Years ago, my husband and I bought a 1883 two-story Victorian. It needed more than tender loving care. It needed rehab.
The previous owner had torn down the wrap-around porch in the 1950s, tried “updating” rooms with dark wood paneling in the 1980s, and disposed of the beautiful stained glass windows shortly after that.
But it was spacious! And full of possibilities. That’s what I kept telling myself as we walked through dark, dismal rooms on our first visit. Possibilities . . .
When we moved in, four layers of flooring covered the front entry and stairway. The house had plumbing and electrical disasters galore (mostly discovered later). The attic was full of thriving bats. But that’s another story. (Check it out on my Journey to Imagination blog: Batman to the Rescue.)
When I told the Welcome Wagon lady how glad I was to finally be in a safe neighborhood, she said, “With old houses like these, you’re more likely to have your house burn down than be robbed.” I think she was trying to comfort me.
Tim was a real trooper. He pulled up old flooring, refinished the wood floors in two rooms, laid down new hardwood in the other two rooms. We painted the bedrooms and kitchen. His knowledge and skill in home repair came to the forefront, tested through endless creative problem-solving opportunities. He was innovative with plumbing, electrical, and appliance placement. You can read more here on my Journey to Imagination blog.
Renovating an old house can be a nightmare in and of itself, never mind all the disasters waiting for Shaun Bartley in Unfortunate Homecoming, another romantic suspense novel by Sherri Wilson Johnson. He faces worse fires than we ever did.
Unfortunate Homecoming is book three in the Jeopardized Reunions series. (Number four is Endangered Refuge.) If you haven’t already, read my reviews of books one and two: Desolate Escape and Dangerous Inheritance.
Renovating the old family home and living on the quiet Magnolia River in Magnolia Springs, Alabama sounded perfect to Shaun Bartley. But when trespassing treasure hunters threaten not only his life but his ex-wife’s life too, will he fight for what is his or forfeit the fortune in order to save their lives?
After ten years on the Okefenokee Swamp as a fishing guide, Shaun Bartley returns home to conduct tours on the Magnolia River and to renovate his great great-grandfather’s old home. When Deputy Fire Marshal and volunteer fire fighter Sierra Beaumont, Shaun’s ex-wife, warns him about deadly treasure hunters who will kill for a chance to explore his property, he thinks she’s trying to run him out of town. When he discovers she’s pregnant with twins by her recently deceased second husband, Shaun can’t help but want to be there for her. But Sierra’s heart has been broken twice, and she’d rather raise the children alone than be abandoned again.
Shaun must deal with his past and find a way for Sierra to forgive him or risk losing any chance he may have at winning back her heart. Since keeping her safe means keeping her far from his home and the trespassers, yet she is the Fire Marshal assigned to his case, it will take a miracle for them to survive.
After an injury, Shaun Bartley returns after ten years to be a tour guide along the Magnolia River and to renovate his great-great grandfather’s house as a tourist destination. He expects to undertake a lot of work to accomplish that. What he doesn’t expect is somebody setting his house on fire. Intentionally.
Nor did he expect to come face to face with his ex-wife, Sierra Beaumont. She’s the local Deputy Fire Marshall investigating the fire. A new fire is ignited—in his heart. But can he dredge up the ashes of his long-abandoned marriage?
He’s a new person now, but how can he prove it? Meanwhile, treasure hunters trespass on his property. Danger lurks around every corner and behind every tree. But most of all, he finds himself wanting to protect Sierra and her unborn twins. Twins without a father—Sierra’s deceased second husband.
The hero’s and heroine’s backstories are woven in gradually as needed to flesh out the characters—their wounds, their plans, their motives, their changes since they last knew each other.
Here’s the checklist: second chances. Clean romance. Constant suspense. Never a moment’s peace. Fast-paced action. Strong faith element. If you like all these things in a story, you’ll enjoy this one.
Join me for some Q & A with Sherri Wilson Johnson.
Questions about Unfortunate Homecoming
What was your inspiration for writing Unfortunate Homecoming? What’s your personal connection to the story or setting?
Sherri: I love old houses! Since originally there was supposed to be an old house in Dangerous Inheritance and it ended up morphing into a giant estate, I could not resist putting an old home in this book. I fell in love with the town Magnolia Springs in Alabama when I visited there. And that is where I decided to set Unfortunate Homecoming.
