by Shannon O'Brien
A confidant to all who need her, Rose Pruitt is a familiar face at Jones University thanks to her years of dedicated service at the Campus Center. Only a few days into the new school year, Rose finds herself cleaning up all kinds of messes, including one that involves a newcomer to campus—Professor Allison Chandler. Although their first encounter is all business, the two women soon discover an easy rapport and attraction that neither can deny.
Hurdles abound as the two women face challenges both separately and together. Can they get beyond the obstacles and potential disaster they face? Only time will tell in this timeless romance by author Shannon O’Brien.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Lead Me Home is a continuation of the world I crafted for my first book, Sing Me Home. I have always envisioned a shared universe for the characters I create, so you can pop in on old friends and see how they are doing. Lead Me Home follows one of the characters that readers have already met—Rose Pruitt, the campus café manager. In this book, she gets her time to shine and explore her feelings for a new professor at Jones University. As someone who attended a women's college, I've always loved the idea of using that setting for romance novels. There are endless possibilities!"
Megan C - The relationship and character development is well-paced and I found myself engaged by the two mains and their budding romance. Although the books was told from both women's POV, there's more of Rose and her character arc as she lets go of the self-doubt that is making her question her decision to stay at Jones after graduation. There's a natural build from acquaintances to more throughout the story and; once they get the "more", there's more than enough chemistry built up between the two. Even when we get to the dramatic external obstacle, the characters withstand the test and are supportive and communicate. The situation could have been handled with a lot more angst, but the characters felt real and their actions and reactions reflected that.
Pin’s Reviews - Lead Me Home is a sweet and charming romance. Low in angst and slightly slow in pace, but overall quite satisfying. The setting, Jones University—a small town all-female college, is the same as in the author's debut, Sing Me Home. Rose, one of the main characters here, was a secondary character there, and the mains from it are mentioned here. Although I have not read Sing me Home, I can safely say that this reads perfectly fine as a standalone story. I really liked the protagonists, Rose and Allison. Though I generally like more romantic conflict between characters and a somewhat faster paced narrative, these two women make this romance nice and satisfying.
Kaara K. - This was a super cute book that followed Rose, the manager of Jones University Cafe and brand new professor Allison. What starts as professional at first, quickly winds up as a romance. I'm a sucker for books that take place in any sort of educational setting and this was a perfect Sunday afternoon read!
Not this guy again.
Rose stared down the man across the counter and did her best not to sigh in defeat. Professor Richard Mannes was one of her most infuriating customers and she hadn’t yet braced herself for another year of his antics.
“What can I get you?”
“A pumpkin flat white, no foam, extra hot.”
Rose prepared for her first headache of the semester. How could Mannes simultaneously be such a snob, yet also a fan of something so universally beloved as pumpkin spice? Flavorings overpowered espresso. What kind of snob didn’t know that?
“Sorry, we’re out of pumpkin spice today. Want me to make it a regular flat white, instead?” she offered with a smile. Unfortunately, she knew it would be wasted on him.
“How can you be out of it? The school year has only just started.”
“Sadly, our distributor doesn’t operate on a collegiate calendar. Flat white?” she asked again.
The man sighed deeply in a clear attempt to showcase how much he was affected by Rose’s ineptitude in all things. She waited patiently for him to get over it.
Rose passed the order down to the barista. She watched warily from the corner of her eye as the newbie struggled with the complicated request. Her latest batch of workers were green as the grass outside the café’s wall of windows. She hoped they would pick up the pace sooner rather than later. They didn’t have the luxury of easing their way into the gig here in the café. The early morning rush was a fact of life and it wouldn’t let up until winter break, when most of the student population departed.
She motioned the next person forward and focused on streamlining the orders. A crash sounded from behind her as she swiped a student ID through the card reader.
“Everything okay?” She dared not turn around to face this new complication.
The girl on the other side of the register looked toward the floor with a wince. Probably not okay if a customer was nervous about it, she reasoned. Rose snapped her fingers in the direction of one of her returning student workers, who was stationed at the breakfast sandwich bar.
“Come take the register.”
She left her post to deal with the debacle behind her. Three of the new workers were crouched on the floor in a desperate attempt to clean up a quickly expanding puddle of coffee that leaked from an upturned carafe. At least it smelled good.
“You, grab the mop from the closet.” She pointed at the one who looked the least panicked. “You and you, start on a new batch to replace that one.”
The three girls split up to follow her directions. She grabbed the carafe and inspected it for damage. It looked unscathed, so she carried it gingerly toward the back room to be washed. As she walked away from the coffee station, she could hear Mannes quibble with one of the other workers about his order.
“I said no foam!”
She returned to the relative safety of her office after the carafe was cleaned and set out to dry. She massaged her temples. What was she going to do with these new kids? She pondered the possibilities, which ranged from rational and sensible to pure fantasy. The girl on mop duty walked past her door, awkwardly steering the wheeled bucket back toward the sink.
