That post title sounds slightly naughty, doesn’t it?
Ever since Renegade wrote her excellent post on a beginners’ guide to romance reading, I’ve been seeking out a big R romance title every once in awhile—particularly books from her list, but also titles that seem like they may suit my taste. A few I’ve reviewed here—my most notable discovery being my a new favorite in the form of Molly O’Keefe’s excellent single-title romances.
(I bet Renegade is really proud of me for properly using the term “single title romance.”)
Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry
Rebeca wrote a glowing review of Australian author Sarah Mayberry’s novel about love and grief, Within Reach—and since she’s a tough critic, I knew I had to give it a chance even though the weird cover and “Harlequin Super Romance” branding would normally send me running. I have to say, this is an outstanding book that I accidentally read in a single sitting.
Renegade’s review pretty much covered why this book is so good, and I echo all of her thoughts. I was so surprised by what a sad book this is, despite that it’s a romance, and you know a happy ever after is a given. What struck me the most is how much both Angie and Michael love Billie, who died suddenly at 32. Nothing feels forced or rushed, as both have to figure out who they are without their best friend and wife, respectively. The two having to figure a way forward for themselves as individuals first made Within Reach feel emotionally authentic, which is my litmus test for romances. Both are also decent people, who want to do the right thing by Billie’s memory and for Michael and Billie’s children.
My main niggle with Within Reach would be that there’s a huge time jump between the first chapter when we see Billie’s death and the second, which takes place ten months in the future. I would have liked to see more about the immediate aftermath of losing Billie, because it would have created more context for the connection between the two in terms of losing Billie. And, again in this book, like in many romances I’ve read, the condom use (or lack thereof) is suspect. The two’s first sexual encounter is a frantic sort of situation and they don’t even discuss condoms, which makes sense in the context of the story. However, after the fact, Michael (rightly) apologizes for that and Angie tells him she’s on the pill and it doesn’t matter. In her internal monologue, she thinks something along the lines of,
“Plus, she trusted Michael.”
First off, “trust” is not adequate protection against STDs. That’s sex ed 101. Secondly, in this case, Michael is the one who should have pressed this issue because while he’d been in a monogamous relationship with his late wife for many, many years, Angie was single and who knows who else she told she “trusted” and didn’t need to worry about condoms. I know people don’t like to deal with this in books because it’s not sexy, but like I always say, gonorrhea is also not sexy.
But, despite these two minor reservations, Within Reach is definitely one I’d put on my yet-to-be-developed list of Romance for People Who Think They Don’t Like Romance.
Note: Within Reach is currently priced at the odd, but nevertheless low, price of $3.82 for Kindle.