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REVIEW:  Come to Me Quietly by A.L. Jackson

REVIEW: Come to Me Quietly by A.L. Jackson

come-to-me-quietly-jackson

Dear Ms. Jackson,

One of my biggest guilty pleasure tropes is the one where the little sister gets together with the older brother’s best friend. So when I read the cover copy for Come to Me Quietly, I picked up your book without a second thought. I eat that stuff up with a spoon. But while it certainly delivered in that respect, I’m not sure it delivered much else.

Aly goes to college and works in a diner. She lives in an apartment she shares with her older brother, Christopher. It’s an easy, comfortable life. That changes when her brother’s best friend, Jared, comes back to town. With no place to stay, Christopher offers Jared their couch as a place to crash.

Aly has been in love with Jared since forever. When they were younger, she used to be the older boys’ shadow. Christopher reacted to this about as well as you’d expect a young boy would when it came to his tagalong kid sister. But Jared always defended her and took care of her. Then tragedy struck his family, sending Jared into a self-destructive tailspin that eventually drove him out of town. Aly never thought she’d ever see him again so she has every intention of taking advantage of this chance she’s been given.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been exposed to lots of over the top or extremely angsty new adult novels, but I found Come to Me Quietly a little dull. Despite a promising beginning, it lacked intensity overall and as the novel progressed, what intensity there was dropped noticeably. Maybe another reader who’s tired of angst and melodrama would find this appealing. For me, though, it made the book seem longer than it actually was.

Part of it is the conflict. When I read a straight up contemporary with no other genre elements (suspense, mystery, thriller, etc), I actually expect the inherent conflict to be stronger because there are no external plot elements (a killer, a stalker) to mask that weakness. Here, the main conflicts are Jared coming to grip with his tragic past and Aly and Jared hiding their relationship from Aly’s brother.

For the latter, this worked initially but increasingly failed for me the further along I read. Eventually I reached the point where I wanted to shake these characters and say, “Just tell him already!” Secret relationships can work as a trope, but the execution here made me wish they would just have a conversation with Christopher. Sure, they’re awkward. Sure, they’re hard. But isn’t that part of becoming an adult in your 20s? Learning how to have those difficult conversations? Instead there’s a lot of creeping around and Jared sneaking into Aly’s bedroom (while her brother was often present in the apartment, might I note). It became repetitive and tedious.

As for the other conflict, the terrible thing that happened in Jared’s past is built up in a series of flashbacks interspersed throughout the novel. This is a tricky narrative device to use effectively and one that ultimately hinders the story here, I think. By the time the Bad Thing is revealed, readers will probably have figured it out already (or at least the gist of it) so the unveiling loses some impact. I do think there are some stories where the reader is meant to figure out the truth so that when the big reveal happens, it’s parsed as inevitable and yes, of course. But I didn’t get that impression here at all.

While Come to Me Quietly had some potential, the novel didn’t quite live up to those expectations. To top things off the ending is trite and speaking for myself, failed to deliver the emotional catharsis I look for in books like this. The fact that there’s apparently another book that continues the story of Aly and Jared (Why? What else is there to write about?) just dims my enthusiasm more. C-

My regards,
Jia

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First Page: Unpublished manuscript

First Page: Unpublished manuscript

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Thirst was a living thing, using sharp claws with jagged edges to pare down the sides of his throat. Each breath feeding it, a maelstrom of glass and sand eroding his lungs. The sun slammed into his flesh, the unmerciful heat of it sliding down his arms and hands, his face and back, pooling into little ponds of lava in the dips and valleys of his body. He braced one foot into the dune and pushed, reaching up to get ahold of something, anything, any tiny one substantial, hopeful thing, to move forward in this desert. He found a root. With a grunt, he leveraged himself up and over the top. Beyond, in its vast, shimmering glory, lay the wasteland.

James Harcourt, veteran explorer, known for his derring-do, his unflinching bravery, woke with a gasp, and wept.

 

Charlotte Lauren Elizabeth Carling, only daughter to the unfortunate wife of the unlucky Edward Carling, wished rather desperately to be anywhere but in church. She was not picky about where; her bed would be fine, perhaps somewhere tropical where greens were lush and plentiful. She would accept Bedlam as a reasonable alternative. Anywhere but church, under the fierce gaze, the heavy brows and the endlessly droning voice of Vicar Tenney. Her foot was asleep and she was very afraid that at any moment, she might be too.

Just as she felt herself drifting off, the doors of the chapel opened forcefully. A tall body, silhouetted by the sun, strode in with the heavy steps of the determined. A rich voice spoke directly to the vicar. “I’ve come for help. I don’t know what to do anymore. I ha…” The same rich voice trailed off as he realized the room was, unfortunately, completely full of people. The silence hung with the dust motes in the air for the space of three seconds. Charlotte was not entirely certain anyone even inhaled. She wasn’t even certain she did.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “It must be Sunday. My most sincere apologies for the interruption. ” A quick bow to the vicar and he was out nearly with the same force as he was in. Another three seconds passed before the vicar cleared his throat and carried on with the sermon. He must know, thought Charlotte, he must know not a single person in this room is paying him any attention. She tapped her foot and waited three lifetimes for him to finish.

There are any number of times when being a gently bred woman is a hindrance and an irritant and not being able to plow through a crowd exiting a church is one of them. When she was finally able to get through and out into the brisk air and bright sun, nodding politely as required to acquaintances, she looked around in what she hoped was a casual manner to see if any unfamiliar persons of notable height were among the group.

Nothing. She sighed a little, shook her head at her own pointless curiosity, and started for home.

James sat behind the chapel, his burning face in his palms. Of all the idiocy, to not realize what day it was! To not even notice the silent village and piece the thing together! It was a wonder he ever made it home from his first expedition with those stunning observational skills. He let loose a mild curse – under his breath, he was leaning on a house of God after all, and he knew better than to risk any kind of celestial displeasure in his line of work – and waited for the crowd to disperse.