I love finding out about Iowa authors and sharing their books with my readers. Michelle Schlicher lives near Des Moines and has written her second fiction novel which she says fits in the category of Contemporary Romance. I’d have to disagree and I would consider it more a Contemporary Fiction as the romance didn’t hit me as being the main part of the story. Seeing romance in the genre is usually a turn-off for me and in case it is for you, I don’t want you to only think of this novel as a romance. It is so much more.
Gracie’s is forced to return home after leaving suddenly, ten years ago, without a single goodbye. She left behind a mother and sister as well as her high school boyfriend and never looked back. Gracie had her reasons and has kept them a secret, not coming back once to visit her family or friends, and starting a new life several hours away. When she returns for her mother’s funeral, the past memories of her difficult childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father haunt her. She also has to confront Finn, the man she had planned her future with and never spoke to again.
Much of Gracie’s story is told in flashback format, either in her memories or those of her friends and family. I wish the author would have used a different font style or maybe set these flashbacks off in some way. These flashbacks would appear in the middle of a present tense part of the story without any warning and at first made the novel confusing. I would have to reread parts once I figured out this part was a flashback. As I got used to the flow of her novel, I was more aware and ready, but having a way to set that part of the story apart would have made it easier for the reader.
With that aside, Gracie’s story was deeply emotional and moving. At first, the reader can’t understand her leaving behind a sister and mother whom she dearly loved, only communicating via email. Gracie seems selfish and immature. Then as her story is told, one can understand the damage from her father’s tirades, her need to start fresh, and the secret she kept from everyone. As Gracie returns and reconnects, the reader joins her in the up and down emotions of grasping life back in her hometown. Her first meeting with Finn is difficult and you can feel the hurt and damage Gracie’s leaving did on him. Their relationship is strong and the reader can feel the love the two still share. There is hope for a renewed relationship even though a trust has been shattered and can be difficult to rebuild. So, yes, that romance piece is there, but it leaves out the fluff and only includes the real pain and joy of a love shared between two people.
I think Schlicher has a real talent for writing. This story of redemption and forgiveness is one that readers can connect to and reflect on mistakes in life. It’s never too late to say “I’m sorry” or to start fresh and sometimes we all need that reminder.