Those of us who enjoy reading romance fiction find that we get set to experiencethe "Happily Ever After" most of the time, regardless of the time period or genre of the context. It just seems that is a part of loving romance fiction. It comes as a bit of an emotional "jar" when we encounter the unhappy ending or at best, the bittersweet resolution . . . the way so much of life tends to be resolved, if the truth be known.
In this newest novel by Canadian author Carol Mason, we meet Celine, a woman who has been married for 13 years and is now newly divorced from Mike, a radio producer for a popular talk show. Their 12 year old daughter is, of course, not at all happy about the break-up of her parents' marriage and added to her burgeoning adolescence, tends to live her days in the fog of confusion. Celine & Mike have had an on-again-off-again relationship pretty much for the majority of their years together. It has become apparent that Mike loves his wife to distraction but Celine has never really let go of her emotional involvement with a Canadian journalist with whom she shared a four-day madcap affair before meeting Mike. Somehow that initial love--the perverbial "first love" has never been left behind and a chanced glimpse of Patrick during a trip to London--a 10th anniversary trip, of all things--ultimately precipitates the end of the marriage. Mike is tired of fighting the old ghosts and Celine can't seem to object when he files for divorce. Just months after the divorce is final, Celine receives an email contact from Patrick and for the first time in fifteen years, is once again in contact with him. When he calls her and she hears his voice again, she is aware that the old feelings are as strong as her ex has maintained and she agrees to renew their relationship, even if it is a long-distance one.
Set in the Northeast of England, particularly in Newcastle, this story of love and loss, hope and disappointment deals realistically with the hurts, wounds, and challenges couples face when they divorce and especially when old attachments and feelings don't seem to want to die. Told in the first person, this novel reads like a biographical tale of a marriage's end, of the sense of loss, the fear of moving forward, the questions as to whether even this divorce was a mistake. Celine is a very intelligent woman--one who has begun her own business as a specialist in being a modern match-maker, one who reads people well but who can't seem to figure out her own feelings and hopes for the future. Mike is a wonderful man who works so hard to be a good husband and father, a man who knows he is almost always emotionally on the outside looking in, who loves his family and never fails to "be there" whenever he is needed in a variety of scenarios. Celine's dad is an aging Lothario who provides companionship for women in his own age range but whose roving eye never fails to draw him toward a beautiful, sexy woman. As an accomplished artist he definitely has an eye for the female form, but he has been unwise and undependable in his relationships for most of his life. Celine's sister has her own problems into which Celine is dragged, often by her own choice, to be sure, but still wanting the best for this woman who is, in reality, a "soul sister" even though biologically she is a step-sister. Their friendship has been forged in life's hardships as they both experienced loss when parents faded from their lives.
In many ways and on many levels, this was not an easy book for me to read. As one who is often called upon to counsel couples in relational trouble, I am probably more sensitive to the nuances of what Mike and Celine went through, the pressures they endured as each tried to make a marriage work, and the knowledge that a divorce would produce some serious emotional hardships for their daughter. Mike freely admits he still loves Celine deeply and irrevocably, but he is unwilling to even consider a reconciliation--being with her is almost more painful than being without her. The reader can feel that pain, and I was aware of being fearful for them both, especially after Patrick once again entered Celine's life and one wondered if his initial willingness to walk away 15 years earlier was necessitated by circumstance or was it a life pattern? The characters in this novel were real and bruised and sometimes bled all over the pages. How I hurt for them all . . . I just wanted them to all find a way to be happy. The background cast of characters was fascinating and sometimes humorous being made up of clients of Celine's who ae seeking relational partners and some of whom are having quite a time of it.
This is no pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by kind of novel with its hefty slice of real life. It never tries to smooth over the raw nature of the circumstances, even when Patrick and Celine re-unite. Even then there is that tentative sense--was this just something Celine wanted so much? Was this old flame and their newly re-awakened affair worth the loss of so much?
This author is new to me, but I must own up to liking her writing style and her willingness to address the brutal nature of divorce, the factors that impact these lives before and after, and the awareness that when writing about real life, there are not often happy endings. Some readers may not enjoy this in-depth exploration as I did. Others will find that such a keen awareness of adult romantic circumstances, both positive and negative, can be stimulating reading and can hold a reader's interest no matter how real and raw. And lastly, I think it important for fans of romance fiction who need to be reminded that the HEA ending is, in many real situations, a fiction in and of itself. I give this novel a 5 out of 5 rating.
This book was first released in 2010 by the MacArthur & Company of Toronto, Canada.