Thank you in advance to the author, Judy Prescott Marshall, for providing an advanced review copy. A positive review was not required nor requested and all words are my own.
This is the author’s debut fiction book, and it is one of those books that makes the reader think quite a bit. It is definitely uncomfortable at times and at times inspiring. I was interested in this premise as it did hit close to home with regards to the issue of marital infidelity.
While there are some Christian themes, this is not a clean read by any means. The “F” word is used; there is also reference to nudity, some slightly explicit talk, and definite intimate themes. Those looking for a cleaner read might want to pass on this one.
The cover is a bit unusual as I didn’t see how it highlighted the story until it was mentioned as a plot point – these are a type of rose that is Julie’s favorite.
The author uses short chapters and occasionally speeds up the story without a proper transition causing it to be a bit awkward and clumsy in trying to figure out where it is going. This is more apparent in the first part. By the second part, the consistency flows a bit better, though are the occasional transition issues. This also has quite a few punctuation errors. This could be because it is an ARC and these errors will be caught in the final editing and before publication.
One huge error that stood out was Julie’s age. On the first page it is established that Julie is 49. On page three (3), it stated she and Dan had been dating a year in 1977 (so they met in 1976). In 1989, they got married and it has been 30 years since they got married, bringing the story forward to 2019 (“For thirty years …” – pg. 3).
If Julie is 49 in 2019, she was born in 1970, thus she would’ve been six (6) when they met; she would’ve been 7 in 1977 (“IN 1977 we had been dating a year …” – page 3).
This is where the book lost quite a few “points” – the age continuity. Unless it was a typo and the writer meant that Julie and Dan met in 1986, a decade later. That would make more sense, though given the fact she was 16 at the time, there is the issue of an underage relationship and Dan’s age was never established. Some people might take an issue with an underage, in some cases minor, relationship.
This is not the first author to have an age error in a book, but certainly this is a bit bigger than a few years off (age 1 to age 5 when in event occurred which happened as in another book I read).
The main characters are Julie and Dan whose marriage is complicated by a note that Julie finds prior to the start of the book. More characters join the plot in the second part. I didn’t really have a connection to any of them; I was on the fence about Lynnae. Julie was all over the place emotionally.
One character’s introduction in the second part had me wondering about him, and I was partially right – he was “there” for another reason. While not giving spoilers, the man wasn’t exactly where he was for the reason he stated.
The writer begins the story after the discovery of the note and has the “is he/isn’t he” having an affair debate throughout the first part of the book (chapters 1-14).
This causes Julie to spy on him by investigating what he’s doing and deeply affects their relationship. She brings it up to her friend, and adopted daughter, Lynnae. Lynnae doesn’t believe it, and I was beginning to wonder if she ever would even if Dan confessed.
At one point, Julie feels like she is losing herself. Still, she hangs in there.
It is on walks with Dan she starts seeing mylar balloons with a children’s theme to them. As they don’t have children, this is disturbing to Julie. It is when she sees a footprint on one of the balloons that she is even more convinced that Dan is cheating as the woman she found the note from has two (2) kids.
She says something off color that then results in this woman saying the same thing on social media. That doesn’t help Julie’s suspicions either. Still, even Lynnae is yet to be convinced.
A year after finding the note, Julie is still in the same predicament. There is a jolting end to part one (at the end of chapter 14).
Battling almost debilitating anxiety, Julie makes a choice and sticks with it. This is also what leads to the events in the second book currently titled “The Inn in Rhode Island” which is scheduled to be released in 2022.
Part two is also where the author slows the pace down a bit and becomes more relaxed as we see Julie’s new life taking shape despite her own issues.
This is also where Julie starts making new friends and someone else makes a play for her heart, almost immediately. Still, Julie is not used to the affection Chad begins to show her as Dan had been denying it for a while.
Chad, in some ways reminds her of Dan. Despite trying to move on, Dan is always there in her mind as well as her heart – she simply can’t move past him.
Chad’s presence soon leads Julie on a similar, yet different course, and the ending of the book is a bit abrupt while hopeful.
It is an interesting take on how far love goes and how damaging affairs are. There are themes of forgiveness and second chances. The title sums it up with the fact that despite everything, Julie is “still crazy” in love with Dan.
This is the first book in an untitled series, and while it is seemingly a standalone book/story, it will be more complete with the second upcoming book as it explores more of Julie and Dan’s relationship going forward from the events in this book. Chapter 28 really sets up the second book.
The plot had some weak points, but it was still good. It was sometimes quite realistic. It wasn’t a riveting page-turner, but it did hold my interest and I wanted to keep reading it to see if Dan had indeed been having an affair, and how Julie was progressing.
Overall, Marshall does a great job of keeping the reader guessing as to whether or not Dan is having an affair. It almost acts as a minor mystery and by the end, there is some doubt.
I would also be interested in the “why” of the balloons and to see if the woman comes back in the second novel.
[SPOILER ALERT] –>
I did have a problem with the fact that Julie didn’t want to be found and went to great lengths to avoid it, yet she missed her ex-husband. Yet, she doesn’t file for a divorce because she can’t leave him. She even manages to go on a trip with Chad. She can’t live without Dan, but can’t live a lie.
It took him 910 days (roughly 2½ years) to come visit her. He fails to report her missing because she asks him not to (through a mutual friend, Jesse), yet he says his life stopped when she left and he was unable to work.
Personally, I would’ve gone looking for the person I loved regardless of what they said. Either we’d work it out right then and there or get a divorce. That was what jarred me when reading this. I wouldn’t just believe a friend who said that my spouse “doesn’t want you to find them” – I would report them missing after 48-72 hours, and then go from there.
That is just my personal take. Their decisions negatively impacted them for that length of time. I did wonder what Julie was going to do after that length of time – what her ultimate goal was. However, it did also bring them closer together.
[END OF SPOILER ALERT]
This was definitely an uncomfortable, difficult read; but well presented given the subject. Sometimes it is weird and awkward. It is emotional and honest. At times it is jarringly realistic. It is also a lesson in there is no right decision to a situation like this.
This might prove to be a trigger for some people who’ve been through the events in this story.
While this is a four (4) star read; it is a lower four (4) star (closer to 3.8/3.9). This would be a higher four (4) star, if not a five (5) rating with better editing, continuity cleanup, and toning down some of the language to fit the Christian themes in it. I would’ve liked to have seen more descriptive writing and less dialogue at times.
I am definitely interested in reading the second book as I want to see how Julie and Dan are doing after this book.