This is the inaugural fictional work of Ms Joachim who is a published author in the non-fiction field. It is a story of a hurting, grieving young woman who has lost her best friend and fiance in the war in the Middle East. He had been her friend and support during the dark days after her parents' death when she was sixteen. Their friendship had grown into love and they were planning to be married after this final deployment overseas, a tour of duty from which he never returned.
Now Callie Richards is 26 years old, having grieved for two long and lonely years, and she has decided that she needs to complete her post-graduate education at a New York university. Taking part of the insurance money she had received from Kyle's estate, she embarks on what she hopes will be a new start in her life. She is really broke, barely has enough money to live and only if she misses a few meals during the week. She takes a part-time job in the university's administrative office where she comes in contact with the two academic deans and the president of the school. One of those deans is Mac Caldwell, a 34-year-old divorced father of a toddler who is also lonely and discouraged about the sad state of things with his personal life.
Mac's first marriage had occurred when his girlfriend became pregnant and Mac felt compelled to marry her. Now they are divorced and she is difficult to deal with over the custody issues. She has taken to dropping off their son a day early, causing considerable difficulty for Mac with his work load, academic appointments, and class schedule. Callie offers to babysit in light of her former work experience in daycare centers and private babysitting. When this situation becomes a weekly thing, Mac and Callie become friends and eventually lovers.
It is now that Callie faces the need to let Kyle go and move on, and in Mac she believes she has found the man who can fill her heart and her life. Mac is a man who finds it difficult to express his feelings but he comes to know that Callie is a woman who has depth, maturity, and a compassionate heart. He knows that no matter what her former relationships may have been, he cannot even imagine his life without her. Her relationship with his son is also evidence of her ability to open her heart to anyone, even a child who is not her own.
This is a very nice novel that is really the "biography" of a relationship, one that began with pain and disappointment for both Callie and Mac but which blossomed into passion and love. It is also a novel that has a suspense strand as Callie and Mac both get involved in trying to solve the mystery of who is bringing drugs onto the campus. There are some surprises--actually big surprises--in the resolution of this mystery. There are definitely some significant stresses on Callie and Mac's marriage that involve the ex-wife, custody issues over Mac's son, some residual concerns on Mac's part over Callie's former love, the stress of Callie's class projects as she seeks to finish her master's degree, and the pressure that is upon Mac to fulfill his administrative responsbilities; but that is all part of this story of a relationship. Only in fairy tales do love relationships go smoothly. It is also a story of how both Callie and Mac must make some important personal decisions about how they will open themselves to one another, grow in their relationship, and allow room for each to be who they are. There is kindness, friendship, genuine caring and authentic loving here--the kind that is capable of withstanding the ups and downs that two people must endure as they are finding that easy place with one another.
I liked the people in this story--other than the bad guy's, of course. They were real and could have easily inhabited a modern university. They sounded very much like people we all know. Certainly the circle of support they formed around Callie as she was growing into her role as Mac's wife -- the Dean's wife role -- was quite profound. They weren't "other-worldly" but were the kind of friends and supporters we would all like to have.
This is the kind of love story that I like to read on a cool winter night here in So. California, wrapped in my grandmother's afghan and sitting in front of the fire. It is full of warm fuzzies and good feelings and may even remind some of us of our own experiences. That, IMHO, is a really good read. I give this novel a 4 out of 5 rating.