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.