Review of The Commitment by Virginia Hale
Since I’ve read Virginia Hale’s fantastic debut novel Echo Point in 2017, I’ve enjoyed all of her books. I’ve heard that this one was heavy on angst which I’m not a fan but I decided to read it anyway. Despite being an angst fest, I liked it a lot.
Lacey Reed has been in love with her best friend Jennifer Fraser since they met working in an Australian gold rush museum. After a terrible heartbreak and serious health problems, Jen is convinced love isn’t on the cards for her so she proposes to Lacey, and live together as friends. But as someone from the past comes back to town, Jen starts to have feelings she’d never thought she would have again.
The Commitment is an age-gap, friends to lovers, fake romance story with a twist. The characters plan to get married to take care of each other as friends but hiding this fact from everyone else. On paper, the idea sounds like pushing the fake romance trope’s limits but somehow the author makes it work. With some angst for everyone involved. Well… a lot of angst. I’m normally not a fan of angst because it sometimes reaches melodramatic levels, but the conflicts didn’t sound contrived here. The issues felt realistic and the health problems sounded authentic.
This author usually chooses the weirdest settings for her romances but this one beat them all: a gold rush living museum in a small town in Victoria, Australia. Strange enough, Ms. Hale pulls it off, the depictions of the costumes and habits of that era are engaging, interesting, and made for a very peculiar background.
This is a very character-driven book, it explores difficult issues such as bereavement, divorce, body image and unrequited love. The reader suffers along with the leads in their struggle to make sense of it all, in their journey of discovery while facing their own demons. There are multiple facets of all the pain and suffering, weaving complex webs in already complicated relationships. But somehow, beyond all the angst and drama, Ms. Hale manages to leave a message of hope. In case you were wondering, there’s a payoff at the end of the road for the characters. It’s a romance after all. 5 stars.