Review of ‘The promise’ by Claire Highton-Stevenson.

Susan and Ali Jenkins are happily married until Susan is diagnosed with terminal cancer. With little time left, Susan asks Ali to promise her that when she’s gone Ali will be open to a new chance at love. Will Ali keep her promise?

This is a story that deals with a few difficult issues such as terminal illness, death and bereavement, but also conveys a message of hope and love. Normally books about widows finding love again don’t narrate the loss part or they just describe it as a flashback. This case is different. ‘The promise’ is divided into two parts: the first deals with Susan’s illness and death, and the second, much longer, narrates Ali’s struggle to cope with her loss and to keep her promise. It isn’t hard to guess that part 1 is as heartbreaking as part 2 is hopeful.

The book is written in third person from the point of view of Susan, Ali and Susan’s nurse Blair. In the second part, Susan keeps her voice in short flashbacks as Ali’s memories. Despite the issues involved in the story, the tone is not melodramatic or excessively dark mainly due to Susan’s personality and selflessness. Ali’s characterisation is realistic in her pain and struggle, and Blair is also portrayed with authenticity in how she’s ready to help as a nurse and a friend.

My only issue with this book that is reflected in my rating is that the novel has some minor editing issues like the usage of commas and some typos. Additionally, in my opinion, the balance between show and tell is a bit off and the introduction of some secondary characters is a bit confusing. Despite that, the story is engaging, compelling and will definitely tug at the reader’s heartstrings.

Overall, a moving and emotional read that will invoke both sadness and hope. 4 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Hearts of Emerald Bay’ by D.G. Barnes.

Romance author Dana Lawson goes for a relaxing summer holiday to a small seaside town in Nova Scotia, where she meets local bar owner Mac Mackenzie. Their attraction is undeniable but what started as a summer fling soon develops into something more meaningful as both women face different challenges. Will they have their happily ever after?

‘Hearts of Emerald Bay’ is an entertaining romance by debut author D.G. Barnes. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the story is sometimes light and funny and others take a more serious and angsty tone. I think the author managed this balance well.┬áMr. Barnes builds Dana and Mac’s chemistry skillfully and their intimate scenes are hot and realistic. The secondary characters are well rounded, specially Mac’s niece Ellie and Dana’s best friend Jennie. The different subplots keep the story moving forward while dealing with difficult issues such as homophobia and bereavement.

This is the first lesfic book I read by a male author (I’ve never read anything by Erik Schubach). I have to say that Mr. Barnes’s depiction of a lesbian relationship is well-written and realistic, including the intimate scenes. There’s even a reference to Melissa Brayden’s ‘Soho loft’ series. Even though there are a few typos and the main conflict seemed a bit forced by out of character miscommunication, I found the work of this author very promising and will definitely read his next book.

Overall, an entertaining romance with a good balance of chemistry, angst and playfulness. 4 stars.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Rising above’ by Genevieve Fortin.

Ana Bloom is an engineering geologist in a sabbatical leave researching the effects of climate change in rising sea levels in the small town of Sainte-Luce-Sur-Mer. She is convinced that people have to relocate away from the coastline as the consequences of climate change will eventually hit it with destruction and life loss. She settles in the White Sheep Inn and soon she befriends the innkeeper Yvonne and her dog Miller. But Yvonne’s granddaughter, Melodie, isn’t convinced by Ana’s theory and sees her as a threat to her life’s values. Melodie is cold towards Ana and downright rude. But when a storm hits the White Sheep Inn both women will have to learn to join forces to fight it it and in the process discover their own feelings.

This book is plot driven around the conflict between Ana, who is strongly convinced that the only solution to rising sea levels is to relocate away from the coast, and Melodie, whose livelihood means to live by the sea. The author states that despite she was always aware of the consequences of climate change, researching for this novel gave her a new level of consciousness.

As a native of the nearby town of Rimouski (Quebec, Canada), Ms. Fortin describes beautifully the charm of Sainte-Luce-Sur-Mer, along with the very real threat to its coast by human actions. The author makes a fantastic case for climate change awareness and what people can do about it. However, the romantic storyline didn’t work for me as the environmental one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with the characters fully. Melodie is a hard to like character who at the beginning comes across as disrespectful and immature. This first impression is hard to reverse even by understanding her reasons behind her bad attitude, specially in her relationship with her mother. The opposite happens to the other main character. Ana is more likable and well rounded but her out of character reaction in the middle of the book is unappealing and feels more as a plot device rather than her normal actions. As a consequence, the conflict feels a bit forced and contrived.

The novel is written in third person from the point of view of both main characters set in the present with flashbacks from one year earlier. The secondary characters Yvonne and Miller the dog are, in my opinion, the best part of the novel. As in ‘Dingo’s recovery’, the dog acts as a facilitator in a human relationship, in this case, the friendship between Yvonne and Ana which feels warmer than the romance itself. Thomas, Melodie’s little son is well portrayed and he brings to light a much needed caring side of Melodie though, for me, it wasn’t enough to like her.

Overall, a good story to raise climate change awareness that falls a bit short in the romance department. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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