REVIEW: The Road Before Us: (A Route 66 Novel of Reconciliation and Romance) by Janine Rosche

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How far would you go to fix the mistakes you’ve made and regain the trust you lost? For Jade Jessup, the answer is 2,448 miles. Once one of Chicago’s significant financial advisors, Jade lost her credibility when her fiancé (and coworker) stole millions of dollars from their clients in a Ponzi scheme. Now she’s agreed to help one of them–an aging 1960s Hollywood starlet named Berenice “Benny” Alderidge–seek financial restoration.

Jade sets off along Route 66 with Benny and her handsome adult foster son, Bridger, who is filming a documentary retracing the 1956 trip that started the love story between Benny and her recently deceased husband, Paul. Listening to Benny recount her story draws Jade into memories of her own darker association with Route 66, when she was kidnapped as a child by a man the media labeled a monster–but she remembers only as daddy.

Together, all three of these pilgrims will learn about family, forgiveness, and what it means to live free of the past. But not before Jade faces a second staggering betrayal that changes everything.

CW/TW From the Author Notes – I’ve included a good deal of sensitive topics in this book. Dementia, the Samoan Adoption Scandal of the early 2000s, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the Tulsa Race Massacre and its long-standing cover-up, the realities of Jim Crow and modern-day racism, parental kidnapping, post-traumatic stress disorder as it pertains to veterans of war, war crimes, sexual harassment and assault, and treatment of POWs then and now. Although I have sought the advice of sensitivity readers, I would never be able to understand what it is like to personally or generationally experience such things. If I have gotten anything wrong, I welcome the opportunity to learn more.

Dear Ms. Rosche, 

Although I knew that this wasn’t going to be a laugh-a-minute fun road story, it encompassed quite a bit more darkness than I was expecting. And yet that darkness was so quietly and calmly worked into the story that it rarely felt forced or out of place. Some things could be triggering so I included your own comments about what these are and that you used sensitivity readers. As some of these inclusions are on page, readers should check them before starting to read the book. 

The reason for Jade accompanying Bridger and Benny makes a bit more sense in the story than in the abbreviated blurb. Jade was the person who figured out the Ponzi scheme and blew the whistle. Though she’s done all she can to help the authorities claw back some of the millions that were stolen from clients, her heart broke when she realized that two of the clients who trusted her most and whom she liked best lost almost everything. Since Benny’s beloved husband Paul only recently died, it’s hit that Hollywood icon even harder. That Benny wants Jade to be on this road journey as a way to help recover a bit of Jade’s public credibility shows what a wonder Benny is and adds to the reasons Jade agrees. 

Bridger, Benny’s foster son, is also a darling. Well, mostly. Bridger is the type of person to always ask how you’re doing even if it’s his house burning down. He reintroduces Jade to the delight of chili dogs and reminds her that “We’ve seen each other eat chili dogs. Nothing is too personal anymore.” But as Jade discovers, there are still things that Bridger is keeping up his sleeve. 

As the journey continues, Benny recounts on film how she and her brother’s best friend (and Benny’s not really so secret crush) Paul headed west to follow their acting dreams. Meanwhile Jade remembers how over twenty years ago, she and her father traveled this same route one summer while listening to Eagles’ songs and playing games. Both Benny (then) and Jade (now) ended up learning about themselves and about these men in their lives. Not everything is light and sweet. Paul and Benny’s brother were POWs in North Korea and what happened there haunts both men in terrible ways. Jade thought she was on an adventure with her beloved father only to have this crash around her when the truth came out. 

The book is an inspie. Most of the main characters are religious and speak of religion at times – usually to comfort each other. It is not a preachy or judgmental religiosity. There is no moralistic finger-wagging. 

There were some charming tertiary characters (the Ohio couple) and some #@*&*$-holes who just seemed to be there to either be lovely or horrific people when the plot needed it. I’d hate to think that a pair like that could follow travelers for states just to cause trouble but I guess #@*&*$-holes like that exist or need to exist in a story. 

By the end, some old pain was laid to rest, some self discovery was done, and a romance had begun. I almost totally love the romance but needed just a bit more contrition from one party towards the other who had been lied to and manipulated in the past. Watching Benny slowly sinking deeper into dementia was hard; this is partially made up for by watching her (past) growing love affair with Paul. Kudos for letting younger Benny be a little immature, impatient, and stubborn at times. I’m not much for road trips anymore, despite the lovely imagery in the book about the places along the journey, so I think I need to go listen to Nat King Cole sing about Route 66. B

~Jayne

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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