****Note: This post contains SPOILERS!****
A Place Called Home is the first contemporary I’ve read by author Jo Goodman, whose historical romances, both Westerns and otherwise, I have enjoyed. While her characters often experience dark emotional events, I found that the issues the heroine of A Place Called Home, Thea, was experiencing, to be particularly striking because of the contemporary setting. Thea is recovering from addiction to several prescription drugs, which has a serious impact on her relationship with the hero, Mitch. In addition, her addiction stands in the way of her becoming a co-guardian, with Mitch, to the children of her best friend, who was recently killed. Seeing this type of emotional suffering through a contemporary lens gave me a new perspective on Goodman’s work as a whole, and made me think more about her historical characters.
But back to A Place Called Home. What I enjoyed most about the book was how Goodman handled the specifics of Thea’s addiction. The entire story revolves around it, but it’s not immediately revealed. We first see her through Mitch’s eyes, and he is angry with her having disappeared at a critical time, which affects how we the readers see her. When we see her through her own eyes, it’s clear she’s having problems, but it’s unclear exactly what they are. I began to put together the pieces of what was going on, but the whole story isn’t clear until Thea actually says it out loud. Her addiction isn’t a complete surprise to the reader, but it is to Mitch, and it hits him hard.
Thea’s revelation of her addiction is a game-changer. Mitch and Thea have just had sex for the first time, after years of simmering attraction, which Thea had tried to suppress. After she tells Mitch about her addiction, he has a lot to process. Thea knows that, but she’s also trying to distance herself, for protection; she is unsure yet that she can trust Mitch to love her despite her addiction and the complications it causes in her life.
Neither character behaves perfectly, but to their credit, they both are reasonable human beings about the issue, once they’ve had a little time to adjust to the new knowledge they have of each other, both through having shared a sexual experience and through learning new things that change the complexion of previous events.
“…For God’s sake, Thea, let me at least apologize.”
In the act of pulling her bag and purse from the backseat, Thea paused. “I meant it when I said I don’t want an apology, Mitch. I told you what I was and I made a point of asking you not to forget.” She shrugged lightly, putting effort into carelessness. “I just didn’t anticipate it being thrown back in my face, is all. It’s a good thing to know it can happen.” Thea slung her purse over her shoulder and clutched the bag under one arm. “Thanks for the lift.” She hopped down, sank halfway to her knees in snow, and still managed to smile brightly. “Bye.”
…Mitch wasn’t at all clear about what he wanted to say to her; it was more that he wasn’t ready to say good-bye. It bothered him most that she wouldn’t let him apologize. He had been so out of line saying those things to her. Just thinking about the words he’d hurled at her made him squirm uncomfortably. She’d taken it on the chin, not even flinching from the flailing he’d given her, but he knew he’d hurt her. It was more than the words he’d flung at her head; it was the fact that he had flung them. Thea had trusted him with something important and personal about herself and at the first opportunity, he had used that knowledge to shame and disrespect her. So what was it that he wanted by making the apology? It seemed pretty clear to him that he was seeking absolution for himself, not for the words he’d used. Thea had known it, too—long before he had—and that was why she wasn’t willing to hear him out. She wasn’t going to play priest to his sinner.
Needless to say, after all that, I could not wait to find out how their story was going to end.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief, May 2012, is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.