He'd always managed to best her…
Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co–op plan. And he's not playing fair.
Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that's always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?
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"Tyler, what color?"
Jodi Chapman peered from the blue card to the psychologist crouched before her autistic four-year-old, holding her breath. Please get this, Ty. A good evaluation meant entrance to this specialized school that would help him talk again.
But instead of responding, her towheaded only child yanked off his eyeglasses band and threw them at his feet. Her hopes fell with them.
"I'm sorry." Jodi slung an arm around Tyler before he bolted for the train table. She'd known it'd be hard for him to focus when he'd pointed to it after entering Wonders Primary's playroom. Her mouth felt like a desert as Beth's pen scratched across the evaluation sheet. After an hour of assessments, Tyler wanted out when they desperately needed in.
"May I ask what you're writing, Beth?" She struggled to put on Tyler's glasses with one hand while holding him in place with the other.
"Tyler, you can play with the trains in a little bit." As a single mom, she wished she had three arms instead of two. Yet even that wouldn't be enough some days. If only this wasn't one of them.
"Keeping his glasses on will be a behavior goal if he attends school here this fall." Beth lowered her clipboard, her khaki pants and green polo shirt lacking the wrinkles embedded in Jodi's suit.
Jodi dragged in a deep breath and held Tyler tighter as he escalated from resistance to flailing.
If. Beth had said "if." Jodi inhaled the childhood smells of crayons, apple juice and glue, her gaze darting around the vibrant room that'd be perfect for her son. Warm sunlight streamed from a round skylight, illuminating a large foam-sided circle that resembled a kiddie pool, filled with books and toys. A child-size cardboard castle stood beside a trunk overflowing with dress-up clothes. Floor puzzle pieces lead to its entrance. It was a far cry from the small apartment where her kind neighbor cared for Tyler.
Six children rocked and fidgeted on a circle of colored rug squares while their teacher read them a story. Aides walked the group's perimeter, pulling some of the children's hands away from their ears while others applied shoulder pressure to those flapping their hands.
"Show me the blue train, Tyler." The psychologist pointed to the table and held out a hand, but Tyler batted it away.
"No hitting, Ty." Jodi felt her lower eyelid twitch. The break in Tyler's daily routine unsettled and overexcited him, the perfect storm for lashing out, poor baby.
"Do you want to play trains?" Beth tried again.
The psychologist tucked her clipboard under her arm at Tyler's nod and headed toward the table. Before following, he squeezed Jodi's knees, the sweet, unexpected gesture catching at her heart.
She blinked back tears when he wobbled on tiptoe after Beth and picked up a green train instead of the blue. Green was his favorite color. It might be the wrong answer for the evaluation, but it was right for him. Her chest tightened when the psychologist frowned and scribbled something on her clipboard, a brief glimpse showing a heavily marked page. Jodi imagined the comments. If only Wonders Primary knew the boy who patted her cheek until he fell asleep, the one who dressed Ollie, his stuffed elephant, in different outfits every day, the child who'd cried for a week after his father had walked out, and then never spoke again. Guilt churned in her stomach like a live thing.
Jodi turned and smiled unevenly at a distinguished woman with close-cropped brown hair and an arched nose, her picture familiar from the school's website.
She discreetly brushed her damp palm against her skirt and held out her hand. "It's Ms. actually."
"Ms. Chapman. Welcome. I'm Mrs. Garcia, school director." Her hand was gripped, then released. "Thank you for coming in so quickly. Hopefully our last-minute opening for this fall will work out. You've been on the waiting list for-"
"Tyler's doctor referred him a year ago," she answered, though it'd felt longer than that. It'd been an anxious twelve-month involuntary wait to see if her application would be approved. Given the number of children around the country who attended this highly recognized school, she'd been told Tyler might not have this chance for three years. Or at all.
"If you'll meet me in my office, I'll join you once I've spoken with Beth. It's the last door down the hall."
Jodi glanced at the train table where her son ripped up tracks and smashed bridges. "Should I take Tyler with me?" Without her around, he might act out, give the wrong impression. Her heartbeat hammered.
"Our aides will watch him while Beth and I consult. Then Beth will take over when I join you." Mrs. Garcia studied Jodi over rimless bifocals. "He'll be in good hands."
Jodi hesitated, then nodded, feeling helpless. There was nothing more she could do. Fate had taken the wheel and would steer them where it would.
At the door, she called, "Mommy will be right back, Ty." But he continued playing without looking up and missed her reassuring smile. When he noticed she was gone, would he feel scared? Alone? With difficulty, she kept herself from running back to him.
She watched Beth hand Mrs. Garcia the clipboard, and their heads bent together. Jodi's grip tightened on the doorknob. What verdict were they reaching?
