By: Lin Stepp
Publication Date: 2/23/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
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…
A special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Southern storyteller, Lin Stepp delivers another charming tale in the Smoky Mountain Series, WELCOME BACK, a journey of second chances, forgiveness, family and some rekindled romance. Lydia Cunningham moved on years ago, leaving her husband, John and daughter, Mary Beth behind in the mountains of North Carolina for a job opportunity at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. She still loved her husband, and her home; however, she could no longer tolerate her difficult mother-in-law’s (Estelle) constant criticism and the interference in their lives. She had reasons for leaving the farm. As the book opens, Lydia is leaving Atlanta behind and her sons to return to North Carolina. Her sons—JT, Billy Dale (Will) and Parker are not happy about it. They are concerned about their mother, subjecting herself to more hurt. John is estranged from his wife and sons. Lydia has taken a job at Western Carolina University and is renting Hill House, located on Cunningham Farm, where her husband and daughter live. Not divorced, yet it has been ten years. They wanted different things. Her sons had gotten educations tuition-free. Cunningham Farm is known for its calicos and collies, and its old historic apple orchard which has been in the family for many generations. There is also a ghost. Many legends about the Cherokee Indian Red Haw and Nance Dude. (if you have been to the area, you are aware of the history) When she returns to Cunningham Farm in the Maggie Valley of Western Carolina. She finds some things the same and other things have changed. Her husband John is different now. Lydia has happy memories and she gets to spend time with her grandsons, (twin six- year- old boys) Billy Ray and Bucky. She is now Nana Lydia. They call John, Daddy John. A back story here. It may be time for starting over, since Estelle has passed. Renting the house will help out financially and give her the opportunity to rebuild relationship with the father of her children and her daughter. Readers also hear viewpoint for each character’s perspective and the choices made at the time. Possibly a spark is still there and they both have changed. New respect for one another? Can they forgive and a second chance? As always,Lin brings the characters to life with vivid settings, and an important takeaway message. A novel of family, history, loyalty, forgiveness, and acceptance infused with Christian faith. Having lived in Atlanta and North Carolina, always enjoy the settings and catching up with familiar places and characters. I prefer Highlands and Cashiers area of North Carolina: however, recall years ago taking my young sons to Maggie Valley’s Ghost Town in the Sky and Santa's Land Theme Park & Zoo in Cherokee. (30 yrs ago)
Praise for Lin Stepp and her Smoky Mountain Novels
"I've finally come across someone that believes in all the things that I do…love, family, faith, intrigue, mystery, loyalty, romance, and a great love for our beloved Smoky Mountains." --Dolly Parton
"An amazing storyteller...The romance exhibited is pure, natural and heartwarming." --RT Book Reviews
"A lovely sense of place…capturing the sights and sounds of Tennessee's breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains." --Booklist
Lin Stepp paints a charming portrait of the Smokies, their people, and a wonderful way of life." --Deborah Smith, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Dr. Lin Stepp is a native Tennessean, a businesswoman, and an educator. She is on adjunct faculty at Tusculum College where she teaches research and has taught a wide variety of psychology and counseling courses for over 16 years. Her business background includes over 25 years in marketing, sales, production art, and regional publishing. She has editorial and writing experience in regional magazines and in the academic field. Stepp has nine published novels each set in different locations around the Smoky Mountains.
Her novels published by Kensington Publishing include Down by the River (June 2014), Makin’ Miracles (January 2015), Saving Laurel Springs(October 2015) and Welcome Back (March 2016) as well as a short novella A Smoky Mountain Gift included in the 2014 Christmas anthology, featuring Fern Michaels, and titled When the Snow Falls. Previous titles include: Second Hand Rose, Delia’s Place, For Six Good Reasons, Tell Me About Orchard Hollow, and The Foster Girls. Stepp and her husband have published a Smokies hiking guide titled The Afternoon Hiker (2014). Read More