Romance novels sometimes get a bad rap as not having enough ‘meat’ or substance to them. While there are some common themes, I have found that romance novels can tend to reflect a lot of those themes we see in our real lives -- they just may do it in a more interesting setting with more interesting characters!
I am a sucker for a good romance novel. There is something comforting and soothing about seeing our heroine find love and having that happy ever after. So, I was excited to get to dig into some romances for this book review!
When We Believed in Mermaids, by Barbara O’Neal
To be perfectly honest, I was surprised this book was considered a romance at first glance. It starts off with our protagonist, Kit, thinking she saw a glimpse of her sister, Josie, in a newsreel from a bar fire in New Zealand. Only thing is, her sister’s been dead for well over a decade -- or so she thought. At her mother’s urging, Kit flies from California to New Zealand in hopes of finding her sister.
Even though this was a relatively quick read, it touched on some heavy topics and how the burden of carrying secrets can cause people to make some decisions and choices out of trauma. The chapters alternated between Kit and Josie/Mari’s perspectives, to give the readers the two different views of the story and allow us to know the characters outside of, yet within, the presence and existence of one another.
While searching for her sister, Kit meets another traveler named Javier, who is in NZ under sad circumstances as well. As an ER doctor who has spent most of her adult life not letting anyone in, Kit finds herself slowly warming to Javier’s charm and passionate nature, but is resistant to admitting if she thinks they will be more than a holiday romance. Javier is one to believe in love at first sight, whereas Kit logically holds to the knowledge they just met and live on two different continents and have only met on a third, making a relationship unlikely.
An unlikely romance, but O’Neal was able to show us how love can help us heal some deep, painful scars.
A Christmas Surprise, by MJ Flournoy
If you are anything like me, you get giddy when the Hallmark Channel airs their Christmas movies in July. So I am always excited about a romance novel set with Christmas as a backdrop. And this one is not only set at Christmas, but it features the local area of the North Georgia Mountains as its locale. The author, MJ Flournoy, is from Georgia, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight a Georgia author!
Our story opens with the very pregnant heroine, Julie, getting stranded in a snowstorm on one of our mountainy roads as she is trying to find the family of her love, Army Ranger Seth Turner. They had been corresponding while he was deployed until one day, her letters were returned undeliverable. Seeking answers, she heads to where she knows his family is, hoping to find out if he is okay or even alive. However, she didn’t expect to get stuck in the mountains in a snowstorm. After she realizes the road is impassable, she sets out on foot, hoping to find help only to be overcome by the snow and cold.
Thankfully, Julie is rescued and by none other than Seth himself. Only one glitch -- he has no memory of her due to a horrible IED accident in Afghanistan that almost killed him and wiped out his short term memory. With the unrelenting snow and phones out, there is nothing for Julie to do but stay at Seth’s cabin even though he doesn’t remember who she is.
Even though this was a cozy romance, it touched on the impact of traumatic brain injuries and some of the after effects of being injured in war, two important topics. During the novella, Julie used cooking to try to help trigger some of Seth’s memories, and there is even a recipe featured in the back to try!
What I found so enjoyable about both books was that they both drew the reader in from the beginning, and there was something relatable about both our heroines. In Mermaids, there was some moments that were a bit confusing -- the character of Dylan was mentioned early on but the book didn’t explain who he was until later and some of the jumping back and forth between Kit and Josie/Mari was tedious at times. But otherwise, it was a good story. Personally, I did tend to enjoy Christmas more but it may have been because I do tend to prefer those cozy, sweet romances over the dramatic ones.
What are you reading? I’d love to hear!