Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.
Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.
Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.
RETURNING HOME is the first book I've read by Toni Shiloh but it won't be my last. It is the first book in the Freedom Lake series. Once I started reading, I was emotionally invested in all of the characters and what they were going through. They are all facing struggles, both past and present, and are all pretty stubborn. Jo Ellen can't believe that the boy who teased her in high school is back in Freedom Lake. When his mother reaches out to Jo to help Evan with housing Jo finds herself struggling with her feelings for Evan and wonders how she got herself in this situation.
RETURNING HOME is filled with friendship, faith, forgiveness, family, humor, second chances, and romance. Many of the characters are struggling with their faith and one by one they learn to let go of the hurt from years ago. Evan is not only struggling with his faith but also the fact that he has lost his leg in a car accident that wasn't his fault. He is trying to show Jo that he has changed and he isn't the same cruel boy from high school, but she is afraid to forgive him. He broke her heart many years ago and she is afraid he will do it again. Can Jo forgive Evan and trust in God once again?
I enjoyed every minute I spent reading RETURNING HOME and am looking forward to spending more time in Freedom Lake. If you are looking for a contemporary romance with flawed characters who are relatable, RETURNING HOME is the book for you. Once I started reading I had a hard time putting this heart warming story down. The story of Jo and Evan and all of their struggles really touched my heart. I can't wait to see what Toni Shiloh does with some of the secondary characters in this series.
I have enjoyed every novel that I have read by this author. All are well-developed with well-developed characters that are easy to love, and easy to feel like I personally know them. Like the others, this novel is filled with tidbits & jewels that are inspiring. There are the wonderfully fun phrases like: “her thoughts … they resembled a jumbled-up Rubik’s cube.” And: “Her varying emotions were worse than a Chutes and Ladders game.” And: “words seemed to dance in the air…(like the) floating words in Alice in Wonderland.” And: “the clocks weren’t using their full sixty seconds.” But then the book has so much depth as it deals with loss, anger, trust, and forgiveness, just to name a few. My favorite quote was given to Jo: “worry about pleasing Me.” This book is a wonderfully encouraging, sometimes humorous read! I won this book on a blog and freely chose to leave my own honest review to encourage others to read it.
Grief, loss, trials... they are part of living regardless of who you are, where you are from, or what you believe. At its core, this book is about life and faith and love and the TRUTH.
Jo Ellen Baker was bullied in high school, is nitpicked by her mother daily, and misses her deceased father dearly. Although Jo is blessed to have dear friends and her beloved grandma nearby to love and encourage her, she can't shake the feeling of being alone.
Evan Carter was just as pleased as hot apple pie with a successful career and girlfriend before his life-changing accident. Now he feels like he has lost everything and he is not happy about it, to say the least!
With a great cast, an idyllic setting, and compelling story Returning Home definitely sparked my appetite for MORE stories from Freedom Lake!
I requested the opportunity to read this book through the author. The opinions expressed are my own.
Returning Home is the first book in a new series. It is also the first of this author’s books that I have read. It will most definitely not be the last! The author created characters that I felt immediately invested in. And the community of Freedom Lake, well, I’m wishing that I could go visit there!
The main characters, and even the side characters, faced tough situations both in their pasts and in the present. These various events shaped their beliefs and oftentimes resulted in simmering anger and stubborn wills. I appreciated the clear spiritual thread throughout the novel, as characters worked to understand God and how He had been working in their lives all along, even in the tough times.
I really enjoyed watching the relationship develop between Jo and Evan. They certainly had their ups and downs, misunderstandings, and many romantic moments. I am looking forward to reading future books in this series.
Such a sweet story of forgiveness, working through anger, and growing in faith and trust. Toni Shiloh is a beautiful author who can have you laughing in one sentence and tearing up in the next. Well done!!
Every book I read by Toni Shiloh is heartwarming and engaging, with a gentle romance and a sweet message of faith. Returning Home did not disappoint!
Two flawed, hurting characters struggling in both their faith in God and their trust in each other. I loved that Shiloh didn’t just stick a band-aid on their pain. Instead, she wrestled through it with them and therefore so do we, the readers. It’s an honest look at the tendency to turn our disappointment with life into anger at God.
One of my favorite scenes is when Evan’s dad sees him with his prosthetic for the first time. So tender and moving. For that matter, I love Evan’s parents and even the doctor in charge of his care in Freedom Lake. Jo Ellen’s mom? Well… she and I would have words...
