Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Welcome Back

Welcome Back (Smoky Mountain - Book 9) by Lin Stepp

Publication Date: 02/23/2016
Publisher: Kensington Books
Imprint: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 352

(Received for an honest review from Kensington) 

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, itunes

Lin Stepp on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Smoky Mountain

1. The Foster Girls
2. Tell Me About Orchard Hollow
3. For Six Good Reasons
4. Delia's Place
5. Second Hand Rose
6. Down by the River
7. Makin' Miracles
8. Saving Laurel Springs
9. Welcome Back

Coverart: (Click on the photo for a larger, clearer view of the titles in this series)


"Lin Stepp paints a charming portrait of the Smokies, their people, and a wonderful way of life." --Deborah Smith, New York Times bestselling author

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains, Lin Stepp's sweet and touching story follows one woman's journey back to the home--and the husband--she left behind…

When Lydia Cunningham left her husband and moved to Atlanta ten years ago, it was with equal parts sadness and certainty. She loved her home in North Carolina, with its lush green hills and crisp, clean air. And in truth, she still loved John, too. But she could no longer live with her mother-in-law's constant criticism and the distance it created in her marriage. 

Now, thanks to a job offer at her alma mater, Lydia is moving back, renting the old country house where she and John lived as newlyweds. She hopes to strengthen the frayed ties with her daughter, Mary Beth, and build a relationship with her grandsons. As for John--it's clear from the moment Lydia sees him standing in her doorway that he hopes they might rekindle their bond. The spark between them hasn't dimmed--but neither have Lydia's memories of past hurts. Yet in this magnificent landscape that's always felt like home, she might find a way to forgive and begin again…


Lin Stepp continues the Smoky Mountain series with the ninth book, Welcome Back. Readers who love the amazing landscape of the Smoky Mountains will appreciate Stepp's attention to even the smallest details in setting and in the customs and temperament of the area. This is a story about second chances and love that lasts even across the distance. With complex characters and even more complex family dynamics this is a book that won't soon be forgotten by any reader.

What I liked:

I live in Kentucky which happens to not be that far from the Smoky Mountains. When I found this series I was pretty sure I would love it, because I love the area. It's absolutely one of the most majestic and beautiful places I've ever been. Lin Stepp does the setting justice in this series. Description is a powerful tool in the hands of good writer and Stepp proves that if you can do it well, your setting writes itself. Not only do the mountains come alive, but so do the people. It might be easy to write about the colors and physical landscape of a place, but to write about the essence of those who inhabit it with such candor and openness is not easy. Stepp does it well.

When reading a book like this one readers have to have something to latch onto. The characters are extremely important because they usually provide that something. When I read the premise and synopsis of Welcome Back, I wasn't too sure I was going to be able to get behind Lydia and John in the way I had with previous couples in the series. Lydia struggled with her relationship with her mother-in-law and it eventually drove a wedge between her and her husband John. Lydia eventually leaves John with her daughter and takes her twin sons and moves away. I felt like from the git go, that I would not be able to support Lydia's character because she did not stay and fight for those she loved. I also wasn't sure I could support John's character because he didn't go after her. I was fully expecting to not like the book. Lin Stepp however had other ideas.

Once I started reading the book and figured out a lot of things from each of the characters point of view, it made a lot more sense to me and the second chance love story started to take shape in my mind. I could feel Lydia's misery as she dealt with the constant sabotage of John's mother. I was able to see the struggle he went through trying to choose between two people he loved dearly. What a mess! Stepp made me realize that though I might not like a particular action or point of view of character, that still doesn't mean I can't understand it and love them for seeing past it and making changes. 

This is a very good second chance love story and readers will definitely be able to get behind Lydia and John if they give them a chance. I was interested in Lydia's relationship with her daughter as well and seeing how all that played out. Her sons did not want her to move back to area. They were dead set against it and I found that whole dynamic interesting as well.

What I didn't like:

To start with I didn't think I'd like it, but Stepp proved me wrong. I still have a little bit of issue with the whole running away from your problems idea. But that's not really what this book focuses on. It's more about what you do when you realize you made a mistake. It's about the fact that love doesn't just disappear when things get bad. As I continued in the book the love story took form and bloomed.

Bottom Line:

I like it when an author proves me wrong. Stepp did that. I thought her characters would be one way, and they were not. I kind of wanted to dislike them, but I didn't. I wanted to think they were running from their problems and hiding their heads in the sand, but that wasn't the case. A great job by the author, to change my view of the premise. The setting was amazing. I love the Smoky Mountains. The descriptions and attitudes of the area were very well done. A very good book. Looking forward to the next one in the series.

Welcome Back is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Dr. Lin Stepp is a native Tennessean, a businesswoman, and an educator. She is on faculty at both Tusculum College and King University, where she teaches psychology and research. Her business background includes over 20 years in marketing, sales, production art, and regional publishing. But closest to her heart is her beloved series of contemporary novels set in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Visit her on the web at