“After you’re done with that, can you ask the other newbies to come back here for a minute?” The girl nodded, still calmly going about her duties. At least they weren’t all beyond hope.
A few minutes later, the three students walked in sheepishly. Rose stared down the new café workers lined up in front of her. Her staff seemed younger every year. She grimaced with the realization that she was the one aging. She reminded herself that she had been in their shoes many years ago—a lowly first year just trying to make a little extra money in between classes by working at the campus café. She had once stood exactly where they were now, her own feet scuffing the dingy office carpet while her boss had explained the timesheet system and shift swap board on her first day. A lot had changed in the fifteen years since her graduation from Jones University, including both the timesheet system as well as her own role at the café, but that sad carpet had not. She frowned and added it to her mental list of possible capital improvements she should request at her annual review. Why hadn’t she done that last year? The perks of being a longtime university employee included free coffee and gym access, but there was plenty to offset those positives. Her endless list of worries was one of them.
“Ms. Pruitt,” one beanpole of a girl began hesitantly, startling her from her thoughts.
“Please, just call me Rose.”
“Oh, okay. Sorry. I’m sorry about the spill earlier. I don’t think I’m comfortable being on my own yet with coffee duty. And I definitely don’t think I’m ready to start working shifts unsupervised.”
Rose hesitated, sure that it was a fair assessment after what she had just witnessed. They weren’t ready to handle the early morning coffee rush by themselves yet. Luckily she was adept at handling these first-year jitters. After two weeks of shadowing older students, it was time to see if these new workers would sink or swim. She couldn’t keep the café afloat if they didn’t put their big girl pants on at some point. Now was that moment.
“You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” She looked at each of them for a moment. “I schedule experienced workers in other areas during your shifts so you can ask for help. Plus, I’m always back here doing paperwork anyway. I never seem to leave.”
She heard a stifled laugh from the lineup. She pursed her lips as she realized it was truer than she would have liked. She needed to shoo them from her office so she could finalize the next shift schedule. The work truly never stopped for her.
“You’ll make mistakes and either you’ll learn from them or you won’t. If you don’t, then you’ll need to find another job on campus. The good news is that I possess infinite patience, just as long as you do your best. So, keep it positive and give it the old college try. All right. That’s enough of a pep talk for today. Those people out there want their coffee.” She waved them out. “And don’t spill on any professors! The floor and students are fair game!”
Rose sat back in her desk chair with a grunt. Only two weeks into the school year and she was already tired. She had lost some of her most dedicated workers with the previous year’s graduation and the new assistant managers were still finding their footing as peer leaders. Ellie was a particularly big loss. Not only had she been a great café worker, but she had also become a good friend during her four years at Jones University. Rose felt a familiar pang when she thought of all the friends she had made and lost over the years. Her achy knees only added to that mental pain. The semester was off to a rocky start, but Rose still felt like it would turn around. It always did.
Rose looked up from her messy desk. One of the new workers stood in the doorway, clearly too nervous to come any closer.
“What’s wrong? Break something already?”
The first year took a step across the threshold. “No, I just wanted to ask if there were any extra shifts I could pick up in the next few weeks.”
“You’re pretty eager for a newbie,” Rose said as she eyed the young girl warily.
“I figure schoolwork will only get harder from here on out, so I should work as much as I can now.”
Rose understood that reasoning. She probably needed to save money to pay back her student loans, like many of her coworkers. Rose repressed a sigh as she thought of how students barely had time to be kids anymore. She had been the same way once upon a time, constantly worried about affording another semester at college instead of enjoying the time she had.
“Sure. I’ll let you know if I have any openings. It’s Melinda, right?”
“Yes, ma’am,” she replied with a grin.
Rose shuddered. “Ugh. Am I a ma’am now?”
“No! Oh, I’m sorry!”
Rose chuckled. Melinda was taking her a little too seriously. She was sure the young girl would snap out of it soon. She tried to be a fun boss as often as she could to make work at the café a little more enjoyable. She knew how tedious the job could be week after week, especially when other prospects like homework deadlines and a social life were always on the other side of the glass doors that separated the café from the rest of campus. She glanced back at Melinda. Jones had a way of transforming all these terrified first-years into commanding young women. Still, it took some time. Melinda would get there, just like they all did in the end.
“It’s fine. I’m just messing with you. Now get out there and make sure the others are still alive, okay?”
“Okay,” Melinda answered tentatively. “Thanks, Rose.”
“You’re welcome. Any time.”
Rose leaned back in her chair and absentmindedly stared at the ceiling. She would need some caffeine soon, otherwise she would spend the whole morning wrapped up in her thoughts. But before she could reach for her travel mug, her musings were interrupted by the eardrum-shattering blare of the fire alarm. She dropped her head onto her desk. She didn’t have time for this nonsense.