Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

Title: Grace Grows

Author: Shelle Sumners

Rating: 3 Stars

Ah, Contemporary Romance novel which sucks me in from page one, completely taking over both my mind and my time until it just...doesn't hold my interest any more. We meet again.

Grace Grows is rather endearing, a charming romantic tale that, in my opinion, had a few too many misunderstandings to completely win over my heart. Sumners has a unique writing style, though, and if nothing else, she managed to have me emotionally involved in her characters. When we first meet Grace, she is living with a steady boyfriend, a reliable job, and loyal friends. And then, she bumps into Ty. Ty, the dog walker for her next-door neighbor, is a budding musician with a dream of making it big. Although Grace makes it clear to him that she is in a relationship, Ty nevertheless pursues her, becoming her friend almost unexpectedly. Despite Grace's best efforts to push Ty away, he perseveres, forcing Grace to re-evaluate not only her life, but her heart as well.

Admittedly, I wasn't Team Ty within the opening chapters. If anything, I found him a little too...forward. As an intensely personal person, Ty's easy relationship with Grace surpassed the awkward stages of meaningless chit-chat, getting straight to the casual comfort one would maintain with a best friend or sibling. Needless to say, I wasn't surprised when Grace pushed Ty away, wanting the distance from him myself. But when he was gone, being ignored by Grace, I missed him. Ty's presence is much like Sumners writing - easy to take advantage of and gloss over until absent. While Grace is responsible and collected, a cool cookie whose life is planned out and orderly (much like her bookshelves), Ty is a whirlwind of emotion, bringing his passion for music to New York alongside his optimism at making a life for himself despite starting out with little. Moreover, he is an optimist through-and-through, always smiling and eager to please. While I struggled with both Sumners writing style and her initial portrayal of Ty, I grew to love and appreciate both as the novel wore on. Much like Grace, I just couldn't stay away, reservations and all.

Grace and Ty's friendship, and subsequent romance, is potent and strong. While Grace is a rock for Ty to lean on, a support system to him always (not to mention source of inspiration for is songs!), Ty propels Grace to re-evaluate exactly what it is she wants from life. Working as a textbook editor, Grace must follow guidelines of including diversity and nutrition in these nonfiction works while completely skipping the sex-ed facts she wants to include. In other words, she is being forced to comply with company policies instead of actually educating high school students. Despite her unhappiness with her job, though, it is a secure position which Grace never even dreams of rising above until Ty enters her life. Additionally, her relationship with her boyfriend is rocky - not to her, but to the reader. Grace enjoys spending time apart from her significant other, not minding in the least when he takes business trips across the globe while she stays back in New York. Seeing Grace and Ty's friendship contrasting with Grace's relationship sends warning signals in our heads. Surely enough, though Grace and Ty develop feelings for one another over the course of their time spent together, thankfully Grace Grows doesn't involve cheating.

In fact, what I truly appreciated about this novel was that in-between Grace's relationship with her original boyfriend and her relationship with Ty, she takes time off for herself to regroup; to find a job she loves, to spend time with the friends she wants, to discover exactly what it is she wants to do opposed to what she's expected to do. Up until this point, Grace Grows was on a surefire track to earn at least 4 Stars, if not a higher rating, from me. I couldn't stop flipping the pages, desperate to see what happened with Grace and Ty, hoping against all hope that despite his rising career and her disgruntled one, they'd find a way to be together.

Well. Long story short: Ty and Grace find a way to be together. After a long time apart. And then...something...happens. And then the book just falls apart. Basically.

It's difficult to impart more concrete details without divulging spoilers, but Grace and Ty tentatively attempt to forge a relationship despite the push-and-pull of their lives; Ty touring the country, Grace figuring her life out. Yet, with Ty's life moving forward while Grace's staying at a stand-still, a whole new slew of hurdles are thrown in their paths. Instead of working through these, however, the manner in which Grace and Ty eventually find their way back to one another wasn't a story arc I particularly enjoyed. First and foremost, I felt tense the entire time while I read because of the uncertainty of their future together and, moreover, the lack of communication between the two. I understood where both these characters were coming from, but the sudden jump from practically zero conversation to complete acceptance threw me off. And from that point on, the rest of Grace Grows felt like fan-service, dragging out the lives of these two in incredible (and unrealistic) detail. Essentially, by the end, I felt cheated. Grace Grows builds and builds the tension and relationship of Grace and Ty until readers - and me - are practically shaking with emotion, but instead of launching off of that foundation, I found that the novel went down a path that didn't gratify me. It's a personal qualm, it seems, from the rave reviews of this novel around the blogosphere, and I will certainly be picking up another Sumners novel, whenever she chooses to publish one, but an overwhelming sense of loss hangs over my post-Grace Grows glow.

