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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

'Called Home: Two Hearts Answer' by Gloria SCHUMANN

Received from the Author

From the BLURB:

The simplicity of rural life spirals into deadly mind games.

Emma Benson's view of life was crafted as a child by the death of her brother, the abandonment by her father and later, the man she trusted she would marry. A teacher by training, she forgoes her chosen path to save the Wisconsin farm she calls home from financial ruin.

A tornado threatens damage, but David Schlosser—back in town after years in New York writing best-selling novels—could ruin her neatly tended life. He's looking for the charms of the small town he once rejected and finds more than he bargained for. He risks everything to get what he wants.

The storms of life throw Emma and David together and into the world of a criminal determined to ruin their plans by any means necessary. Robbery and near death connect Emma and David to their nemesis and during the throes of securing life and limb they make every effort to resist falling for one another.

Emma Benson is feeling a little lost. She is giving up on her teaching career to return to her family home in Wisconsin. She once had little love for the rural Podunk town of her childhood, but after the collapse of her engagement she suddenly feels the need to reassess her life and go back to the beginning. Her childhood wasn’t exactly idyllic, punctuated by the death of her brother and abandonment by her father. But when the family dairy farm faces foreclosure, Emma is happily pulled home to help her mother.

Coincidentally, David Schlosser is also coming home to Wisconsin… and the fortuitous return of the prodigal son is heralded by a tornado. David takes shelter at the nearest farm, the Benson’s (much to Emma’s chagrin).

David extends the olive branch of friendship to Emma, but his efforts aren’t solidified until the night he’s there to intercede a robbery that takes place at the bookstore where Emma works. Thus triggers a series of mysterious and frightening events of vandalism and menace that pose a danger to Emma, and a threat to the tentative romance she has started with David.

‘Called Home: Two Hearts Answer’ is the debut novel by Gloria Schumann.

The novel is a bit of a cozy mystery – heavy on the romance, with a sprinkle of distress and mayhem. I would say the book has a definite ‘Midsomer Murders’ vibe – it’s all about the picturesque village with a murderous underbelly. And really, the small-town setting is one of the best aspects of the book. Schumann really lands the reader in the middle of scenic Wisconsin, America’s quintessential Podunk state. She writes the rural accents with pitch-perfect description, so that even as an Australian I could hear the lovely twang.

The romance between Emma and David is the real focus of the book. Emma has not had many great male role-models in her life. Between her father abandoning their family and her brother’s death, Emma’s life has been irrevocably marked by people leaving her. Add to that her fiancée as the latest man to disappoint, and Emma is a woman with her guard up. Enter David – an A-list novelist who is giving up his New York life to become a writer-in-residence back home in Wisconsin. Emma and David have a surprise meeting (tornado, anyone?) and from that moment David is pretty much smitten with the reluctant Emma. . .

I did think that David’s feelings were a little too spontaneous, especially considering Emma’s treatment of him. Emma is really rude, bordering on awful, when she first meets David. I understand that she has a wounded heart and is determined to avoid further pain, but I couldn’t fathom why David would bother with her when she was so cutting and awful.

Schumann somewhat explains David’s instant attraction when he plays knight in shining armour to Emma during a robbery. Add to that the fact that David himself is surprised at the instant chemistry and the romance becomes more plausible. At some point I just had to put my scepticism aside and accept the romance, and really David is a sweetheart and the romance is hotly sweet;

. . . his depth of feeling for Emma clearly crystallized. He would have never thought it possible for a person to become ingrained into his life in a matter of days, but she had. Now, the fear he felt at the thought of the remote chance of losing her was physically apparent, his head and stomach churned and his pulse raced. However irrational the thought of losing her at this point was, it didn’t matter. It exited. So did the ache in the very core of him.
The mystery aspect of the book is twistingly brilliant. For a long time I thought Schumann had written a very simple mystery, as I was convinced I knew who the one culprit was . . . as it turns out, Schumann wrote a very good red herring. I won’t give anything away, but it was a pleasantly surprising ‘whodunit’.

‘Called Home’ is a lovely little cozy mystery and an impressive debut novel. The mystery aspect a twisted fare, and the romance is sweetly romantic. This is definitely a novel for lovers of the good old cozy!


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