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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:  Caught! by JL Merrow

REVIEW: Caught! by JL Merrow

caught

Dear JL Merrow,

There are some books which take time to reveal their joys and others which hook a reader from the start. Each have their own place – sometimes the book that is not immediately catchy turns out to be a comfort read for years to come. This was a book I relaxed into from the beginning.  Told from the first person perspective of elementary school teacher Robert Emeny, Caught! is a little delight.  Just like the picture on the cover, Robert is a somewhat quirky man but he is never a caricature.  He is precise and ordered and kind of shy.  He prefers bow ties but has a few of the regular sort of ties for emergencies.  Apart from when he’s running or sleeping, he’s always wearing a tie.  He’s the type of guy who knows he has precisely twenty-six minutes of his lunch break remaining and that he takes thirteen minutes in the shower.  While it could come across as annoying, in Robert it was endearing. I think that was because at a bone-deep level he is a genuinely kind and honourable man.

Robert has recently moved to Shamwell after leaving his previous teaching role (at a prestigious high school teaching A-Level Maths) in sudden circumstances which are not fully revealed until late in the book.  He has taken a job at St. Saviour’s Elementary School  where he earns significantly less money. It is, in many ways, a step down for him.  Fortunately, some years after the death of his father (which left he and his mother penniless), his mother remarried well and Robert now has some financial support from his family.  This support enables him to rent Old Hatter’s Cottage in the middle of the village.

Robert is sometimes slow to pick up on cues and tends to second guess himself, so his romance with Sean Grant, a local pest exterminator, has a shaky start.  Sean’s twin nephews Wills and Harry (yes, really) are in Robert’s class (where Robert is called “Mr. Enemy” by almost everyone).  As Sean’s sister Debs (a single mother)  is recovering from recent chemotherapy treatment, Sean often does the school run and attends other school functions.  Sean is openly bisexual (yay for more bisexual representation!) and Robert is initially convinced Sean’s interest lies in the direction of Rose Wyman, a fellow teacher at St. Saviour’s and Robert’s friend.

Robert does have some anxiety over dating a bisexual man – he wonders if Sean will get a craving for ladyparts and leave but they talk about it and Sean is able to put Robert’s mind at rest on that score.  The explanation is simple but not simplistic and makes sense without being trite. I felt it was an understandable concern – Robert is only attracted to men so he is a bit at a loss to understand bisexual attraction but once he and Sean discuss it, the matter rests and falls into the category of “not a big deal”. I appreciated it was there but that not much was made of it.

At the same time he left his previous teaching post, Robert’s relationship with fellow teacher, Crispin, ended too.  After his heartbreak over that breakup and the circumstances surrounding it, he is shy of getting involved again.   Sean is a bit touchy about the social differences he perceives between he and Robert but Robert isn’t at all a snob.

Even though the story is told only from Robert’s perspective, I felt I got to know Sean reasonably well, as there was plenty of dialogue in the book.  I enjoyed their interactions and the way they celebrated their differences as well as the things they had in common (of which there were surprisingly many). They have a good sexual chemistry and there are some sexy scenes but it’s not terribly explicit, which I thought suited the book perfectly.

The kettle boiled noisily and we broke apart, both of us breathing rather quickly. “Um. Coffee?” I said, my voice shaky.

“Uh, yeah. Wow.”

“Wow?”

“Definitely wow. Talk about your hidden depths.”

I gave him a sidelong look. “Not that hidden, surely?”

“Depends. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like the way you dress— it’s different and fun and all that—but yeah , it’s not exactly in-your-face sexy, is it?” He gave my rear a gentle squeeze. “Course, when I saw you in your running gear, with your hair all messed up and that… I mean, most of the time you’re so put together, you know? It was like… Shit , this is a bad analogy, ’cos I liked you before, anyway, but it was like that really corny moment in films when the girl in the lab coat takes off her glasses and shakes out her hair, and suddenly she’s gorgeous.”

I frowned. “I don’t wear glasses. And my hair’s too short to shake out. Plus, and I really feel I should emphasise this point to avoid any possible misunderstandings, I’m not a girl.”

Sean laughed. “I told you it was a shit analogy.” He brought one hand up to stroke my face, and I fought the urge to nuzzle into it as his other hand slid farther around my waist. “But you are gorgeous.”

I enjoyed Robert’s interactions with the students and in particular, young Charlie. I loved how Charlie grew through the course of the book. The scene with Charlie’s dad was a favourite but I will leave it for readers to find out why.

Rose was somewhat of a caricature, even though I liked her quite a bit.  She is loud and forthright but as it happens, that is just what Robert needs – without her interference perhaps he and Sean would never have been. She did have some story of her own and wasn’t merely there to be the enabler for Robert’s romantic adventures but I think some will regard her as too over the top and stereotypical.

I loved some of the word pictures you drew and some of them made me laugh out loud.

Fordy’s always rather exuberant brows had now entirely met in the middle, like a couple of very small, coy ferrets exchanging a kiss.

There were a few times in the story that I felt Robert’s dialogue didn’t fit my image of his character – mostly this was when he was being a bit sexually provocative but this may well have been a failing of my imagination rather than anything else.

Generally, I prefer when characters talk to each other and I’m not a fan of misunderstandings.  That said, Robert has very good reasons for not sharing his secrets with Sean immediately and I didn’t think their falling out over it was drawn out.

Robert, somewhat unexpectedly for him, finds a home and a community in Shamwell and he and Sean make a lovely couple.  I had so much fun reading this book.  I give Caught! a B+ and my recommendation. I’m definitely looking forward to more Shamwell Tales.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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