Friday, September 23, 2022

Emilie Richards - No River Too Wide

On the night her home is consumed by fire, Janine Stoddard finally resolves to leave her abusive husband. While she is reluctant to involve her estranged daughter, she can’t resist a chance to see Harmony and baby Lottie in Asheville, North Carolina, before she disappears forever.
Harmony’s friend Taylor Martin realizes how much the reunited mother and daughter yearn to stay together, and she sees in Jan a chance to continue her own mother’s legacy of helping women in need of a fresh start. She opens her home, even as she’s opening her heart to another newcomer, Adam Pryor. But enigmatic Adam has a secret that could destroy Taylor’s trust…and cost Jan her hard-won freedom.

Comment: This is the third book in the Goddesses Anonymous series by author Emilie Richards. The first book was so-so, but the potential was huge and I decided to keep going, which was great because the second book worked out a lot better. This third one was also one I liked, which means the series has indeed improved for me.

In this third story, still connecting previously known or referenced characters, the focus is mostly on Taylor, daughter of Charlotte, the main character from book #1 and Janine, mother of Harmony, whom Charlotte had helped so much. Life in Ashville is going well enough for Taylor and the other goddesses, as they like to see themselves as, considering the efforts they do to help other women who need it, but things take quite a turn when Janine finally leaves her abusive husband. 
It has taken years and a lot of hurt, but now Janine is finally ready and with the help of a group who tries to help abused women, she escaped and only wanted to see her daughter and granddaughter before moving on, but she is convinced to stay and see where things go, especially because her husband is missing. 
At the same time, Taylor is ready to open her business and the sudden appearance of Adam Pryor, the first man to captivate her since her first boyfriend, should have been an alert but he does seem to be a man to trust... or is she wrong?

This is a true woman's fiction book, in the sense that most of the content is about the characters' emotions and experiences. Even though we also have situations from Adam's POV, which does add a little zest of romance to this book, due to his developing relationship with Taylor, the big focus is on Janine, Harmony and Taylor and where they are at this stage in their lives. We also get to see glimpses of other characters, with secondary roles here but whom have been key in the other books and others yet who will clearly have more protagonism in the last book.

I'd say this story is like a river, to use the title too, but one of those where it seems all is quiet and steady but there are some hidden depths here and there. Nevertheless, this isn't about fast pace nor action scenes and not even big conflicts and gestures. This is a story to be appreciated, to let the reader think about the path the characters take and why they feel motivated to do this or that, and it is also a way for us think about certain issues and how it is so easy to judge or assume and sometimes we all need time to think back and understand out own choices.

Janine is, despite everything which she goes through, a very stable and understanding woman. Her character might sound a little too "mary sue" to some readers but I liked how her quiet nature and reasoning made sense when she tried to explain her acceptance of being abused for years by her husband. Nothing, especially in real life, is always black and white, so Janine's character is just an example, but I could see why she behaved a certain way, which many might not see as acceptable if one wants to preserve their sanity, but as with everything, personal experience is certainly quite different from a book.

With this, I don't mean to say some make better or worse choices in similar situations, but each case is a case, even if the abusing pattern is the same in countless relationships. What the author does well is to slow pace a possible healing path and I liked seeing Janine going step by step into new things, as a way to trust herself again, to trust others.. if only people could always have a support group like Janine found in these goddesses and their friends....

I also liked the fact Janine and Harmony became closer after so long and after Janine helped Harmony, years ago, escaping their abusive house. The mother/daughter dynamics weren't always easy but I must confess there were moments where it felt too easy how they just accepted certain things. Perhaps I'm not without some cynicism myself...still, their lives felt interesting, as if I was just getting to know and respect people who went though a lot and now were sort of due their happiness.

My favorite element in this book - as if I weren't a romance reader! - was the relationship between Adam and Taylor, obviously complicated because of a secret Adam has but which I was fully confident wouldn't be as difficult to solve as that. Of course I'd have liked more details on the romantic elements but I think the author added enough information to make the relationship evolve in a believable way, if not the cutest or the warmest. 

As expected, in the end all the threads are explained and our characters can go on towards their HEA. I both like and wish was better how things don't get immediately picture perfect, we are given an idea of possibilities, we can fill in the gaps with the scenario we think is better because the hints, the choices are there. I hope the next book will give enough to savor what these characters have decided to do with their lives, but I also hope the final story is as enriching as this felt like to me.
Grade: 8/10 

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