The best books on amazing homecoming (of sorts) romances

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a girl who loves books, bulldogs, and that first hint of summer. I started reading when I was very young – three years old, according to my mother – but even as an alleged child prodigy all I can confirm is that I don’t remember there ever being a time I didn’t love to read. Nancy Drew was my favorite, which probably helps explain why I write books with redheaded heroines in them. 

I wrote...

A Higher Standard

By E.F. Dodd,

Book cover of A Higher Standard

What is my book about?

The first book in the Standard of Love series, A Higher Standard, is now available on Kindle Unlimited and in print. If you like books featuring strong, independent female leads and the men who love them, then I think you’ll enjoy my books. 

A Higher Standard is about Everest Kennedy’s somewhat bumpy road to love with Gideon West. He’s blown into her hometown of Mimosa with big plans for the little village. Plans that do not exactly jive with what Everest wants for Mimosa, or the horse rescue she runs there. Tempers – and sparks – fly between the two of them. It was described by Kirkus Reviews as, “A charming romance of seemingly mismatched partners rendered with wit and heart."

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of In a Jam

E.F. Dodd Why did I love this book?

Who knew hot farmers with a dirty mouth were my kind of thing? Not me... at least not until I read this delight of a book and met Noah Barden, that is.

Whoo boy... The gist of the story is that Shay Zucconi’s step-grandmother ran a tulip farm in the place she always viewed as her hometown. It’s where she went to high school... and where she became good friends with Noah Barden. Fast forward by a decade or so and Shay gets left at the altar by her truly subhuman fiancée.

While drowning her sorrows on a friend’s couch, she learns her step-grandmother has passed away and left her the tulip farm. With a catch – she’s got to live there for a year and get married in that same year. Guess who’s only too willing to help her out with that pesky little clause?

I love this book because of the way it evokes a sense of place. You feel Shay’s hesitancy to return to her hometown because of what it represents to her. You feel the way Noah is at once at home and still an outsider in their shared hometown. The place itself is a real character in the book, which I love.

It provides a sense of community, good and bad, for each of the main characters. You also get that nostalgic sense of highs school memories overlaid with who Shay and Noah are as adults, which I think Canterbary uses brilliantly to help show the growth of the characters as well as their own ingrained stumbling blocks leftover from childhood. 

Fair warning, though, if you’re trying to cut down on your carbs do not read this book! Noah is not only a smoking hot farmer, he also makes his own breads and jams, so... be prepared for cravings of all kinds, lol!

By Kate Canterbary,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In a Jam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Shay Zucconi's step-grandmother died, she left Shay a tulip farm-under two conditions.

First, Shay has to move home to the small town of Friendship, Rhode Island. Second-and most problematic since her fiancé just called off the wedding-Shay must be married within one year. 

Marriage is the last thing in the world Shay wants but she'll do anything to save the only real home she's ever known.

Noah Barden loved Shay Zucconi back in high school. Not that he ever told her. He was too shy, too awkward, too painfully uncool to ask out the beautiful, popular girl. 

A lifetime…

Book cover of Rock Bottom Girl

E.F. Dodd Why did I love this book?

I know Things We Never Got Over, or TWNGO for those of us “in the know”, has gotten all the love, followed by Things We Hide From the Light, but . . . as good as Lucy’s latest releases are, Rock Bottom Girl is still my absolute go-to book by Lucy Score.

While I don’t normally love it when the heroine comes home practically destitute, Lucy makes our main FMC Marley such a loveable screw up that it doesn’t bother me. Essentially, Marley has come home to live with her parents in an effort to kickstart her life. She’s lost her job, her man and essentially all hope.

Even worse is that her blonde, bouffanted (is that a word) high school nemesis now lives next door and seems to have a perfect life. Add to that she’s forced to take a teaching job (and girls soccer coach position) at her old high school, where Jake Weston – former high school bad boy – is also a teacher/coach.

Seems bleak, doesn’t it? But that’s where Lucy’s true talent lies – in making our down-on-her-luck heroine take stock of the mess she’s made of her life up to that point. Not just take stock of it, but actually own the choices she’s made, while also coming to grips with what she really wants in life.

Including something more than a fake relationship with Jake. Marley truly grows as a person during her time back in her hometown. And so does her relationship with Jake, which goes from fake dating to real love over the course of the book.

All of this is done with the right dose of humor and heart that makes Rock Bottom Girl a perfect hometown romance.

By Lucy Score,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rock Bottom Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Things We Never Got Over

"You may be faking the relationship, but you're not faking the orgasms."

Downsized, broke, and dumped, 38-year-old Marley sneaks home to her childhood bedroom in the town she couldn't wait to escape twenty years ago. Not much has changed in Culpepper. The cool kids are still cool. Now they just own car dealerships and live in McMansions next door. Oh, and the whole town is still talking about that Homecoming she ruined her senior year.

Desperate for a new start, Marley accepts a temporary…

Book cover of Book Lovers

E.F. Dodd Why did I love this book?

This is a bit of a twist on the hometown romance, because our heroine – Nora Stephens – is not a small-town girl, nor does she have any interest in being a small-town girl.

She is NYC through and through and loves her job as a literary agent there. Except when she’s forced to deal with that tight-ass editor Charlie Lastra. God, does she loathe the man.

Her sister, Libby, however doesn’t love Nora’s commitment to her job and city, which is why she insists on a girls’ trip to Sunshine Falls, NC, so Nora can focus less on work and more on putting a little romance into her life. Imagine Nora’s surprise stumbling across Charlie of all people in this sleepy little town.

