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REVIEW:  Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye

REVIEW: Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye

never-forget-me

AS WAR BLAZES ACROSS EUROPE, THREE COUPLES FIND A LOVE THAT IS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO OVERCOME ALL THE ODDS…

A KISS GOODBYE, 1914

As war looms, genteel Flora yearns to be more than just an observer. She finds a revolutionary kindred spirit in soldier Geraint—but will their fragile love be crushed before it can start to bloom?

DEAREST SYLVIE, 1916

Soldier Robbie cannot forget his one hedonistic night in Paris with beautiful waitress Sylvie. But as Europe burns, can these two star-crossed lovers ever be reunited?

FOREVER WITH ME, 1918

Nurse Sheila is horrified to discover her new boss is the French surgeon she woke beside after Armistice Day! Fighting for their love will be the bravest thing she’s ever had to do….

Dear Ms. Kaye,

After enjoying the two short time sequels that preceded the release of “Never Forget Me,” I knew I needed to check it out. I totally agree about how things changed after the war ended. But even if life changes were often for the better, I think some old world charm and courtly manners got left behind after 1918. Be that as it may, I was still looking forward to watching the beginning, middle and end of the war and how the characters would grow and develop with it.

I loved that Flora and Geraint quickly progress beyond their initial “hackles raised” meeting. They’re both blunt and honest, each says what they think and move past silly misunderstandings that would have lingered long past my tolerance point in a full length novel. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoyed watching them intially butt heads and spar a little.

They very similar outlook on and problems in life even if they’re from “opposite sides of the fence.” He disappointed his father by leaving the Welsh coal mines, moving into a white collar job and thereby seeming to look down on how his father had supported their family. She has been raised to be a flower-arranging ornament wife after making a Good Marriage all the while never using her brain. I winced in sympathy that not only her parents think she’s incapable of anything else but her lifelong friend does too. Ouch.

The growing emotional aspect to their relationship shows in how each feels able to confide in the other and tell their hopes for the future. how each inspires the other to face facts head on and be willing to make changes

The physical side of the issue is shown both in a delicate node to the mores of the time but still the heat is felt. The times when Geraint calls a halt speaks to his manners and care for Flora and makes sense in an age when he doesn’t want to cause her any future difficulties in marriage or risk tying her to a man who might come back from the front as a shell of the person she married.

With time running out, I was about to shake Geraint for not being as brave about his feelings as Flora yet it’s her strength that calls to an answering emotion in him which wins the day. B

The second story begins two years into war and prewar conventions have been blown to hell. Take what you want and need when you can get is the order of the day – quite unlike the reality of life before the war. Even Robbie’s stiff necked mother has noticed the change and has changed a bit herself from the woman who didn’t want her daughter marrying a son of a Welsh coal miner.

Robbie is on leave in Paris when he meets his HEA though neither he nor Sylvie wants one. Both have 1,000 mile stares and sense a sameness of their feelings namely to grab at anything that may spark some relief, even for a small while. But both are afraid to feel again, to be willing to risk their emotions again, to begin to care for another person whom they might lose.

Good on her that Sylvie as much in control and in charge as Robbie during sex. Both feel awkward afterwards, are almost mystified by their loss of control and stunned by what happens. At this point, both also feel it was sex and not love.

The feelings of love begin later during their letters when they slowly start to open up and then reveal to each other things they’ve never told others. They feel that now their lives are divided into a “before each other” and an “after we met.” Their relationship progresses swiftly via post but again turns awkward when they finally meet again face to face.

But they’re not perfect together and disagree on the war and duty yet they talk and listen and open their minds to another POV. Gradually these two, who never thought of the future, begin to hope for one, to work towards one and dream of one together. It takes another lightning bolt of realization for them to be willing to risk it all but it all comes together and works for me. B+

Finally on to the third novella which is, sadly, a mess. It starts as well as the first two novellas. The war is finally over and celebrations are going full tilt. VAD Sheila meets a French officer. They dance, they feel a spark and both let down their guard for a hot encounter. Afterwards, an embarrassed Sheila hurries away before an equally befuddled Luc can gather himself together.

Months later in Scotland, Sheila is discouraged to discover that her nursing experience counts for little in post-war Britain though her former employers would be willing to take her back on as a domestic. But she’s seen some of the world and refuses to go back to that. Bully for Sheila, I thought. Her chance comes when the Carmichael family decides to turn their Scottish estate into a hospital helping the war wounded. If Sheila can impress the foreign doctor arriving to take over operations, her future could be brighter than being in service.

Of course we all know who will be arriving as the new doctor. As well, since the hospital is where Sheila used to work, many of the trustees see her as a “wee lass” or servant – or both. She has to impress everyone with her organizational skills and most of all not give them any reason to dismiss her. With all her hopes riding on how she acts and is perceived, it should be a no brainer for how Sheila should act. But it isn’t.

Basically Sheila Luc’s relationship boils down to a sex scene, followed by ‘we’re appalled at what we’ve done,” time lapse then repeat, rinse and repeat. I didn’t feel I saw these two fall in love so much as repeat bad judgments and actions then be horrified and dismayed before doing it all over again. He can’t commit to a relationship and she can’t risk having people think she’s sleeping her way to a position but they keep going against what they’re preaching to themselves without me ever seeing any changes in their circumstances that would lead me to think they’ve grown or learned. Then suddenly Sheila feels she’s in love and Luc thinks he’s in love and voila! it’s all solved. No, I didn’t see it and found it a sad let down end to the book. D

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  You Make Me (Blurred Lines, Book 1) by Erin McCarthy

REVIEW: You Make Me (Blurred Lines, Book 1) by Erin...

youmakeme_300Dear Ms. McCarthy,

Let me say right off the bat that I had a hard time grading this book; its ultimate grade was not a reflection on the writing, plot (well, mostly not) or characterization, but rather my dissatisfaction with the ending. I am not sure I can say a lot without getting into spoiler territory, but I’ll just say that this is a romance, and it has an HEA, and that’s what I was not happy about. Based on the story and the actions of the characters, I didn’t think the HEA was appropriate.