"I'll see you later, Tyler," she yelled, louder now. Several children in the reading circle looked up, but not her son. Her chest squeezed as he zoomed the green train around a wooden building. Did he care that she was leaving? The harsh truth was that she honestly didn't know.
She trudged down the hall and gave herself a pep talk. From everything she'd read, Wonders Primary excelled at working with challenged students. Hopefully they'd see Tyler's potential. Believe in him the way she did.
Inside the wood-paneled office, she paced to the window and peered out at the foggy Chicago skyline, grateful to be here. Until now, the path to Tyler's recovery had seemed as murky as the weather, her despair darker still. She rested her head against the cool windowpane and tried not to worry.
"Thank you for waiting, Ms. Chapman," Mrs. Garcia spoke behind her a couple minutes later. "Would you have a seat?"
Jodi strode to a leather chair in front of an imposing desk and sat, her white knuckles contrasting against the brown upholstered arms. "How's Tyler?"
"He's in the right place at the right time." Mrs. Garcia smiled, her red lipstick matching her manicured fingernails, which were splayed against the desk calendar. "We'd be happy to welcome him at Wonders Primary this coming fall."
Jodi sagged in her seat. Finally. She wasn't alone anymore and she wouldn't fail Tyler. His care would have the order and predictability they both needed.
"Beth and the rest of the assessment team recommended that Tyler receive physical therapy, sensory-integration occupational therapy, speech therapy, social-skills training and behavioral training. We have every confidence that he'll make solid gains with us."
The news knocked the wind out of Jodi. She knew her son needed help. His therapist and doctor had said as much. But hearing the long list made his condition seem graver and more severe than she'd let herself imagine. She clamped a hand over her jittering knee. It was unfair. Tyler hadn't asked for this.
"I see," she managed at last.
"I realize this is short notice." Mrs. Garcia poured two cups of tea from an electric kettle on her credenza. "However, we'll need a ten percent tuition deposit to hold the spot." She offered Jodi a steaming mug. "Cream and sugar?"
Jodi shook her head and stared at the dark liquid, her wide eyes reflected back at her. In the excitement surrounding yesterday's surprise call from Wonders Primary, she hadn't asked about the cost.
She gulped her tea and the scalding liquid splashed down her throat. "And how much is tuition?"
Mrs. Garcia's brows met over her prominent nose. "Sixteen thousand. We don't provide that information on our website, but our secretary should have informed you when she called."
"She might have," Jodi admitted, her pulse thumping. Sixteen thousand? That couldn't be the price. "Tyler was having a tough time over well something and I'm afraid I only wrote down the appointment time. Did you say sixteen thousand a year?"
Mrs. Garcia scooped out her tea bag and laid it on her saucer. "No."
Air escaped Jodi in a rush. Thank goodness she'd heard that wrong. Her salary wouldn't cover such a large fee, even if her ex-husband contributed. And that was a big if
"It's sixteen thousand a semester," the Wonders Primary director corrected, "and each semester runs six months."
Jodi splashed tea on her hand, too shocked to feel the burn when she set down her mug.
"But that seems high." And impossible.
"Yes." The administrator's spoon clanked against the sides of her cup as she stirred in a packet of sweetener. "However, our board feels the fee is justified given our specialized work and reputation. Nevertheless, I understand if this is more than you expected and wish to look elsewhere."
Elsewhere? She'd tried everything and had nowhere left to turn. Jodi's hands twisted. She was failing Tyler and she couldn't let that happen. Not again. Disappointment settled around her slumped shoulders.
"I'm sorry to pressure you, Ms. Chapman, but there are many anxious families that would appreciate the chance to attend if you plan to withdraw."
"Please. A moment." Jodi strove to keep the panic out of her voice. She opened her purse to search for her calculator and found a Post-it note with her optimistic reminder: "Wonders Primary 10 a.m. J." How could she have been so naive? Expert care like this didn't come cheap. For people like her and Tyler, it might not come at all.
Her fingers encountered her cell phone and her screen saver flashed on. It was a picture of her and Tyler as she held him on her hip while he pointed at a hot air balloon. The festival had been a wonderful day, one of his better ones. They needed more of those after a year spent struggling through nightly therapy that ended with both of them in tears. Somehow this had to work.
"I'll take the spot," she blurted, then pressed her phone to her chest. What had she done?
Where Tyler was concerned, she tended to think with her heart.
"A wise choice," said Mrs. Garcia, her selfassured voice doing little to soothe Jodi's worries. "We'll need your deposit by the end of this week and the balance of the first half at the start of the fall semester. We split our tuition into biannual payments to make it more accessible to families."
"Yes," Jodi agreed, her voice faint. Her body felt limp and light, as though she could blend with the white clouds billowing by the Tribune building across the street.
"Excellent. We'll look forward to seeing Tyler in September."
