Grace Fitzgerald hopes to sign a contract with an American cruise corporation to bring cruise liners to the idyllic coastal town of Bayrush, in Ireland. Her fiancé, Dirk, doesn’t seem to grasp just how important the business is to her. On her way through Dublin Airport, Grace catches a glimpse of Jack Leslie, her first love. He’s married now but he still has the power to turn her knees to jelly. Grace is about to make the biggest decision of her life. Will it be the right one?
Jessie McGrath is happily married to Geoff, and together they run a small equestrian centre on the outskirts of Bayrush. Jessie is finally pregnant with her second child, and life couldn’t be better. But will their dreams come true or will they fall to pieces?
Sophia Wynthrope can’t escape the emptiness of widowhood. After thirty-five years of marriage New York holds too many memories of her treasured husband. Is she chasing foolish dreams by travelling to Ireland, or can she possibly find the peace she craves in a place called Bayrush?
An unexpected encounter will spark a chain of events that will entwine their lives for ever …
I bought this book after being “introduced” to the author on Twitter.
I had a little trouble getting into it as my first impression was “yet another chick-lit novel”. It does, however, step out of the mould and the writing is several notches up from a lot of the genre. I found myself getting more drawn into the story and caring what happened to the characters. I ended up with mixed feelings.
There are lot of characters and the story is told through quite a few points of view in third person. The main characters are the three women: Grace, Sophia and Jessie. I liked Sophia best and found her and Jessie to be the most believable. Jessie is a strong character in a solid relationship; she has much to deal with and I would have liked to have read more about her. We hear mainly about Grace and although I could see her strengths, she was also a bit irritating – she was just a little too stereotypical for my liking: beautiful but didn’t know it (she could have been a model, you know), being in love with a man she had contact with for a week or so when she was sixteen (twenty years ago) and knowing no man could ever live up to him, successful and talented …
The minor characters whose points of view we see are Jack (good-looking, of course), Kate – Grace’s sister, and Richard (Sophia’s son). I liked Kate – she is flawed and impulsive, but kind and a lot of fun. Richard’s character is a bit of a cold fish and as we see him only in fits and starts his thawing out seems a bit rapid and unbelievable. Eoghan is a bit of a spare part and quite mysterious, but this is the first book of the series, so maybe he will be fleshed out in a later story.
A lot of the situations are fairly clichéd: lots of misunderstandings between the two main love interests (and two of the minor love interests); someone who has lots of money and can help everyone out; love at first sight; the “she loves him but doesn’t think he’d ever look at her” scenario … And yet there are some weighty issues touched on – bereavement, grief, pregnancy miscarriage, break-up of a relationship, trying to keep a business afloat in a recession, a sick child, dyspraxia, recovering drug addiction. The characters’ emotions are handled quite well, but my level of empathy came from my imagination and not so much from the writing.
I felt there were just too many “events” to do them all justice and they were crammed in so that we get a bunch of tidy endings. I think a couple of the story lines could have been left out or saved for the next book and we would have been left with a more satisfying look at the remaining issues.
But I did care about (most of) the characters; I did want to know what became of them; and although there was a bit of contemporary-romance-by-numbers (really, the misunderstandings/not quite making it between the two main love interests went on for a bit too long before there was a resolution), I liked that there were facets of the story that different people could relate to. I will definitely buy the second book in the series and look forward to reading it.
Although the book is set mainly on the east coast of Ireland, you don’t have to know Ireland to appreciate it. There is some good description of the setting so that you will be able to picture it (and want to visit). The Irishness adds colour to the story but is not the story.
I think this book will sell well. If you like the sorts of stories that Poolbeg Press / Ward River Press publishes, I feel confident you will like this.
Editorial Input & Design
I think this could have benefited from further editing. Some of the writing suggests “first novel”, but there is good stuff, too. There are instances of poor paragraph and sentence construction, and some proofreading errors – not enough to spoil the reading, but too many to be acceptable. I also found a few timing oddities that a copy-editor would have sorted out.
We don’t find out the meaning of the title until very, very close to the end of the book. I would have suggested putting a hint to it near the beginning as it is a bit bewildering.
The chapters contain multiple points of view – generally it was easy enough to know from which POV I was reading, but occasionally I had to jump back to get a handle on whose story we were now in. More disconcerting were the timing jumps within chapters – I think it would be better to have shorter chapters and stick to one time frame in each.
A purely personal view (it all is, of course, but this is more to do with my tastes, I suppose): I think the book would have been stronger if there had been less of Grace’s story (which felt like it was included to pander to the chick-lit reader) and more depth on the weightier issues. That doesn’t mean I don’t like chick-lit – when it is written well, I do. But I felt that Karen was less comfortable writing about this than about (non-romantic) relationships in general – the writing was good, but the storyline was largely clichéd (although it did step out of the cliché in one important aspect).
Cover: Nicely designed and aimed at a particular and obvious market, although it gives no hints to the actual storyline. The strapline “Three women, two continents, one dream”, like the title, isn’t clear until the very end of the book … unless the author is talking about a different “dream”. Also, the “two continents” is a little misleading: Sophia is American, but little of the action takes place in the US.
Internal design: Few problems on a Kindle, but there are some poor paragraph breaks – I don’t know whether this is the fault of the writing or the formatting.
Book Clubs & Reviews
I think this would make a nice book club choice. There are plenty of subjects to spark conversation – but, although this is by no means a “heavy” book, beware there might be some topics that could be upsetting to some people.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.7 stars (11 reviewers – some have reviewed just this one book); Amazon US readers give it 5 stars (1 reviewer); Goodreads readers give it 4.4 stars (5 ratings).