Jenna Stevens used to know who she was but now finds herself post-divorce, wondering where it all went wrong. She used to feel inspired as a chef, but years of having decisions questioned and ridiculed by her now ex-husband, have left her afraid to trust her judgment. She’s also afraid to experiment with her cooking. Coming home to her parents, Beth and Marshall Stevens, is the first step in her re-discovery plan; their home in Texas has always been a haven for her. Knowing that she has to get her mojo back in the kitchen and also needing a source of income, Jenna opens a kitchen store on a whim – she has no business plan and did no market research. Soon, fate intervenes, and she hires Violet, a young woman with street smarts and retail experience, as the store’s manager.
How we define ourselves, as well as what defines a family are issues raised by Already Home, a light and heartwarming romance by Susan Mallery. While the focus of the story is Jenna Stevens, a woman whose life is going through many changes, we get to meet a handful of interesting secondary characters who impact her life and made me take an inner look at what defines me and how I define family.
Violet is a fantastic secondary character, she’s young, independent and she’s a real go-getter. She had a horrid and tragic childhood, which she doesn’t share with anyone. She ended up living on the streets until a friend told her she had to make some changes or she could die young. After working hard for several years and gaining retail experience, Violet has literally pulled herself up by her bootstraps and is the perfect person to work with Jenna – she’s full of ideas and real follow-through. Unlike Jenna, Violet trusts her “gut” and if her gut tells her it’s a good decision, she’s comfortable with it, except for her choices in men. She feels she’s a magnet for the wrong kind of man because of her past experiences and is determined to change that.
As Jenna and Violet work to make the kitchen store successful, their friendship develops, though Violet keeps her past a secret. Jenna’s mom Barb is a constant figure in the background and offers both practical and emotional support to both women. Barb is also a fantastic secondary character; she’s a traditional woman who wants nothing more than her child’s happiness, especially since Jenna is her only child. With the store becoming successful, Jenna begins to regain her cooking mojo. Fate hands Jenna a curve by bringing her birth parents, Serenity and Tom Johnson, into her store and into her life. Barb, the “mother of her heart”, pushes her to get to know them, so she agrees to give them a chance, and agrees to meet her extended biological family.
There are two main romances that take place in the book. One involves Violet and Cliff, a man she meets at a grocery store, who is the exact opposite of the bad boys she’s dated in the past. Will Violet ignore the fact that she can’t share her past with this man and ignore some of the warning signs his behavior triggered? The second romance is between Jenna and Ellington, a man she’s introduced to courtesy of her birth mother Serenity. Both Jenna and Ellington have failed first marriages in common, and they both bring different baggage to any potential relationship. I really liked Ellington and I personally felt that in the long run, he’s a great match for Jenna and I liked the direction that Ms. Mallery was taking them in the story. There is also one last romantic relationship that takes place at the end and since I don’t want to give any spoilers as to what happens, I will say that it’s a romance that did make me smile.
The story concludes in a good place for Jenna, with a very bright outlook for her business, her career as a chef, her growing romance with Ellington and her relationship with her new expanded family, especially her brothers. I have to warn that for me this was a book that required a box of tissues at the end, as I totally broke down over several scenes and it made the book that much more precious in my view.
Ms. Mallery has done another excellent job with this story and her books are always a joy to read.
After nearly a decade as a sous-chef in a trendy eatery, Jenna is desperate for a change. She's supported her ex-husband's dreams for so long that she can't even remember her own. Until she sees a for-lease sign near her parents' home and envisions her very own cooking store.
Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna's adoptive mother. But just as she's gaining a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents—aging hippies on a quest to reconnect with their firstborn.
Now Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with her traditional parents, deal with her feelings for a new love interest and decide what to do about her ex's latest outrageous request. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love….