Home by Morning - Alexis Harrington Jessica Layton, our heroine grew up as the older daughter of a small town physician. Her vision of her future was to become a physician like her father and after archiving this goal to return to her hometown and marry her high school sweetheart, Cole. Her father supports her goals, at least, with regards to education however, he does not actively discourage her personal goal. He does send her away to college after he learns that his daughter and Cole were almost intimate. However, since she had to go to college anyway, one can’t say one way or the other if he liked Cole as a future son-in-law.

Jessica goes away to college leaving Cole behind. Cole is a blacksmith and the younger son of horse breeder who supplies horses for the army. From college Jessica goes to New York to work, still with an understanding that she and Cole will eventually marry. A telegraph from Cole demanding her return changes that all.

When Cole receives a telegraph from Jessica that she will not return, he is devastated. At the same time, he older brother, Riley is drafted into the army and leaves for France, leaving Cole, his father and his wife, Susannah behind.

The story begins when Jessica returns home for a short visit to her new job in Seattle. It is near the end of WW1, the small is holding a parade for one of their own who is supposed to be deployed to Europe. She returned to see her younger and has severe misgivings about being in her home town. Cole, shortly after breaking it off, has started to court her sister, Amy and there are expectations that he will propose sooner than later.

The parade also is the start of the Spanish Influenza which we now know killed more people than the war. Jessica is essentially drafted to work as the town’s doctor until the doctor the town is expecting will arrive.

Her office happens to be next door to Cole’s smithy and in a building his family owns. They are thrown together by circumstance and strangely enough by her sister. Jessica acquires an unwanted suitor who complicates her life but his actions also galvanize Cole into action. He has never gotten over Jessica and he knows he does not love Amy and actually berates himself several times: everyone loves Amy why can’t he?

The reader will know sooner than either Jessica or Cole who orchestrated the events leading to their breakup and when they finally realize it, they do take action.

However, against the backdrop of discrimination of female physicians and of small town morality, Jessica sees no future for them and leaves again.

I loved the secondary characters, the author described them well, the slightly overbearing father of the hero, re-living heroic deeds through the letters Riley sends his wife, never realizing that he causes Susannah grief or makes Cole feel less important, the town’s mayor who is overwhelmed by his responsibilities especially after personal tragedy strikes, the town’s self-styled healer, the self-righteous preacher (I did not see his fall from grace coming), the sly sister and even the town’s whore.

The chapter’s dealing with Riley in French trenches seem unnecessary long and too many. I understand the author is setting his book up and we get a hint as to the core of the story. And I have to admit, thinking about Home By Nightfall, that I do not like books which constantly go back and forth in time, so maybe it was all for the better to give us the current history on Riley and let his book also stand in the presence with only his and presumably his family’s memories giving us background.

Overall, I would categorize this novel more historical fiction with romance than historical romance. The author vividly shows us how life is in small towns, for immigrants to the New World, for women in traditional men’s position towards the end of WW1.