But don’t get me wrong – it’s not a heavy story of angst. There is humor and friendship and family and yes… romance! Evan and Jo Ellen are not lacking in sparks, and that first kiss? Be still my heart and hand me a fan. Also at the heart of this story is friendship. I love Jo Ellen’s friends Michelle and Chloe as well as Evan’s friends Daryl and Guy … and I’m so looking forward to reading more about them in this trilogy!
Bottom Line: Returning Home is a sweet story of finding love in unexpected people and finding grace in unexpected moments. It’s about forgiveness and faith … and about trusting God with the hard stuff in life as well as the joys. Shiloh’s writing style is engaging and warm, and the characters will quickly become friends (except for Jo Ellen’s mom lol). Looking forward to more from this series – and from this author!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)
`Returning Home` is a Christian romance novel by author Toni Shiloh. Toni dedicates this novel to God, the Author, and Finisher of her faith.
The prologue begins with a head-on collision. Then Chapter one is two months later. Evan is missing a leg because of the accident and is wheelchair bound. At thirty years of age, he is back living with and depending on, his parents. The deciding factor is should he continue living with his parents or move to his own place.
I was able to sense the feelings of the characters which made the story come alive. It's a story of forgiveness and mending relationships. I appreciate how faith in Jesus was mentioned throughout this novel. Without faith, it could be almost impossible to mend relationships and move on with life.
I admire how the only church in town stayed up-to-date with the culture and was now a non-denominational mixed-race congregation. The town of Freedom Lake was a place to return home to.
My takeaway is that I can either continue to let people who hurt me years ago still hurt me, or I can forgive them for my sake.
Disclaimer: "I was provided a free copy of this ebook from the author. All opinions are my own."
A beautiful story of love, trust and faith. Heartwarming and inspiring. How we deal with our circumstances in life can affect us in many ways. This story gives encouragement and hope. Another excellent story by this author.
This is a tremendous book. I loved every page and am dying for 2&3 to come out. From the clearly written characters to the cleverly infused spiritual growth and the really twisty plot, oh with the beautiful love story to boot. Win win and win.
This contemporary novel introduces many interesting, deep emotional characters who live in Freedom Lake. The action is fast-paced with real-life dilemmas, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Thank you Toni for another great read.
This was a hard review for me to write. "Returning Home" is a good story; it's inspirational, wholesome, and filled with forgiveness and healing. These are the things that make it stand out, but I struggled with this book because it was very predictable and formulaic. There were a few times that I groaned in frustration because I knew what was going to happen next. Is this a book I would tell others to stay away from? No. Would I read other books by this author? Yes. What I will say is that if you are a reader/ readers who likes your Christian romance to be a little outside of the box, then this is not the book for you.
I really enjoyed this story of forgiveness and love. While the story is fiction, the truths in here are very real and can be applied in our own lives daily. Jo Baker is one of the the main characters and I just found her loveable and sweet. Evan is another main character and I found him to be quite an amazing man. I loved seeing the spiritual growth in the characters lives, as well as a blossoming relationship between Jo and Evan. This book was hard to put down! I'm looking forward to book 2 in this series by Toni Shiloh!
Returning Home is a tender story of forgiveness, healing and love. Has it ever been hard to forgive someone who’s deeply hurt you? Have you ever felt so broken both physically and emotionally that you don’t want to move? Well, both characters in this story are right there. They knew each other years ago, they were even friends, yet, high school years can be hard, and often cruel. Jo knows this first hand because Evan was that one boy who hurt her soul deeply, and she thought she’d never see him again. Then an accident happens, and Evan moves back home broken and in need of a friend. Can she find it in her heart to forgive him? Can he learn he needs to give God the control, and accept his limitations? Toni Shiloh has written a beautifully touching story with rich word pictures. Many times, I felt deep emotions as I was reading this book. She has a wonderful way of conveying the feelings of each of the characters in this book. I loved Jo’s grandma – Nana. I can just picture a wish older woman giving out words so rich. There’s one quote I loved, where Jo is questioning her grandma and her grandma answers so beautifully. Jo says, “Are you saying people still mess up even if they’re Christians?” “Yes, dear heart, because you’re human. We won’t be perfected until we’re praising our Lord in the kingdom of heaven. But the beauty of His gift is that we no longer have to pay the price for our mistakes – past, present, or future. We’re redeemed, baby girl, redeemed.” These words give such assurance and hope. Thanks Toni Shiloh for your wonderful words. There were also some interesting side characters which might be fun to hear their stories. Hopefully the author will be putting out future books with their stories. Until then, I just may have to re-read this one to glean more from Grandma Nana. I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend everyone to read it!
