Thursday, July 14, 2022

Libby Hubscher - Meet Me in Paradise

Ever since her journalist mother died on assignment, Marin has played it safe, refusing to set foot outside the state of Tennessee. Her wild-child younger sister, Sadie, has trotted the globe as a photographer, living off of art and adrenaline.
When Sadie returns from a tough assignment abroad and looks a little worse for wear, Marin reluctantly agrees to a sisters' spa weekend on the tropical island of Saba. But her lifelong fear of travel is affirmed when Sadie misses the flight, Marin's luggage gets mixed up with another passenger's, and an episode of turbulence sends her hurtling into the lap of Lucas Tsai, the handsome stranger who stole her sister's seat.
For the first time in a long time, Marin has to step outside of her comfort zone as she explores the island with Lucas and learns what she's been missing out on. With each breathtaking new experience, Marin gets closer to her real self, the man she's falling for, and the heart-wrenching truth about why she's there in the first place.

Comment: I've decided to read this book for a challenge I'm doing and, considering the cover, I thought it would be a great summer reading. In a way, it was so, but this is a much heavier story than the cover might suggest...

The story begins with Marin Cole traveling to the exotic island of Saba, in the Caribbean. The plan was to travel with her sister Sadie, who is a photojournalist and she has been to so many countries and did so many adventures.... Marin is her opposite so this was Sadie's idea and Marin goes to share the experience with her sister and because she can take the time out. However, her sister fails to show up for the boarding and sends her a message she will go in another flight. This sounds weird to Marin and her experience in first class is only worse because her fellow seatmate seems so confident... but she does arrive in Saba and tries to have a good time waiting for Sadie.... at least, until she discovers the truth. In the meantime, the man on the plane is the owner of the resort she is staying at and they become close as he helps her explore the island, but can Marin accept his role in what ends up being a very complicated plan of her sister?

I think this was satisfying novel. I liked reading it and I liked most of the story. The execution isn't bad, but I would definitely change the final section and I also would improve the romantic elements.

The story starts very interesting, it's always fun to imagine people going on vacation, especially to a place very different from the one they are used to, because that makes it implicit some kind of novelty will have to be part of the plot. I wish I could go on vacation to an exotic place for the experience alone, if not for any specific interest in any place. This did happen here and I felt curious about the island of Saba, and a significant fun part of reading included also checking google maps and photos of the island.

Marin is a traditional heroine in a rom-com of sorts: not adventurous and facing fun/embarrassing situations on her first long distance plane travel, meaning it can be easy to picture ourselves doing as bad she she does when facing a new situation which we cannot fully control. The tone of the story is one of fun, without a doubt, although I think it's impossible to fully let go of the idea something isn't really right about this whole travel mishap when the sister doesn't show up. In part one thinks this is on purpose (and it quickly becomes evident it is!) but not for the "only" reason we recognize...

The beginning of the story is, therefore, cautiously cute and Marin sees herself doing things she isn't comfortable with, but with the prompt of taking a picture to prove her sister she is actually doing them. She has a companion, Lucas Tsai, whose family owns the resort on the island, as well as many other businesses and even in the rest of the world. However, his presence here isn't just romantic or a financial/class opposition; he has a secret agenda, a co-helper of Sadie, so that Marin could go out of her shell and do new things, live a little before going back to her predictable life.

As one can guess, Marin and Lucas hit it off, mostly at an emotional level, as they share things about themselves. I suppose one could see this as a deeper bond forming before they decide to go the next level, but this is rather subtle and simple, and I do wish we would have had a bigger impact on how this affected them, because when the plot has it first twist, this situation between them felt weak and what came next made things more confusing. Then, since the story goes on a much more introspective and slightly morose tone, I feel this aspect wasn't balanced enough.

I guess the big moral lesson, so to speak, we should learn here is that life is short and we should do what makes us happy, while obviously respecting others too. Marin has to learn how to deal with the memories left since her mother died and how alike her Sadie is, in the sense both are adventure seekers and Marin isn't. She also has to learn to enjoy the little things and the things which contribute to our happiness, so I's say this story is, for longer, woman's fiction, and not exactly just romance.

Some readers have said how misplaced the cover is, because it does imply something cute and easy and story isn't like that. However, I think that if the story is read with a comforting or relaxing perspective, the actual situation isn't hard to grasp and the most difficult sections aren't that difficult to go through. I think the author could have planned some elements better, so that the plot would look more cohesive for longer, and some things I feel were unnecessary (like Marin's ex showing up in the island too), but as a whole I think the emotional content was balanced enough, considering the story's intent.

Again, I wish the romance would have been stronger because in the end we do feel happy with how they talk and decide to be together, but the rest could have had a little different impact if this aspect had been better. I think this was a good introduction to this author and I will likely try to read something else by her in the future.
Grade: 8/10

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