Monday, July 1, 2013

To Put Your Grief Behind You, You Cannot Do Nothing. You Must Look Forward and Take the First Step

First Paragraph:

"The first time I lost my husband, we were in Italy on our honeymoon. For the briefest of moments, as he walked toward me with our train tickets tucked in the back pocket of his jeans, the sunlight swallowed him. Even though he came back into view not more than a second later, my breath caught. I had this terrifying thought that something could happen. That moments were fleeting, and with the snap of a finger, he could be gone."

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert is a contemporary romance novel. A second book, that I suppose you could call a sequel. It follows the same cast, around the same town.

If you'd like you can check out my review of Wildflowers from Winter (her first book) on my blog here:

There will be a few spoilers of that book in this review, as it is a sequel. So if you want to read the first book first, check out that review for details. Spoilers of the first book beyond this point.

Set four years after the first, we return to Peaks, Iowa. Whereas the first story was focused mainly on Bethany, this book focuses on Robin. 

Now fully running her cafe- Willow Tree Cafe- and looking after nearly four-year-old Caleb, Robin is doing a lot better and finally beginning to recover from Micah's death. Their dream was to open a cafe, and through it Robin feels a little less lost in her loneliness. Her interaction with the community helps too. She's a member of One Life- a ministry that helps out the needy in the community, and runs a grief support group in her cafe, for those who have experienced similar hardships.

There are the usual bills to pay, business to run, son to watch growing up, thankfully all provided for by her inheritance and Micah's life insurance. Which is well as the cafe isn't getting enough clientele to stay in the black alone. She is still a young, grieving widow and coming to terms with it in her own time. The loneliness that comes with it and the understanding and acceptance that are necessary to heal, but hard to let in.

Her sister-in-law and roommate, Amanda, (along with a couple members of her support group) think it's time she got back on the horse and started dating again. Not just for her own well-being, but for Caleb's. But Robin isn't interested. Micah's memory is still too raw. How could they expect her to just move on?

Meanwhile, a new software company is opening outside the town, and with it there is the chance of increased business and more tax revenue for the residents of Peaks. There's talk of condominiums going up, to provide housing for the new employees. 

Ian McKay is following in his father's footsteps. A man who came from nothing and built a successful company. They are looking to develop the condos going up in Peaks. For Ian, this is a chance to prove himself- to the company and his father. To prove he isn't a failure. They need this deal. Without it the company will have to downsize and cut jobs. 

So Ian heads off to Peaks, leaving behind his past for a fresh start, at least while he's visiting. The problem- the condos are set to go up in the neglected downtown area. Where Robin's cafe is located. The only way the site can be secured is if Robin sells- which of course she has no plan on doing. The battle divides the town. Those who want increased revenue want Robin to sell, but there are those loyal to her and One Life- which will have to move to a higher rent area, and so will have less to give to the needy.

Ian and Robin are at odds, their plans opposite and put at risk by the other. Both equally as determined not to cave. Their fist meeting isn't exactly electric, but the possibility of sparks is there. The conditions are met, one strike and they'll light. However, their different agendas will cause entirely different sparks to fly.

Meanwhile, Amanda is trying to put a bad break-up behind her. She thought she'd found the one, until he up and left for Africa indefinitely on missionary work. She would've fought, but what could she say to that?

This is predominately a story about letting go and moving forward. The plot follows the age-old formula known to this genre, but hey, it works. Like many other authors of this genre, she likes to create friction between her characters. There's always initial dislike, cautious trust, misunderstandings, etc. Anyone familiar with the genre knows the ending before they've read the first line. You know exactly how the story will play out in terms of basic outline. 

But the characters offer their own personality quirks, fazed onto the character models that are always present in this genre, though they do offer something new each time. No matter how similar characters may be, they are not the same and neither are their situations, which stops them getting dull and repetitive. 

The same goes for the plot. The basic outline for romance novels is the same, but everything else still needs to be filled in, coloured, brought to life. Like kids with a colouring book. They are given the same lines, but every finished picture will be different. So it goes with outlines for books too. 

If you read the first book, this one offers more of the same. Both books are easily stand-alone if you're only interested in one. You're understanding of one is not dependent on having read the other, though you will have a little more filled in, especially when it comes to Robin.

The same characters are present, with a few new additions. They each have a warmth to them, which does well at welcoming the reader into their lives. I would've liked to see more of Bethany and Evan's lives, as they were the ones who captured us in the first book. There are only brief snippets of their lives in this book, told from Robin's point of view. A little disappointing, but understandable.

Robin's story was originally part of the first book, but cut down for Bethany's. So this book was formed, using the remnants and a new plot with a few extra characters. 

As with the first book, while God and Christianity play a part in the story and are very important to the characters, they are not the main focus. This is not written as a religious text with characters added, but as an in-depth story that Christianity happens to be a part of. This is the right way to add religion into your books, without them sounding preachy and off-putting and still being enjoyable to non-religious people or people with different faiths. 

Like the first book, the story ends with a new beginning, leaving the readers wanting more, but content with what they have. This is a feel-good book that will relate to anyone who's ever had to make a difficult choice (ie everyone) or had to comes to terms with something painful. The author likes to explore 'letting go' and accepting. Finding happiness through dark clouds of pain. Bringing colour back into the washed out, depleted world that is caused by deep-rooted grief. 

I thoroughly recommend both this book and the previous one to any fans of contemporary romance. If you're not a fan of religion in your fiction, I can still bet you'll enjoy these books. 

Disclaimer: I received this book through Blogging for Books. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own. 

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