Oh man. What a story of love, forgiveness and redemption. It really tugged some heart strings and I had legitimate tears pooling in my eyes on several occasions with such moving moments. Good tears! I was so involved with the characters that it got me right in the feels.
The chemistry between Evan and Jo was just amazing. When Evan's smile was described, I could almost see it just lighting up the page. It was so easy to imagine the story in my mind because of the descriptive language. This was the first book I've read by Toni Shiloh and it was a great introduction to her work. I'm moving right on along to book #2 in this series.
Returning Home by Toni Shiloh is the most delightful Christian romance. It is the first book in the Freedom Lake series and I cannot wait for the rest. The novel deals with loss - the loss of a planned future that creates a hardening of the heart towards God. "He and God weren't on speaking terms." A belief that God has abandoned us is a lie from the enemy. God is always with us and walks alongside us in our pain. He waits for us to return. "Until you turn back to God, you'll have no peace... bitterness will... take root... until you are godless." Past events have the power to cause bitterness to grow and root. The answer is to forgive. Forgive all those past hurts that rob us of present joy. There is the theme of trust. God longs for us to return to Him and trust Him. "Lord forgive my silence." We can trust Him at all times. "You don't have to worry. God's got this." Worry is linked to fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. If we have faith and trust God, we need not fear. There is power in the prayers of a heart fully surrendered to God. Healing of both bodies and souls is another theme. The legacy of the past and inheritance are key themes. Our inheritance is both in the terms of property and genes. The characters are warm and welcoming. The heroine is a delightful mixture of tough enough to survive in a man's world whilst vulnerable, with doubts and insecurities. The main character is disabled but this does not hold him back. It is refreshing to see life from his point of view. He is more than his disability but for some, they are unable to see past this. God looks at our inward character to see the state of our heart and not the functions of our body. Returning Home is not only the title but a theme - returning to our roots - a physical place - and returning home to God. A delightful read. Roll on book two. I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.
I enjoyed this story very much and am glad to have discovered the writing of Toni Shiloh. On the surface, Returning Home seems like a sweet contemporary romance, but there’s a lot of emotion, complexity, and spiritual depth to explore. Set in the picturesque lakeside community of Freedom Lake, this relationship-driven story has appealing leading characters in Jo and Evan, as well as strong secondary characters.
I loved that we’re not given “perfect” characters in Evan and Jo. Not only does Evan wrestle with his current disability, but much of the action reflects back to his high school days when he was a popular athlete and just plain cruel to his former friend Jo. Were I in Jo’s place, I would have had trouble forgiving the past also. And then there’s the strained relationships with her sister and mom. Lots of emotional tension drives this entertaining story.
Returning Home reminds me of how God places people in our lives and patiently works through them. Both Evan and Jo had drifted away from God, but were recipients of truth spoken in love from friends and family. Evan let fear lead him, something that many of us can relate to, and doubted that he would ever be more than a burden.
In a time when a lot of Christian fiction distances itself from overt spiritual themes, a strength of this story for me actually is its spiritual themes, for it beautifully conveys the intersection of faith and life – dealing with bitterness and regrets, letting go of the past, discovering a God that never leaves us alone. Returning Home is a heartwarming story of ordinary people in ordinary situations – a story of grace, forgiveness, and transformation. I enjoyed every moment spent with these characters and look forward to returning to Freedom Lake.
I was provided a free copy of this book through Singing Librarian Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Well, the sparks sure do fly in this novel—once the frosty atmosphere lifts for long enough for them to light up, anyway! Jo Ellen Baker and Evan Carter seem to have enough angst in their lives without adding each other into the mix, but that’s exactly what happens when Evan has to return home and Jo is asked to do the renovations that will better accommodate his new situation. What’s more, neither of them is happy with God. Evan is angry about his accident, and Jo resents the fact that she’s lost the one person in her life who accepted her the way she is. And if her mother is an example of what God is like, Jo’s not interested in Him anyway.