Turns out, Sunshine Falls is Charlie’s hometown and he’s come back to help with his parents’ bookstore. While Nora might not be coming home to Sunshine Falls, she comes back to herself over the course of the month they spend in Charlie’s sleepy little hometown and discovers that despite her protests, she just might be the ideal heroine... for the right hero, of course. 

As with anything Emily Henry writes, the characters pop off the page in full, snapping detail, and none more so than Nora in all her cutthroat corporate glory. Nora is an amazing character because of the way she fully embraces her independence and does not apologize in the least for her success.

She is a powerful woman, and she wears it as elegantly as she does her couture. Charlie is excellent book boyfriend material, because he loves her drive as much as anything else about her. He sees her for who she is and what she wants and encourages her to go for more.

Plus, the man loves books! What more could you possibly want! These two are an amazing romance couple and it’s no wonder this book has been picked up by Tango to be made into a feature film.

By Emily Henry,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Book Lovers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One of my favorite authors.”—Colleen Hoover

An insightful, delightful, instant #1 New York Times bestseller from the author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation.

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Oprah Daily ∙ Today ∙ Parade ∙ Marie Claire ∙ Bustle ∙ PopSugar ∙ Katie Couric Media ∙ Book Bub ∙ SheReads ∙ Medium ∙ The Washington Post ∙ and more!

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn't see coming...

Nora Stephens' life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream…

Book cover of Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

E.F. Dodd Why did I love this book?

Any and all of Jenny Bayliss’s books can be read at Christmas and leave you feeling just as good as a hot toddy with the perfectly sized slice of spice cake.

Each of her books is a delectable treat and an immersion in the holiday spirit, but Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is my absolute favorite. Probably because I adore the heroine – Elinor Noel, or Nory for short. She owns her own vintage bookshop in London, but grew up in the English countryside.

Her parents’ home was near a posh private school, which Nory received a scholarship to attend. Throughout the years, she’s remained close with her old school chums and now two of them are set to be married just before Christmas in the old castle on the school grounds. 

Isaac has taken over as head gardener for the castle estate. He tormented Nory when they were children, but he’s no longer a kid and neither is she. Their relationship takes a decidedly adult turn during the wedding reunion week, starting with her tumbling into a wheelbarrow of manure. Their love story is sweet and there are certain class/race angles that are handled well throughout the book.

The tension Nory feels with her brother, who didn’t get the same education and has a chip on his shoulder about her “fancy” school friends is well-done and relatable, given how strained some family holidays can become. Equally well executed is the genuine sense of love and affection you get from Nory’s family. They may not understand her choice to live in London instead of her hometown, but they’re all proud of her for doing it. 

The friendship dynamics in the group are great and give you that high school reunion vibe that rings completely true. The spice level on this one is pretty low, but the relationships between all the characters are fully developed and make you want to be a part of this friend group through its ups and downs.

Content warning: There is discussion of suicide, although the act itself happens off the page.

By Jenny Bayliss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meet Me Under the Mistletoe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A city bookshop owner heads to the English countryside for a holiday reunion—only to face her childhood enemy.

Elinor Noel—Nory for short—is quite content running her secondhand bookshop in London. Forever torn between her working-class upbringing and her classmates’ extravagant lifestyles at the posh private school she attended on scholarship, Nory has finally figured out how to keep both at equal distance. So when two of her oldest friends invite their whole gang to spend the time leading up to their wedding together at the castle near their old school, Nory must prepare herself for an emotionally complicated few days.…

Book cover of A Rogue by Any Other Name

E.F. Dodd Why did I love this book?

This is a homecoming book that skews hard in the revenge lane.

The Marquess of Borne had his lands, money, basically everything but his title and a few shillings taken from him by a jackass older aristocrat in a card game when he was a very young man. So, what else is he to do but devote the remainder of his life to revenge against the old coot and get everything back? Which is precisely what he does.

His plan requires a marriage to Lady Penelope Marbury, his childhood friend before he was banished by the shame of losing everything. And now that Bourne is back, only she can see glimpses of the boy that was her friend. The boy that answered the letters she wrote him while he was at boarding school, and she was left behind.

That boy is still beneath the hard shell of the handsome, but cold man before her. And she’s determined to draw him out. 

The homecoming aspect of this story is, as I said, revenge and retribution on those who wronged Bourne as a younger man. However, the real “homecoming” is when he realizes even if he gets all of that back – the land, the money, the esteem – none of it will mean anything without her.

Penelope has become his home, not the things he thought he had to have his entire life. She’s his way back to the boy he was and the man he wants to be. A man who can’t be without her.

By Sarah MacLean,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Rogue by Any Other Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets. . .

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London's most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to an unexplored world of pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London's illicit…

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Book cover of This Animal Body

Meredith Walters

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Neuroscience PhD student Frankie Conner has finally gotten her life together—she’s determined to discover the cause of her depression and find a cure for herself and everyone like her. But the first day of her program, she meets a group of talking animals who have an urgent message they refuse to share. And while the animals may not have Frankie’s exalted human brain, they know things she doesn’t, like what happened before she was adopted.

To prove she’s sane, Frankie investigates her forgotten past and conducts clandestine experiments. But just when she uncovers the truth, she has to make an impossible choice: betray the animals she’s fallen in love with—or give up her last chance at success and everything she thought she knew.

By Meredith Walters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Animal Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frankie Conner, first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley, is finally getting her life together. After multiple failures and several false starts, she's found her calling: become a neuroscientist, discover the cause of her depression and anxiety, and hopefully find a cure for herself and everyone like her.

But her first day of the program, Frankie meets a mysterious group of talking animals who claim to have an urgent message for her. The problem is, they're not willing to share it. Not yet. Not until she's ready.

While Frankie's new friends may not have her highly evolved, state-of-the-art, exalted human brain,…

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