In a nutshell, this is a second chance story. Sort of. Carolyn and Stephan grew up together, spending their summers as lake cottage neighbors (all women’s fiction requires a lake cottage), then hooked up for a summer fling as teenagers before going on as friends as adults. The bulk of the action takes place when they’re in their early thirties, after a severe injury to Carolyn’s young daughter brings them back together. Left by her cold ex-husband and her unsentimental parents to keep vigil alone over her comatose daughter, Stephan leaves his life in Detroit to be at her side in Cleveland.
One of the things I liked most about the story is Emma, Carolyn’s daughter. As the action opens, she’s lying in a hospital bed in a coma after a car accident. Carolyn is, of course, keeping watch and determined to see her get well, despite everyone telling her that it won’t end happily. The doctor tells her that when comatose people wake up, if they wake up, it’s not like the movies. They wake very, very slowly, and are rarely the same as they were. And what happens? Emma wakes slowly, needs extensive rehab for a long time, and isn’t the same as she once was. She’s weak on one side, has problems speaking and uses a walker for a while. And everyone’s just happy she’s alive. Imagine that. Happiness and disability *can* coexist in a romance novel. Neat.
Where it all goes pear-shaped is in the telling. I can’t really decide when the story is set, or if it’s actually a contemporary. Only the epilogue (and it’s an epilogue that takes treacle to brave new heights) is set in the book’s publication year of 2008. Most of the action is set in 1994, with lots of flashbacks to their childhood together at the lake in the mid-1970s. After the couple hooks up and declares their mutual love and gets married, the book then jumps to 1999, where their actual HEA is delayed by a disagreement over whether or not to have children together (and you already guessed how that ends.)
I found all the time-line jumping annoying and unnecessary. Rather than a single, coherent book, it read like two connected novellas. There’s the 1994 story, then there’s the 1999 sequel. As a result, I felt jerked around. They got what sure appeared to be an HEA only to have the author yank it away and yell, “psych!”
For all its faults, I did sit down and read it straight through without stopping. The characters and the drama was compelling enough, but I just wish the telling was a bit smoother. C
Published August 1st 2008 by Harlequin