Caitlyn Michaud is a starting her junior year at the University of Maine as a Business major. She’s well-liked, a member of a sorority, has a best friend (Aubrey) and a steady boyfriend (Ethan; he happens to be Aubrey’s brother). Her life is well-nigh perfect, and the night of the Homecoming Dance she reflects on how far she’s come from where she grew up.

Cat (as she was known before coming to UoM) was raised on a small and remote island of Maine; her family was poor and somewhat notoriously dysfunctional. Cat’s mother was mentally ill and permanently disabled due to electroshock treatments she’d received for her illness when Cat was a baby; her father was a fisherman who lost a hand on a lobster boat and afterwards went on disability. Cat’s only sibling, her brother Brian, is a ne’er-do-well and alcoholic. Growing up, Cat’s family took in a succession of foster children; the income helped support the family and hold the dilapidated family home together. Cat was a lonely little heathen for much of her childhood, unkempt and friendless. Her life changes at 15, when the family welcomes a new foster, 17-year-old Heath. Heath and Cat become friends and then more, but right after they make love for the first time, Heath disappears. The only explanation Cat is given is that Heath is now 18, and has aged out of the foster care system, but she doesn’t understand why she doesn’t hear a word from him, after all they had shared.

Cat goes to college, becomes Caitlyn, and puts the past behind her. Her father dies; her mother is confined to a nursing home, and Cat no longer speaks to Brian after his disgraceful, drunken behavior at their father’s funeral. The night of the Homecoming Dance, Ethan proposes to Caitlyn in front of all of their friends and assembled sorority and fraternity members. It’s as she accepts that Cat sees a familiar face in the crowd. Yes, Heath has returned.

It turns out that Heath has been in Afghanistan, among other places, and has only just gotten back to Maine. And oh, he wants Cat back. His explanation for leaving without a word is not very strong (later revelations don’t make it much more defensible, IMO). He’s not happy to find Cat engaged to another guy, but really, what did he expect? She didn’t know where he was, and didn’t know if she’d ever hear from him again. Still, he declares his intentions to fight for her, and Cat doesn’t entirely discourage him.

Not a lot really happens in this book; most of the focus is on Cat’s internal struggle. Ethan is a mostly good guy who seems to really love her; I kept expecting him to lapse into predictable villainy, but he never does. He does let Cat down, which in some ways makes her decision a lot easier (and thus less dramatic, and less of a choice at all).

The central problem with You Make Me is that it doesn’t work as a romance. Cat’s conflict is set up as very black or white: Ethan and upper-middle-class respectability and a finance job OR Heath and a return to an island she really doesn’t seem to care for (Heath wants live there and be a fisherman). The central Ethan v. Heath conflict is pretty much a no-brainer, from a romance perspective, anyway. Ethan is safe and boring and Heath is Cat’s “other half” – exciting and a little dangerous. But the reality of Heath is that he:

  • Left Cat without a word for four years
  • Tells Cat he wants her back but still flirts with and hooks up with other girls while he’s waiting for her to come around
  • Does something very morally questionable late in the book, but justifies it because it was done to an unsympathetic character (Cat’s brother) and that he did it partly for Cat’s benefit (though he doesn’t tell her about it, of course; she finds out from Brian)
  • Expects Cat to live the life that *he* envisions for her – the Cat that’s interested in living in a city and working in finance isn’t the “real” Cat (i.e. the Cat he knew when she was 16)

It’s not that Heath is a villain – he’s really not. He’s someone who has had a hard life, even moreso than Cat, and is after all still very young (about 22 or 23, I think). I definitely think he acts like a jerk sometimes – the same could be said for Cat herself and for Ethan. It’s realistic in a way, but it points up the problem with trying to tack an HEA on a NA story, especially one about young people who are already kind of screwed up. None of these people are stable or mature enough to marry, and why do they have to be? If they were real 20- and 22-year-olds, I’d tell them to date around, have some flings, spend some time alone. But the strictures of romance and the conventions of “one true love” stories dictate that Cat has to make a choice, and that choice has to be made within the confines of the story and has to be for all time (the “ever after” part of “happily ever after”).

I don’t know; maybe this is a problem I’d have with all romances if I thought about it too much. But in historicals, where characters are expected to marry younger, and presumably not to divorce, it’s just not something I question. In contemporaries where the characters are 10 years older – hell, even five years older – the shakiness of the HEAs just don’t feel as glaring. In a story with characters this young, and with as many signals that both the hero and heroine have issues that need to be worked out before they can be in a healthy relationship – the HEA feels both unlikely and just plain inadvisable. For that reason, I’m giving You Make Me what feels like a harsh grade – a D. It’s not badly written and it held my interest, but as a romance it just doesn’t work.

Best regards,

Jennie

P.S. Proving that I’m a hypocrite and/or a glutton for punishment, I have already bought the sequel, which deals with Tiffany, a foster child who lived with Cat’s family for a time and is a friend of Cat’s (she appears briefly in You Make Me). I was drawn in by the excerpt at the end of the first book, in spite of the fact that it sounds like this one could be even more problematic. It pairs 20-year-old Tiffany (who in You Make Me is 17 and apparently looks much younger) with a 30-year-old playboy millionaire who is apparently still married (I think?) to his evil estranged wife. This sounds more like a Harlequin Presents than a New Adult novel, and I have no idea why I want to read it, but I do.

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