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REVIEW: Nightswimming by Rebecca James

Dear Ms James,

nightswimming.jpgI read the first review you have up on your blog and that, plus having peeked at the ending, had already told me that this isn’t a standard romance story. Some people might be put off trying it at this point but I hope that they’ll keep reading this letter and decide to give your debut novel a chance as the writing is excellent and the story realistic.

A story about love, friendship, fidelity, and betrayal– and how the birth of a child can change everything.

Sarah has everything she ever wanted–"the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, a house in the country, and a baby on the way. If only Brett were more enthusiastic about their new arrival, and just a little less ambivalent about their relationship.

After baby Josh is born, Sarah and Brett are put to the test. But can they overcome the challenges of parenthood– and a certain neighbor who has more than just a friendly interest in their new family?

I’ve heard that in any relationship, there is always one who loves more and can be hurt more. Sarah is certainly that person. You lay this out in the beginning so there’s no question but that there will be problems and heartaches ahead. But will there ultimately be a chance for these two to work out a long-lasting relationship?

I like that you show the good and bad side of each character and that we see this from both points of view. It kept my empathy and anger alive for both Brett and Sarah. I could see how each person felt in the relationship and how easily things could be misunderstood. Neither person was portrayed as totally sympathetic or villainous. One thing I noticed, and I don’t know if it was deliberate on your part, is that Brett has almost the same thing to say about all his female co-workers in Sydney — that each has a reputation for bitchiness or taking charge. I had to wonder if this was your way of saying something about his views on women and why he had hooked up with Sarah in the first place or why their problems escalated at the end when Sarah was exhausted caring for their baby?

I think you did a good job showing how their upbringing influences both of them. Neither Brett nor Sarah grew up in standard nuclear family. Brett’s mother and stepfather had an alcoholic, tempestuous relationship which he tried to escape from then but which he now holds up as an example of the romantic, passionate love he’s searching for. It’s only when he thinks he’s lost it that he sees what he has with Sarah. Sarah was snotty to her stepmother while growing up but now longs for the close family she lost when her mother died at such a young age. He joy at her pregnancy finally brings home the pain her father and stepmother went through in their own attempts to have a family and helps to reconcile Sarah to them.

I guess the ultimate question of the book is should parents having relationship problems stay together for sake of child or is it better in some cases for parents to separate? Coming from a family with its share of problems, I’ve seen one side of it and in my opinion Sarah makes the best choice in what she does. Will it remain her long term choice? I think you finished the book at the correct moment and I like the open ending. One thing I will say is that your book is one of the best I’ve read at describing the powerful bond between a mother and child. Yet it also shows just how much work a stay a home parent does and the toll to do this.

The writing in “Nightswimming” is great and I compulsively breezed through the story. It has a nice feel for place (Australia) and two main characters I was interested in despite, or perhaps because of, their flaws. Right now, I’m still pondering the title and how REM’s song fits the book. Nostalgia for the past? Pain at love lost? Time to pull out my own CDs and relive past years. I would like to see what you could do with a more standard romance but I’ll give this one a B.


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 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 very few paranormals.


  1. Rebecca James
    May 15, 2007 @ 15:46:51

    Thankyou Jayne! I’m SO glad you enjoyed it. (phew – and greatly relieved too!)

    (My hands are shaking as I type….isn’t that bizarre!)

    The Nightswimming title was originally from the REM song – and I had a reference to it in the book – but had to remove it because of copyright issues.

    Again, thanks. You’ve made my day!

  2. Susan
    May 15, 2007 @ 16:38:59

    I just finished the book and enjoyed it too!! I like the way we got a perspective from each of the characters. Hey, motherhood is tough — those scenes with the baby reminded me of all those late nights with my two boys who are teenagers now!

  3. Jayne
    May 15, 2007 @ 17:13:33

    Rebecca, you mean there was a reference beyond the scene when Claudia plays the song towards the end of the book?

  4. Jayne
    May 15, 2007 @ 17:15:13

    Susan, those scenes with the baby remind me again why I decided not to have children! ;) If Rebecca can make me, who’s never had a child, feel this mother-child bond, then that’s powerful writing to me.

  5. Rebecca James
    May 15, 2007 @ 17:42:47

    Susan – wow, thankyou so much. It is lovely to hear that someone has (already!) read and enjoyed my book.

    Jayne – no, there wasn’t actually another mention of the song anywhere – there was and is only that one reference – but I did originally have some verses of the song included in the text – with Claudia singing along. (that was removed, wasn’t it? Now I’ll have to go and check)

    And though I pinched the title from the song it probably doesn’t actually explain the title (in terms of the book) very well anyway – I think the phrase ‘Nightswimming’ for me, just conjures up an image of people swimming through life in the dark, blindly … not knowing where they are headed…..

    and there is a scene where Sarah swims at night and surfaces in an unexpected spot….

    (um….wow…a conversation about my book….I could do this all day…. :) )

  6. Rebecca James
    May 15, 2007 @ 18:07:05

    my comments don’t seem to be working???

  7. Susan
    May 15, 2007 @ 18:38:56

    I am one of those readers who want a traditional romance “happily ever after” epilogue but your ending was great! It fit the story. Also loved the way it began and how it merged into the storyline. I look forward to your next endeavor!

  8. Rebecca James
    May 16, 2007 @ 02:13:18

    tahnks again Susan. :)

  9. Rebecca James
    May 16, 2007 @ 02:16:36

    I mean, Thanks!

  10. Jane
    May 16, 2007 @ 14:19:55

    I am afraid to try this but you make it sound very compelling.

  11. Jane
    May 16, 2007 @ 14:20:25

    I might as well give it a try. Right?

  12. Rebecca James
    May 16, 2007 @ 14:26:34

    don’t be ‘afraid’…’s not that sad!

  13. Sybil
    May 16, 2007 @ 14:27:15

    someone needs to email me and tell me what happens in the end….

  14. Jayne
    May 16, 2007 @ 14:36:30

    The end is not sad. It’s actually fairly hopeful. But it’s not a traditional romance “HEA.”

  15. Susan
    May 16, 2007 @ 15:23:54

    Yes, it is a nice ending especially with Brett and Sarah. Hey Mrs. Giggles gave it a whopping 95!!!! I knew we had good taste!!! LOL!!!

  16. Jayne
    May 16, 2007 @ 19:20:06

    Unless some changes were made after I read my e-arc, Brett and Sarah were not married. But they were in a committed relationship.

  17. All About Samhain « Jorrie Spencer
    May 21, 2007 @ 20:53:21

    […] Jayne of Dear Author gives Nightswimming a B. The writing in “Nightswimmingâ€? is great and I compulsively breezed through the […]

  18. kelly
    Sep 13, 2007 @ 16:58:27

    I have to admit that I didn’t like the story, and it wasn’t that the writing was poor, it was excellent, and it wasn’t that the themes. The descriptions of pregnancy and motherhod were outstanding and I totally related to that. It was that I so totally didn’t like Brett and I couldn’t understand how Sarah could stay in such a dead-end relationship. I know there are people in the world like that, but it was just sad commentary. I think the ending was fitting, but I was expecting a romance novel and this is more women’s fiction.

  19. Jayne
    Sep 14, 2007 @ 04:46:28

    Kelly, I just went back and reread the ending. Maybe Sarah and Brett will get back together. Maybe she’ll find someone new in Brisbane. I’m not sure but I agree that the ending was fitting.

  20. Steve
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 17:53:27


    I’ve never heard of Nightswimming. Are you the same Rebecca James that wrote Beautiful Malice (Excellent, by the way)?

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