Sumners's debut is written in a stark, original manner with realistic characters, intense character relationships featuring both love (romantic & familial) and friendship, and entertaining dialogue to boot. It may not be my favorite romance novel out there, but it's definitely worth a read.


  1. I hear you about the misunderstandings, sometimes it's just all...really..really? Silly

  2. Ah it's such a shame. I think I like it more when at the star the book is meh and then grabs me than this. When you start reading it and you think it's gonna be amazing, but it loses your interest. Too bad cause Ty sounds like a great character and I'd love to meet him. Great review, Keertana :)

  3. Oh, that's really a shame that it fell a bit flat for you. Sometimes it happens though. It sounds like this one had a solid setup and characters, but it lacked a bit of that follow-through in the end. Lovely review and thanks for your honesty, Keertana!

  4. I don't think this is the book for me Keertana! While I'm hugely glad to see there's no actual cheating, the lack of communication between Grace an Ty as they start to move their relationship beyond friendship would drive me crazy. It's one of my pet peeves with fictional characters. I do absolutely love the cover though, it's gorgeous and fun and seems to fit the story which surprisingly isn't always the case:) Lovely review!

  5. Aww, it's such a shame that it didn't meet your expectation. I was glad to know there was no cheating. Ty sounds like the character I would love to read, but the lack of communication between Grace and Ty is something I wouldn't enjoy. Great review, Keertana!! (:

  6. For a book to start out so strongly, only to later deflate? I'd be just as disappointed as you, Keertana. Not that I'm belittling Sumner's approach in this novel. I agree, sometimes life does get in the way of romance, but for it to drag out the way it did, with Ty and Grace cutting off communication just when their relationship is supposed to take off? I don't know. It just sounds like a lot to get through (emotionally). I'm not saying this approach isn't realistic, but I don't know if this story appeals to me at the moment. I'm glad there's more to this novel though, and that overall, you thought it was worth the time. :) Lovely review, lady!

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

  7. Wonderful review, I sometimes struggle with straight up contemporary romances. I am glad despite some issues that you enjoyed the characters.

  8. Hmm, the fact that this novel started off so well but fell so flat at the end really makes me hesitant. I'm suspicious of what might happen. I also don't like the whole 0 contact thing to total acceptance- I think that's one of the reasons why I couldn't really love Where She Went, because it was kind of a similar thing with Mia and Adam there. However, Ty sounds like a great character, and I definitely think I'd love Grace.

    I think I'll have to read a few more reviews for me to be convinced to read this one, because your review has left me pretty ambivalent. But I'm definitely going to be on the look out for this one!

    Lovely review, as always, dear! <3

  9. I don't think this one is for me. I am an ending girl, so I can deal with a less spectacular beginning, but I love my endings to shine. I also don't like the misunderstandings. Always frustrate me.

  10. Haha I love this, it SO describes my experiences with too many of these --> "Ah, Contemporary Romance novel which sucks me in from page one, completely taking over both my mind and my time until it just...doesn't hold my interest any more. We meet again."

    It sounds like the fan service ending would annoy me too, but there does seem to be enough quality in the writing to make me curious enough to give it a try. the fact that you'd return to this author says a lot, given the way the story disappointed you. Lovely balanced review Keertana, thank you for sharing!

  11. Interesting! It sounds really good up until the point you stopped enjoying it, I like that Grace took some time in between the relationships, and now I'm wondering exactly what it was that changed your opinion ;)

    I adore this cover, it's so pretty.

  12. I haven't heard of this one at all. It must fall into the adult category. But I am so sorry the ending fell short for you. So disappointing when it was going so well. But that you would read something else from this author is a good sign. I'll put her on my list when I want a break from what I read. Great review! You always do such a great job of explaining what you liked about the novel without giving anything away and what you didn't like without being cruel. Great writing!


  13. I'm sorry you didn't end up loving this one as much as I did. I don't know, but this just somehow hit the mark for me. I'm glad to see you at least enjoyed some of it. Great honest review. Keertana! :)

  14. Well it's a pretty cover, at least. For some reason that cover and title made me think that this was a LGBT work of fiction. Weird, huh?
    That's so disappointing that the last part of the book didn't work out for you, Keertana! It sounds like you liked the author's writing in general, though, so maybe some of her future works will expand upon the good and eliminate the bad?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one!

  15. Hmmm, I don't know... This looks like something I'd like, but after reading your review, I'm not sure anymore. I'm still curious despite the fact that you wasn't happy with how everything ended. I'll think about it.
    Great review, Keertana.

  16. Ok this book is not for me. I'm already feeling stressed out by the book's drama and all the misunderstandings. This book sounds like it has to be massively long to go through all of that?! I'm glad you found some redeeming qualities and that there isn't any cheating. But I know this would not be a fun reading experience for me.


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