a deadline. When Liv's best friend Ella drags her to a Midnight in Dallas show, sparks fly between Jax and Liv immediately. The two start spending time together and Jax proposes something that could help Liv reach all her dreams, only to have some intimate information leaked to the public that causes Liv to reconsider everything.
Home Again follows best friend extraordinaire Ella Claiborne and Midnight in Dallas manager Cash Montgomery. With Ella's adult daughter Grace leaving the nest for the first time, Ella decides it's time to jump back into the dating pool. Despite still grieving over his wife's passing years ago, Cash finds himself inexplicably drawn to Ella. Ella and Cash find themselves spending some one-on-one time together the night of Jax and Liv's wedding which leads to an unforgettable night together that has them wondering if there is a future to be had. After a devastating phone call, Cash questions whether he is truly ready to move forward with Ella as she struggles to keep their relationship afloat.
Long Way Home follows Midnight in Dallas bass player Derek Knights and former Chicago newscaster and Nashville native Jolene Kingsley. Jo finds herself returning to Nashville after her life in Chicago goes up in flames - literally. Derek longs to be free from the expectations placed on him by those he loves and the past he can't seem to forget. After a chance encounter that leaves them with no way to contact each other, Derek and Jo prepare to return to their regular lives, only to find themselves face to face at Cash and Ella's for Sunday dinner. As they spend time together, they give each other the courage to be their true selves, which leads to a heated confrontation and a crossroads that forces Jo to confront the life she thought she wanted against a future with Derek.
There is just something incredibly special about a series of interconnected stand-alone stories that follow different characters. Each of these stories is fairly self-contained since the POV changes from book to book (Jax/Liv, Cash/Ella, Derek/Jo), but the experience as a whole felt more complete having read each book in order. Aside from the fact that I'm incredibly neurotic and need to have read everything that leads up to a book, I knew that I would want to read the other books after reading my ARC of Long Way Home and that it would probably spoil some plot points in the books before so I made sure to read the first two books ahead of my ARC (but you do whatever sounds right to you!).
I loved the use of the dual POV in each of these books! Since we have insight into both sides of the same relationship, we are able to see the motivations behind every action they take. This did also lead to a bit of frustration and a lot of yelling, "JUST TELL THEM WHAT YOU'RE THINKING!" at my Kindle, but I personally enjoy a book that I have to yell at.
As with most romance novels, there is a bit of fantasy sprinkled in when talking about the main characters connecting. Maybe it's just me, but the whole idea of love at first sight is just...not plausible. But somehow each of these characters sees their respective match and they are head over heels and doing things they normally wouldn't do immediately? Don't get me wrong - I freaking love it! It just takes some suspension of disbelief to get into it (which, to be fair, I'm very good at since I'm a Marvel fan and often read fantasy novels).
While I expect quite a bit of sex in romance novels, Melissa's stories focus more on the romance and falling in love that these characters go through. There are still sex scenes, but they are a lot tamer than other romance novels I've read and enjoyed (and there's nothing wrong with that!)
Each of these three stories has aspects that I was able to connect to on a personal level and it made each story more of an emotional experience for me. Even while frustrated with the lack of communication between characters, I was also able to understand where they were coming from because I had been there (or somewhere close) myself before. The heart of these stories are rooted in real human emotion and Melissa is able to navigate that with grace and reverence to the real life pain that people go through.
And this part is just for Mandy: neither of the dogs introduced in these stories dies at any point. If you listen to the podcast (and I assume you do or else why would you be here?), then you know that this is an important trigger warning for her. Since I mentioned sweet Izzy (inspired by Melissa's real life fur baby Izzy!) during Friday's new episode (and since there is a dog on the cover of both Home Again and Long Way Home), I wanted to make sure I mentioned that THE DOGS ARE OKAY.
Home Is Where You Are and Home Again are available now for purchase in paperback and ebook as well as for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Long Way Home is available for preorder now in ebook (with paperback available closer to release date) and will be released into the world on October 4, 2022.