How did you create your heroine Sierra and hero Shaun and their particular situations? Did your characters hijack the story or did you have full rein?
Sherri: I really love creating characters out of community workers who often go overlooked. The town of Magnolia Springs as well as the other areas that we vacation in have volunteer fire departments. Magnolia Springs has a charming volunteer fire department filled with gracious firefighters who didn’t mind spending some time sharing with me all that is involved with being a firefighter in the area.
Shaun reminds me a lot of my husband. He has overcome much adversity in his life. I wanted to write a character that would tell the story for a guy like him.
My characters, the house, and the villains all hijacked this story.
If you and Sierra spent a girls’ weekend together, where would you go and why?
Sherri: We would spend the weekend in a cabin on the Magnolia River talking about what it means to be a strong woman who has to overcome a lot of adversity. We would also have our big dogs by our sides the whole time.
What experiences did you have with old home renovations?
Sherri: No personal experience with any old home renovations. Just an extreme love for turn-of-the-century homes, one that I think would be really cool to own but I doubt I ever will. I think I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t want to do that much work on the place I live.
Of all the books you’ve published, do you have a favorite? Which one and why?
Sherri: I love Unfortunate Homecoming because I love the hero. I love Endangered Refuge because of my love for tigers. Desolate Escape is probably my favorite book because I dreamed of it for many years before I started writing it, and it was the first one in a long time that I actually wrote for myself without a publisher in mind. It was amazing to be able to write what I wanted to write.
Back to Laura . . . On a different note . . .
If you like southern fiction, you might enjoy my recently re-launched novel All That Is Hidden, Set near North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1968 rather than contemporary Alabama, the story highlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.
In June, I was named a semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest for All That Is Hidden. Additionally, in August, All That Is Hidden became the winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award.
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Sherri Wilson Johnson Bio
Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist, graphic designer and lover of all things book related. She’s always been a sucker for a good love story—whether it’s real life or fiction (both historical and contemporary). Completing her first novel at the age of eighteen, and later burning the only copy in the fireplace, she continued learning the craft of writing and now writes Contemporary Romantic Suspense and Historical Romance with a splash of suspense and/or mystery. When not writing, she’s usually assisting other publishing professionals or helping authors realize their dreams of becoming published. Sherri and her husband are empty-nesters and live in Georgia with their two dogs. She loves spending time with family, vacationing at the beach, curling up with a good book or working on her current work-in-progress. She dreams of a second home on some beach somewhere some day, where she can plot and write romantically suspenseful novels. Learn more on her website.
Join me next time for a visit with author Jaime Jo Wright.
Meanwhile, have you read Unfortunate Homecoming? What are your favorite contemporary romantic suspense titles or authors? Answer in the comments below.
What a concept for a story! And interesting that it sounds like it’s written from the man’s POV.
My folks bought an old house just as I reached high school.
It needed so much work and money! It’s gone now, but will always be the epitome of the word “home” to me.
It’s fun to speculate that there was some sort of treasure in that old place, or under its basement, or in the outbuildings.
See? The sign of a good story is that it generates imagination. Hope “Unfortunate Homecoming” fires up imagination
(and affirms the vitality of faith) in lots of readers!
Since it’s a romance, the story is actually written from both Sierra’s and Shaun’s perspectives, equally. I hope you indulge!
I love how the old house your parents labored over is still “home” to you. Full of memories.
The movie Money Pit came to mind as I read your first paragraph, Laura. But I’ve always loved the idea of taking an old home and restoring it to its gorgeous glory–something I’ve loved since the first time I saw It’s a Wonderful Life. (If only I had the money.) And I love a restoration romance, too, so, Unfortunate Homecoming sounds intriguing. Especially if someone’s trying to burn it down!
Having had twins myself, I can’t imagine trying to raise them as a single mom. Sounds like this book delves heavily into both forgivenness and becoming a restored person–something needed very much today.
My favorite contemporary romantic suspense? Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Irene Hannon,… I guess it’s one of my favorite genres, so I’m always on the look out for a new favorite with a touch of wit.
Yes, a great combination: restoration of a home, two individuals, and a relationship!
Laura, thank you for sharing Unfortunate Homecoming with your readers!
You’re welcome. Thank you for your participation!