Three for the price of one, today. I’m reviewing Wish by Kelly Hunter, One Perfect Night by Rachael Johns and When Harriet Came Home by Coleen Kwan in alphabetical order by author’s surname, and what really interested me was how much these stories had in common. What didn’t surprise me was how much I enjoyed them.
I cried when I read Wish by Kelly Hunter. Now that’s a sign of an emotionally engaging story. Kelly’s written some of my favourite contemporary romances, like the brilliantly titled, With this Fling. Wish is self-published and novella length and a wonderful example of the short form romance; emotionally punchy with a strongly drawn hero and heroine.
I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so I’ll limit myself to saying how much I appreciated the heroine’s emotional maturity. In many ways this was a Cinderella story (complete with a vulnerable alpha male), but this Cinderella saved herself and others — including a pub.
The plot not only acknowledged the complexity of modern lives and problems, but drew its strength from these challenges. I like how Kelly respected the conventions of the romance genre, but gave them a contemporary and realistic flavour. The characters were real enough that I felt I could drive to their town.
This was a fantastic small country town romance set in Australia and I just ate it up.
It’s hard to believe this is Rachael’s debut book. There is a perfect balance between heartbreaking issues and escapism (hot boss and modern, sexy Cinderella). I particularly liked the delicate portrayal of falling in love — that wanting to be with the beloved. One minor sidenote: I’ve never read of any other heroine with the job of reading-recording audio books. That was neat.
People talk of romance novels as love stories — and they are — but the celebration of love isn’t just between the hero and heroine, it’s also celebrated in the families that nurture them. All three of these books show the strength of that love.
I like second chance stories, but they’re seldom as good as When Harriet Came Home by Coleen Kwan. It started me thinking of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Both include themes of social expectations and pressure, but in When Harriet Came Home the heroine and hero challenge those expectations. It’s beautifully done as we see the growth and maturity of two people accepting who they were and who they’ve become.
Sharing a journey with people who are vulnerable, imperfect but ultimately courageous in saying yes to life and happiness is the great joy of reading a romance novel.