REVIEW: True Devotion by Liora Blake
Dear Ms. Blake:
I really enjoyed True North. I thought the heroine’s voice was great. I believed in the conflict and felt like it was resolved in a way that was believable for all parties. To my great delight True Devotion was available to read. I requested it right away.
True Devotion features the sister of the hero in True North, Devon Jenkins, and the band’s guitar player, Simon Cole. At the beginning of True Devotion, Simon Cole is portrayed as the stereotypical rock star trying to hit on any pretty girl and trying to drink every possible drop of liquor in the room. Because of this perception, then attempts to distance herself from Simon even though she has a strong attraction for him.
Devon’s choice of males has been suspect. The last meaningful relationship she had was with an abusive boyfriend back in her hometown of Cleveland. Devon has low self-esteem which she covers with a lot of bravado. At some point she convinces herself that sleeping with Simon (and hiding it from her brother) is consistent with her trashy upbringing and that she doesn’t deserve any more.
Problematically, Simon is portrayed as the most sensitive, kind, thoughtful, and giving boyfriend in fiction. While intellectually I understood Devon’s resistance, it was challenging to watch her continually rebuff Simon.
On paper, the conflict makes sense. Simon is a very decent person. He comes from an extremely wealthy background. His mother had died of cancer yet he remains close to his father and serves on the family’s charitable foundation. I believe the idea was that the more that we saw Simon being good, decent, and worthwhile the less that Devon believed in her chances of being a good match for Simon. The better Simon was, the greater Devon’s insecurities.
Ultimately the story is then about Devon’s acceptance of herself as a person of worth. We, the reader, see her as a loving aunt, a decent person. It’s hard to understand where the deep well of her insecurity comes from. Yes, she had made a bad decision in her past. And many domestic abuse victims suffer from that loss of personal self worth but I guess I didn’t see enough of it to be convinced.
A friend of mine read the book and commented that the whole narration seemed muffled to her and I felt like that was an apt description. Devon’s point of view came through but none of the emotions seemed particularly strong on the page. I’m still on board with Blake’s writing and I’ll definitely buy the next one that comes out. And I think that anyone who enjoys the hero in pursuit storyline would appreciate Simon.
I really enjoyed True Devotion, and discovered it because of the positive reviews here of Blake’s first book. The quality of writing is great, the story and romance engaging.
What I really liked about both of Blakes books so far is that the characters and their relationships feel multi-dimensional and real. Devon’s low self esteem and consequent relational difficulties made a lot of sense to me. I felt Blake did a good job of subtly referencing and showing the way Devon’s early life experiences (growing up in a very low SES neighbourhood, absent father, high levels of unemployment/ lack of opportunities and pervasive substance abuse and domestic violence), impacted on her decisions and sense of self. The bad relationship that came at such a pivotal time in her development also helped to cement these formative experiences, even while dichotomously providing a catalyst for her to change her life course and reach for something different. Blake doesn’t spell this all out or have much grandstanding about these issues and how they are linked to Devon’s self esteem and feelings around her relationship with Simon but it all FELT plausible and real while I was reading, especially in the quiet moments of interaction and reflection that Devon has with Simon and her best friend (tattoo artist). I would very much recommend this book and grade it at an easy B, if not inching towards a B+.