Forgiveness and trusting God through the hard times are major themes in this story, both for Jo and Evan, and for some of the secondary characters. One of this novel's strengths was the way in which the characters explored these tough issues through their Bible study group, only to discover that applying what they're learning in their own lives isn't always easy. Anyone else able to relate to that? ;-)
Another thing I appreciated was that the focus wasn’t just on Jo and Evan’s relationship. There’s a lot of friction between Jo and her mother and sister (both of whom I could have happily strangled at various points in this story!) and Evan has to work through the emotional and physical struggles that follow his amputation. And, of course, the path to true love isn't going to be smooth for characters as strong-willed and sparky as these two! But as they mature in their walk with the Lord, they also mature in their relationship with each other.
If you’re after a contemporary romance with flawed but relatable characters and strong spiritual growth, then this is your book.
I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
I thought that the author did a fabulous job of putting her characters in the right time and place. I enjoyed this novel because it was a sweet and clean read. It also kept me burning midnight oil because I enjoyed it so much!! I could tell that this author's heart was pouring out her love for God in her awesome writing. ( I hope there's another book after this one cause I want to see what happens to Guy) by meaning if he accepts Christ. I accepted Christ a long time ago but sometimes I feel myself falling off the wagon wheel. I'm on a rollercoaster ride myself right now. I believe in prayer. Prayer is certainly a powerful tool. God hears us just not when we want it. I enjoyed watching Evan, Michelle, JoJo and Chloe and yes even Daryl as they came through life's trials and tribulations. I think that Evan is my favorite. He's had a lot to overcome and I can say this isn't easy especially to put all of your trust in God. The forgiveness and trusting part isn't easy either. I didn't like how certain ppl think they can just walk away and then come back and expect to pick up where they left off. That's not fair to the other person who may have moved on. There are selfish ppl out in this ol world. I can put myself in JoJo place because I was made fun of and tormented in high school as well. But as I grew older I learned to put my trust in God.
Returning Home is a poignant story of healing, faith, and friendship. More than just a sweet and naturally-progressing romance relationship, the intertwining relationships of the characters, including Jo, Evan, and their close friend group, are a testament to the ways you can choose to react to life changes and challenges.
There is a prominent thread of faith I loved in this story. It's fleshed out in both Evan and Jo as they deal with forgiveness and relying on God's never-changing strength in completely different ways. And, this faith shines from Evan and Jo as they each grow and have opportunity to come alongside each other in support and understanding (this also wonderfully spills over in their friend group in an encouraging way). My favorite was Nana's knowing advice and kind prodding --- I would just love to have a real-life conversation with her!
With both complexity and camaraderie, this story of Jo and Evan is deeper than a romance or a story of second chances. It's all about how prayer can change your heart, how love can mean hard lessons of forgiveness, and how faith can be the means of strength and peace no matter your circumstances.
Thank you to SLB Tours and the author for the complimentary ebook copy. This review is my honest opinion.
Returning Home is a story of love, forgiveness, and perseverance. It kind of reminds me of a Christian version of the sitcom, Friends, if you can imagine that. There's never a dull moment. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment to find out more about the residence of Freedom Lake.
This was a book to which I could really relate. When Jo didn't see the chair, but the man in it...WOW! I was in a wheelchair for ten years...I still have to use one. When people ask me how I ended up with my husband ( who married me, disabled and all), I always tell them that he was the only guy I ever met that really saw ME! He didn't see the chair, and he has never viewed me as handicapped.
It's somewhat difficult to find books that have heroes or heroines that aren't perfect...nice looks, perfect hair, and yes , legs that work.
It was so refreshing to read a book that spoke of the difficulties of life, but also the love of our blessed Redeemer. The characters are real with some true raw, realistic life challenges. I enjoyed the storyline, and I so enjoyed the strong faith theme in this book.
Please do yourself a favor and take a journey with Jo and Evan...this book has the ability to touch your heart and challenge you in your spiritual walk.
I received this book from the author. All opinions are my own.
Yet another fabulous read by Toni Shiloh! I loved both Jo and Evan and it was a such a joy to watch their relationship come about, as well as see their faith in God strengthen. Speaking of which, the faith story is always my favorite part of Toni's books and this one was no exception. The awesomeness of this story's faith thread left me in awe of Toni's amazing writing and was just exactly what my heart needed to hear right now! I loved the town of Freedom Lake and look forward to visiting again. I was in a bit of a reading slump when I read this (not at all the book's fault, I just was having a hard time focusing on reading!) so I read it a little time, which was perfect as it gave me time to savor the awesomeness that is Returning Home. I was so emotionally invested and hated to see the story end. I highly recommend Returning Home and can't wait to read the next book in the series!