Despite Mrs. Garcia's warm tone, Jodi shivered. September. Only three months to raise twice her current savings balance.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A heartwarming story for readers everywhere! You’re going to need a lot of tissue for “HIS HOMETOWN GIRL” because it’s a tearjerker with moments of sadness and joy. It’s a moving story about a mother’s love for her son, and her strength to improve the quality of her child’s life. She knows that in order to give her son the best possible care, she must take care of herself. Doing that wasn’t easy for Jodi Chapman. You’ll wonder if this single mom of an autistic child can make a difference in her child’s life when she’s saddled with a stressful job and the task of convincing a local farming community to sell its property. Adding to her challenges, after returning to her hometown she reconnects with an old boyfriend, Daniel Gleason, she finds herself wondering if what she does to make life better for her son will ultimately change the course of Tyler’s life as well. Jodi fails to see her own sources of strength, coping skills and emotional attitude because she’s so busy trying to meet his needs. Once you see it, you’ll start to wonder if she’s going to reach a breaking point that will help or hurt Daniel, Tyler or Jodi. Nevertheless, the book lets you weigh in on the benefits of living in a small town verses big city living. There is a sense of community in small town like Cedar Bay. Everybody knows your name and people look out for each other. You’ll love the characters you run into at the local stores, in the community and at work. Unlike the Chicago folks who appear insensitive when Jodi needs understanding most. It’s a beautifully written wholesome story that any reader would enjoy. It tugs at the heart as it reveals a mother’s love in ways that you can only imagine. If you’re a family faced with an autistic child, or someone who wants to understand the experience, HIS HOMETOWN GIRL brings it to you live and in full effect. You may find similar subject matter, but the author does her story like no other!
Delightfully heartfelt and inspiring story about raising an autistic child and finding personal happiness. I love Karen Rock's writing style and the strength of her characters. I have a close friend with an autistic child and have watched her struggle to provide the best care possible, sorting through all the alternatives. Because of this I could relate to Jodi's struggles and internal conflicts. Daniel is the perfect hero. Really too good to be true. It was fun to watch them compete and then work together to fight for the farms in their community. I loved how Daniel loved both Tyler and Jodi, seeing the bigger picture than Jodi could see as she fought their battles. Can't wait for more from Karen Rock!
The cover of this book really pulled me in. Who doesn't want to read about adults rekindling their high school romance in a strawberry patch? I was all over the idea. But as soon as I began reading His Hometown Girl I realized this story went much deeper than a cutesy country love story. I honestly didn't see it coming, but I should have, knowing how amazing and deep Karen's past books have been. I was moved by Jodi's struggle to be a better mom to her autistic son. My identical twin sons were diagnosed with ADHD last year. Before their diagnosis I was really hard on both them and myself because I tried so hard to force them into the mold society expected them to fit into. The result was a boatload of frustration and tears. There were multiple instances throughout the book as I read Jodi's reaction to her son's behavior that had me nodding my head. Her pain was incredibly palpable, especially since I've been there. Karen captured Jodi's feelings of inadequacy realistically with intense clarity. Daniel was a breath of fresh air. As I gained more insight to his character I grew to understand how much Jodi needed him. He was a rock of stability and common sense. Jodi was flailing, and he steadied her, despite their competitive nature. I especially enjoyed that aspect of the story. It was deliciously fun to watch the unspoken chemistry and long-buried feelings they were both trying to deny/hide. This book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire story. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a clean romance about old love rekindling.
I feel like I've been missing out on something wonderful. I'm a huge clean romance lover and have only recently discovered Harelquin's Heartwarming line of books. I've previously read many books from their Love Inspired line. The Heartwarming books have a similar focus on family and values but without the religious feel to them. His Hometown Girl is the 3rd Harlequin Heartwarming title I have read this year and I was not disappointed. There is depth to the story-line and characters. You can't help but root for and love them as the issue of parenting an autistic child and some of the challenges that it involves are brought to light. His Hometown girl was a heartfelt story that focused on the benefit of living in a close knit supportive community and the choices and struggles that parents go through when deciding what is best for their children. For those who enjoy clean romance and crave a happily ever after this is a great choice. Rating: 4 Stars - Great Book Content: Clean
His Hometown Girl is such an adorable book. This is the first book that I have read in this fun romance. The characters are funny, warm and love especially with Daniel has a big heart with Jodi and her autistic four-year-old son. I’m giving five stars. I highly recommend this book.
