First sentence: Breeanna Lindstrom stared at the envelope in her hand. Probably a thank-you note since it was from Jade's husband. Tears immediately burned her throat and leaked from her eyes. How she missed Jade.
Jade left three friends ten thousand dollars apiece so they could take a dream vacation to Florence, Italy. Breeanna [or Bree], one of our two protagonists, is super-excited about the trip. Even in the midst of her family's messiness, she's still super thrilled to be getting away from it all. [One child is expecting a new baby soon. Her other child is drowning in debt and homeless.] She's also started seeing her best friend's brother-in-law. [They meet at the funeral of her best friend's husband.] He gives her lessons in Italian. The other protagonist, Pierre-Rene Dubois, besides being a love interest, is getting ready to start up his own business, a coffee shop. He wants a vet-friendly coffee shop. His chapters focus on getting this business started.
The novel is contemporary Christian fiction. To the extent that the characters are developed and fully fleshed out, they are presented as broken-imperfect people living in a broken-imperfect world. For example, relationships are messy. Pierre-Rene's relationship with his son and son-in-law is messy. He loves them and respects them, but, he's still balancing out how to be involved in their day-to-day lives. He is striving to make the relationship stronger and better. Likewise, Bree's relationship with Jessica, her daughter, is problematic as well. Jessica acts out--lashes out--at her mother and brother. She is upset that she has no money and doesn't have a place to stay. Any attempt to help is seen as an attack. And yet the lack of an attempt to help is also seen as being hostile.
The plot is minimal at best. Essentially there is lack of any interesting plot. The vacation to Italy--despite the publisher's description as being hilarious--is lackluster. Except for one of the friends getting mugged and having to return to the States early, all the friends do is eat, drink, and go tourist-y places. That doesn't translate well in a book. In a movie, there could be a montage of the three-to-four friends doing all the tourist-y things and laughing and having a grand old time. In a book, well, it's just boring. The characterization of the other friends is bare as well. There's just not any fleshing out of these side characters to make readers care.
I found this a tedious read. I do think these characters given another plot might be of interest. Pierre-Rene's PTSD, for example, is probably worthy of being explored in a book. Likewise, books about families struggling with reconciliation and healthy boundaries could be a good thing. But it was just hard to come to care for any of these characters or to be engaged in the story.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible
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