Her Hometown Girl by Lorelie Brown is the third in her Belladonna Ink series. In it, Brown returns once again to the surprising and unorthodox tradition of characters with problems displayed in the first book, Far From Home, which addressed a main character with anorexia. This third volume deals with same-sex domestic abuse and sexual assault. The story starts as we meet Tansy getting a tattoo at Belladonna Ink from Cai, her new tattoo artist. And we discover that Tansy is a runaway bride. She was supposed to get married a couple of hours ago, but called off the wedding when she walked in on her bride having sex with the caterer’s assistant. The fact that the caterer’s assistant was male was an even bigger surprise. Now Tansy is doing something she’s always wanted to do, but hasn’t because her fiance wouldn’t have liked it. Cai is intrigued by this wounded soul on her tattoo chair, but knowing her propensity for saving damsels in distress, she keeps her distance. It’s only after Tansy returns for a touch up that the two decide to get a little closer and see what happens.
Tansy met Jody in college, and they started dating soon after. Without Tansy really noticing what happened, Jody isolated her from her own friends and family. From the outside, we can see that Jody’s actions fit into a pattern of abuse, but it happened so slowly, along with other behaviors, that Tansy doesn’t really see the whole picture while she’s involved with Jody. The last straw for Tansy is Jody’s infidelity moments before their wedding. She takes off. Jody shows up later that day to try to smooth things over, and take Tansy home with her, but Tansy has finally had enough. This seems to be the point where she finds her inner strength and breaks away. What follows is a journey to self-healing, and it’s a journey that is helped along by Cai, the beautiful butch tattoo artist.
Cai definitely has a thing for damsels in distress. The problem is that she knows she’s no good for Tansy. After the disaster of her last relationship, Tansy needs someone kind and generous, who will be able to give her the soft reassurances and love she needs. That definitely isn’t Cai. Her past has left her in a place in her life where she’s accepted that she’s all about casual flings, and not long-term relationship material. Tansy’s bravery catches her though, and the two of them decide to see each other for a while. As they get to know each other better, Cai discovers that perhaps Tansy isn’t the only one who needs healing, and the best thing each of them could find is someone who can understand and accept their flaws as well as be attracted to their positive qualities.
The Writing Style
In this book, Brown once again returns to the use of the unreliable narrator. Tansy’s point of view is extremely subjective and riddled with paradoxes between her behavior and her thoughts. Foremost among those are Tansy’s view of herself as someone who was just caught up in a relationship with an overbearing person and the reality we see through Cai’s point of view of someone who exhibits all the telltale signs of a victim of abuse. And we see why Tansy can’t view it that way; because she doesn’t see herself as a victim. That mindset is one she clings to, because as long as she doesn’t admit to what really happened, she doesn’t have to accept that it happened to her. Brown makes an excellent decision in this book in including two different points of view, Tansy’s and Cai’s. The cognitive dissonance between Tansy’s inner dialogue and the things Cai actually observes emphasizes those differences and in turn gives them more impact in a way that slowly builds the tension and pressure in the narrative until Tansy finally breaks and faces the things she’s been hiding from for so long.
The other great thing about the writing in this book is Brown’s decision to use two points of view which are both first person. Normally I’m dead set against this. It may not be what’s technically considered head-hopping, but usually switching points of view in first person is a sign that the book shouldn’t have been written in first person at all. Brown proves an exception to this for one basic reason; she gives both Tansy and Cai their own voice. Too often when an author includes two first person pov’s in a book, the characters sound exactly the same, which really means that the narrative voice is the same. In such a case, third person is a better narrative choice. But Tansy and Cai both have inner dialogue, as well as a tone and mood, that is unique to them as separate characters. This is multiple first person pov done right.
I loved Brown’s honest and hard-hitting take on same-sex abuse and assault. She doesn’t shy away from showing what Tansy has gone through, nor does she shy away from Cai’s initial somewhat warped attraction for Tansy because of her distress, not in spite of it. Tansy’s journey towards healing is wonderful to watch, and to see the two of them touch each other so deeply, and be there when the other needs support was heartwarming. I also liked that Brown didn’t go for the easy ending, and wrap everything up in a neat bow. Once again, like her first book Far From Home, we have a somewhat delayed happy ending, which just seems more realistic in this case and allows us to believe the foundation of their relationship is even more solid and will be more lasting in the end.
There is on page sexual assault in this book. I have to admit that I don’t have personal experience with assault, and the scene disturbed me, perhaps because it’s in first person, so we get the feeling of helplessness but also the numbness that went with it.
This story is amazing, and touching. Yes, there are some difficult scenes, but Brown does an amazing job with a story that has a big emotional impact. You’ll fall in love with both Tansy and Cai, and you’ll root for both of them to heal and realize that the other person is the one who completes them.
Excerpt from Her Hometown Girl by Lorelie Brown
“You okay” my tattoo artist asks, but she doesn’t stop what she’s doing. Cai. Her name is Cai. I met her almost two hours ago, when I walked into Belladonna Ink based on Yelp reviews.
“Do you want me to stop?” I hear the amusement in her voice. She scrubs another lick of fire down the center of my calf. “Just warning you, if you take a break and then get going again, pretty much everyone agrees it hurts worse.”
“Aren’t you a pile of sunshine?”
“Can sunshine pile? Isn’t the expression ‘a ray of sunshine’?”
I smash my cheek against the chair’s support ring thingy. Paper crinkles. “Is this like food service where I shouldn’t tell you how much I hate you because you’ll spit in my soup? If I tell you how I really feel, will you draw a poop emoji on me?”
“No, because you’ll walk around for the rest of your life telling everyone who’ll listen that I drew that shit.”
“This is true.” I blow out a long, shaky breath and am mortified to realize my nose is snotty and I’m holding back tears. Not surprised, but still embarrassed.
It’s been a long day.
It’s been a long, horrible, no-good, very bad day.
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Her Hometown Girl
Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781626496477
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Note: I received a free review copy of Her Hometown Girl by Lorelie Brown No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.