Autism is something that affects way too many families, yet so many people in society are still unaware of how to deal with it. In this story, Jodi's four-year-old son, Tyler, has been diagnosed with autism and because of it, she finds herself becoming a single parent, with no support from her ex. The way people would look at her and treat her son really tugged at my heartstrings. The emotions and feelings that Jodi had to deal with...alone...was astounding. When Jodi went back home, after 10 years, to try and convince the farmers in her Vermont hometown to sell their farms to her big company, she was in for a surprise when Daniel showed up at the airport to pick her up. The way that he and his sister, Sue, accepted Jodi, and especially Tyler, was just plain amazing! Most of the people in town were very supportive. Jodi and Daniel have a past that had to be resolved. That's where forgiveness, hope, and love come in. Watching the two of them work through their individual issues and come to terms with many parts of their life was very inspiring. The sacrifices that they both made for those whom they loved were so sweet and selfless. I loved this story! I loved the strawberries, the farm life, the small town family feel, and of course, the clean romance. I loved the ending! It was perfect. Content: no violence; maybe a cuss word or two; kissing (clean).
Delightful Second Chance Romance I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. I rated it 4.5 out of 5 Stars. A heartwarming second chance romance, Karen Rock’s His Hometown Girl focuses on the healing power of love and on the crucial roles that home, family and community play in all of our lives. Well developed characters, good dialogue and a child with special needs kept me turning the pages from start to finish. Set in a rural community determined to keep its identity through a tough economy and a changing society, Ms. Rock’s book made a lasting impression on me. A single mother trying to do what’s best for her autistic son, Jodi Chapman needs more money than her salary and child support provide. Presented with an opportunity to get both a coveted promotion at work and a generous bonus, Jodi finds herself going back home to the farm community she left behind to talk the farmers into selling their land. She just never planned facing the man who broke her heart years ago. Daniel Gleason loved Jodi Chapman until the day she betrayed him and walked away. Now she’s back and determined to talk his friends and neighbors into selling their land, which would ruin his plans for a farmer’s co-op. Prepared to do whatever it takes to get his way, Daniel never expected their attraction to get in the way. The scenes between Jodi and Daniel are full of lively dialogue and plenty of emotional angst. While attracted to each other, their miscommunication from the past and their current situation makes trust difficult. Ms. Rock does an excellent job developing both Jodi and Dan’s characters both individually and when they are together. She also addresses the realities of having a special needs child and the burden it places on marriages and relationships. As the aunt of an Autistic child, I can honestly say Ms. Rock’s knowledge of the financial, emotional and even societal burdens facing families with Autistic children is spot on. The secondary characters, mostly Jodi and Daniel’s family and friends are also well developed and contribute emotional support. There is also a villain of sorts; Jodi’s despicable ex who seemed to exist just to make Jodi’s life worse and who I personally wanted to introduce to my cast iron skillet (I really feel a good whack on the head would have done the man wonders…lol). Will Jodi and Daniel realize their love can heal them both? Will Jodi’s son get the help he really needs? You’ll have to read His Hometown Girl to find out, I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Rock’s work.
Is it love or war? Definitely war for Jodi and Daniel, then you throw in an autistic child in the mix and what do you have? A truly wonderful read! You have lost love, broken hearts, an ex, love, and so much more. Jodi and Daniel are not only at war with each other but with themselves and their feelings. The ONE that got away, each of us has that someone. What would we do if we got a second chance to get that one person back? Who hasn't wanted a chance to go back and redo a part in your life, have a second chance? Jodi and Daniel get this second chance, but will they take it or lose it? So many things are in their way, along with a past that they might not be able to get past. Jodi is fighting so hard to do what is right for her child, to find money to get him the help he needs. To do this she must go home and face all that she left behind, get local farmers to sell her company their farms. She must face the man she left and her own fears, wants and desires. Daniel doesn't want to lose his hometown, he was to keep the farms going and he thinks he has away to do this. With Jodi coming home he has his own fears to fight, the girl who broke his heart and walked away without a word. Can he keep the farmers from selling and at the same time keep his heart from being broken. Can he let Jodi walk in his life and let her walk away? This book touches on so many issues of life today, along with Autism, Parkinson. How many of us look at kids that play out in public and think why doesn't that mother do something with that child? I know I am guilty. This book has given me a lesson and reminded me all things are not as they seem, to take a closer look before judging. From the beginning of this book you just want to grab mother and child, hold them and tell them it will all work out. You have a mother who is fighting to do what is best for her child. Is there anything we wouldn't do to make sure our children has the best start in life? This is so much harder for a parent with an autism child, you read the struggle she goes through and it just breaks your heart. As you read this book you will find the author is very knowledgeable, she gives you facts and makes this a very believable book. The author’s writing is smooth, it flows easy. I found this book to be an easy read and very easy to follow. I truly enjoyed reading this. I felt I was right there with the author, with each smile, laughter. I even had a few times I was almost in tears. You will not go wrong with this author. I recommend this book for a nice easy read, heart filled love story that will not only break your heart but give you a few lessons to remember in life.