Dear Ms. Bockoven,
I remember reading the blurb of your book when it was released last year. I immediately thought of the American hostages then being held in Colombia, some of them in their 4-6th year of captivity. And of the others who’d been held by these militant groups, deep in the jungles, for far longer. Even while I thought it gutsy of you to use this as the basis for a book, I couldn’t help also wondering if the book would be an emotional downer. Hence I made the decision not to read it.
Then, when the recent hostage rescue brought the issue back to the front of my mind, I wondered how what you’d written would talley with the actual events. So, with the wonder of the backlisted ebooks at eharlequin.com, I bought it and began reading it in the early evening. And kept reading. And realized it was way past my bedtime and I had to be up early the next morning but kept reading. And finally finished it, wiping a tear or two or three from my eyes.
I knew that Evan MacDonald was going to be kidnapped. I knew his wife Julia would spend the next five years trying to get him released. I didn’t know that for most of the book, she and Evan remain apart. What? A heroine and hero apart for 300 pages? What kind of romance is that? A darn good one. Julia’s journal entries to Evan chronicling their meeting, early courtship, relations with her family, revelation of the horror of his, intimacy, marriage, plans for their future and joy of their children is a wonderful way to keep him in the forefront of our minds.
It also shows us the inevitable depths of depression she goes through as the negotiations, or rather the waiting for the damn negotiations to even begin, wears on her and their two children. Julia is a strong woman, no question about that. This is the love of her life who is in danger, who is being kept from her, who is missing watching his two young children grow up and Julia resents every minute of it. Hates his captors, despairs at ever seeing him again.
She stays for months in Bogata, learns Spanish, studies the culture, history, of the country. She learns its geography by studying which militant groups hold which areas, she makes friends with the government officials from both countries who try to help her, she changes to become a woman who won’t let anyone tell her no, who won’t let people forget Evan, who won’t give up. She tries to be two parents to her children, to finish the fixer up house they’d just bought before Evan was kidnapped, to encourage her daughter to work on the garden her father had planned and hides her dismay at being the one to buy a jockstrap for their son.
And then has to break the news to them that their father’s grave was found in the jungle. That he died within days of being kidnapped. That the hope she tried to sustain for 5 years was in vain. I thought to myself, but this is a romance novel. “The hero isn’t supposed to die, damn it! We’re talking about love at first sight, melting like an ice cream cone into a puddle of love, overcoming the odds, building a life together. You can’t end it this way.” My cat was giving me odd looks as I lectured my ereader.
Then I realized there were still quite a few pages left in the story. I settled down and thought, okay now she’ll find out the news was wrong. Evan will be found alive and all will end well. Only it didn’t and I began to wonder if Julia was going to find love with someone else, someone who began to love her. But then I’d remember this is the Everlasting Love line and question myself and the book all over again. You did a great job in keeping me guessing how things would turn out.
I know that lots of romance readers don’t want to read much beyond the initial HEA. Maybe a year or two of syrupy epilogue update to get a couple well on the road of their lifelong love story but little more. Or perhaps seeing a couple in the background of a sequel along with their 2.3 children. But I truly enjoyed seeing a HEA that is tested by fire and remains true. B+
Edited to add spoiler: Okay for those of you who can’t stand to wait or don’t want to read the book but want to know what happened….
When this happened, I did wonder at first about his mental state and how he was going to recover from the trauma of the past five years. Then I looked back at his childhood and think I found something of an answer. He’s already gone through some tough times so I think it will help him recover faster and deal with his kidnapping better than the average Joe.