I received this book from the author. No review required. All thoughts and opinions are one hundred percent my own.
Author Toni Shiloh has written a beautiful and touching Hallmark movie style novel that readers will thoroughly enjoy. From page one, readers will fall in love with the strong spirited characters. This story is about a friendship gone wrong and wounds from the past opened fresh; but it is also about finding a way to mend an old friendship. Shiloh brings life and voice to her charming characters and delightful story. This is a sweet, fun, emotional, inspirational, and romantic novel that readers will not want to miss!
Series: Freedom Lake Genre: contemporary, romance Publisher: Indie Publication date: September 26, 2017 Number of pages: 294
A review copy of this book was provided by SLB Tours. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are my own.
DNF Normally when I am 73% of the way through a book I just finish reading it. But I’m trying to be more careful with my time, and I realized that I didn’t need to or want to finish this book for several reasons. So I didn’t. Here’s why:
1) I wasn’t interested in the characters and never really connected with them. 2) The idea that someone could lose a leg, spend 5 months in a wheelchair, and then a very short time using crutches, and then get his new leg and be able to walk just fine in one day (no practice, no relearning to walk, no nothing) was a little odd to me. 3) Jo’s mom really bothered me. She constantly argues with, belittles, and tries to force her grown daughter to do what she wants her to do. She criticizes her clothes, her work, everything, and then suddenly she is telling Jo that she is her favorite child, and she loves her and everything. I quit then. Not sure if this was a new trick to manipulate Jo or not, but I’d be extremely doubtful about the genuineness of someone who suddenly acted like I was their favorite child after spending most of my life criticizing me and everything I do. 4) The Christianity was confusing. Yes, there was some really good points about forgiveness and forgiving others, but otherwise it seemed vague and confusing. *Someone who had grown up in a Christian home having no idea how to pray. *No talk about confessing your sins and asking Jesus Christ to forgive you. Again, I don’t know how it all came out because I didn’t finish it. 5) Out of the 6 characters who I’m pretty sure are the main characters of this series, only one of them might not have had some serious life trauma to deal with. (Losing a leg, losing a father, losing a wife, losing both parents, and something else.)
Someone else might read an completely enjoy this book. I didn’t.
Returning Home is so much more than a book about a character returning to his home town. It is about growing, working out the struggles in your faith, and returning home to the Lord. Okay, and there's a little romance in there too, but it is done so softly and slowly that I felt it was really more about the characters connecting as friends. And rightly so, I might add, as their past was kind of a colorful one.
Ms. Shiloh had me hooked right from the Prologue. I imagine about fifty different ways the story was going to continue on from there, but I must say that the way she wrote it was the best. Jo Ellen and Evan certainly had some baggage with them. You have Jo Ellen, a tough cookie who is out to prove something, both to her mother, her community, and maybe even herself a little bit. Then you have Evan, a man who returned home after a tragic accident changed his life completely. Sure, there was a chip on his shoulder. I can't say I would have reacted any different. You pair these two lovely characters together, who did NOT get along in high school so well, and it makes for an amusing read.
I love the surprises that came along the way. For example, there is a scene between Jo Ellen and her mother that really got to me, as in I may have shed a tear over it. It was so unexpected and almost like a parenthesis in the story, but it was beautiful and made me look at Jo Ellen's mama in a whole new light. It was the little things here and there that Toni Shiloh includes in her stories that make it so real, so inviting, and leave you wanting more. I can already see what future stories there may be from some of the secondary characters, and can't wait to return to Freedom Lake!
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Returning Home is a novel full of deep emotions, ones that speak to the hearts of its characters. Evan is bitter and angry about the accident that took his leg and the woman he loved. Jo is dealing with her own hurts after the loss of her loving dad, and trying to cope with her difficult mother. Though friends in grammar school, when high school began, Evan chose instead to make Jo an object of his teasing and ridicule, leaving her hurt and angry at the change in Him. Now, years later, they meet again in their home town. Can they get past their own pain and bitterness and forge a new friendship? There are no easy answers in their story. If you like a novel with depth, and full of real-life struggles, this is one you will love. This my first time reading Toni's books, and it sure won't be the last. She graciously provided a copy of this book for my review. The thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.
Toni Shiloh has a sweet way about her writing. Even when she designs characters that are struggling, she has the ability to make the story surrounding them sweet. I really enjoy diving into her stories, and Returning Home was a pleasant read. I thought that Jo Ellen and Evan were a dynamic pair, even when they didn’t see it.