Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Reason Is You (a review) . . .

I was blessed to receive a copy of The Reason is You, by Sharla Lovelace, to review.  The author signed and dated the book for me, and she also included a Snoopy note card with a personal note of thanks inside.  I will alway treasure this book because it represents my first personal contact with an author, and an opportunity to push my own writing out there a bit further.

Thank you, Sharla, for this wonderful opportunity.

The Reason is You, by Sharla Lovelace

Dani Shane has been laid off from her job in Dallas.  With no other options left to her, she moves  with her sixteen year old daughter, Riley, back to her father’s house in the small town of Bethany.  Dani is less than thrilled about the move, especially when her oldest friend suddenly appears at her car while she’s unpacking.

Alex looks exactly the same, with his dashing good looks and black clothes, and Dani is shocked to see him.  Particularly when she notices Riley talking to him . . . because Alex is a ghost.  Dani was the joke of the town when she was growing up because she talked to people who weren’t there.  Ghosts only she could see.  And now Riley could see them, too.

Then there’s the new owner of the bait shop, Jason Miller, who is also her new boss.  His hard body is graced with a handsome face, and Dani can’t seem to avoid running into him . . . literally.  When she discovers his softer side, she begins developing feelings for him.  But he’s new in town, and the skeletons--or ghosts--in her closet are bound to come out at some point.

Dani has to face her past while trying to build her future.  And, she has to help her daughter learn how to deal with her new “gift” before she becomes the next town joke.

I didn’t read the back cover before starting The Reason is You.  My first impression of the author’s style was the dedication to her family.  It was poetic and flowing, and made me eager to get to the first chapter.  But, the acknowledgments came before that coveted first word.  They were cryptic, written for the minds of those they recognized, but they were also inspiring for this aspiring writer, confirming my characters loosely based on real people, and encouraging participation in conferences for the connections and support earned.

I would say that the book started off a bit slow, but at the same time the author throws the reader into the story from the beginning.  No back story is needed at this point because the main character is starting over.  Lovelace does a great job of pulling the reader in quickly, too.  I was hooked directly after meeting Alex, and before page 8.

The back story that is needed is filled in at just the right pace.  We learn about Alex out of necessity because of Riley’s newfound ability to see and converse with spirits.  We learn about Dani’s history with the town of Bethany as the people from her adolescence begin to trickle into the story through her new job at the bait store, a place everyone seems to need for one thing or another in such a small town.  

Throughout the story more is discerned about Dani’s history with Alex, eventually culminating in a revelation that perhaps Dani should have seen earlier.  But, when you have that much crap going on in your life, maybe putting puzzle pieces together becomes tedious and trivial.  After all, if Alex would just come out and say what he wants Dani to figure out, she wouldn’t have to worry about it.  Until the secret is revealed, of course.  At which point her world goes a bit topsy-turvy again.  
The sexual tension between Dani and Alex is palpable.  The fact that they are so obviously in love and yet unable even to touch draws out the tension until it feels like it would snap in a light breeze.  Delicious proof that sex scenes aren’t needed if it’s written with finesse.

Dani grows tremendously through the story.  She begins to stand up for herself instead of crawling into the safety of her psyche.  She also comes to terms with her gift with the help of a photo album filled with pictures her mother had taken in her youth.  It’s easy to sympathize with Dani.  She starts out a meek woman, who, by the end, becomes a strong person who stands up for herself and others.

Sharla Lovelace does a wonderful job of telling this story.  Her style is easy to read, and I love her metaphors and descriptions.  There were a couple places where I was confused by her description of a person or place--meeting Miss Olivia stands out in my memory--but, after reading through the page and going back to reread the description, it made sense.  She is very creative in the way she uses the character's memory of a person or place to describe it.  And she doesn’t use typical adjectives for her descriptions, filling them with the flavor of the person or location.  I was able to watch the story play out in my mind’s eye like I was there as it happened.

While there was the typical romance novel wedding ending, it lacked the speed that annoys me with other romance stories.  Without giving a time frame, Lovelace makes it clear that the wedding didn’t happen two weeks or two months after the characters met, that they were given time to get to know each other before saying their vows.

And here is my favorite thing about the ending . . . . . . No sequel!  This is so rare in any genre these days.  I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a book that was a “stand alone” story.  It was incredibly refreshing to not have to wait for the next book to find out “what now.”

All in all, a well written, well told story that I highly recommend.

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