Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: Then Came You by Becky Wade

Then Came You (A Bradford Sisters Romance #0.5)
By: Becky Wade


I have a weakness for epistolary novels, and having yet to read anything by Becky Wade, I couldn't resist starting with the epistolary-themed prequel to her upcoming Bradford Sisters Romance series. There is a lot (A LOT) going on in this brief story, starting with parental abandonment and single fatherhood, and from there the drama and angst-ridden storytelling doesn't stop. According to the Amazon listing, Then Came You is 129 pages in length, and I expect that includes the two chapter excerpt from the forthcoming True To You, the first installment in the Bradford Sisters series. That means the nineteen brief chapters that make up Garner and Kathleen's story likely cover one hundred pages or less of this novella's length.

And when one considers that this novella covers a four to five year time span and includes (spoiler alert!) premarital sex, single parenthood, depression, rape, murder, guilt, death of a parent -- and let us not forget a business on the verge of bankruptcy -- I was left to wonder if I was reading a novella or a treatment for a Lifetime movie. Now to be clear, I am not opposed to inspy fiction dealing with weighty subjects, in fact I welcome that development. But when one is dealing with subjects of such weight and, frankly, horror, I have to question whether or not one does a grave disservice to the subject matter by cramming so many heavy topics into a novella and dealing with them all in a relatively superficial manner that the format's length forces upon the storyline.

All of this stands in sharp contrast to the slow burning, Working Girl reminiscent romance that develops between the (HIGHLY) wounded Garner and Kathleen, one of his company's customer service representatives with dreams of corporate success far beyond Bradford Shipping. Let me reiterate -- I love the concept of this novella. I love the journal entries and the phone conversations between Kathleen and her best friend, and best of all the LETTERS Kathleen writes to Garner, with no intention of sending, pouring her growing feelings for him out on the page.

Aside from mentions of the age of Garner's young daughters, this novella lacks a clear timeline and thanks to the format's limitations there is simply not enough scope to fully explore the ramifications of every hard, dramatic issue Wade inserts in the storyline. Again, I am very pro realistic fiction. I want characters who grapple with heartache and tough issues and find hope and healing. But throwing so many horrific issues at Garner, particularly, without any sort of depth or context, risks doing a grave disservice to those who have actually lived these experiences, arguably trivializing them by dealing with them in so a perfunctory manner.

This said, I'm nonetheless intrigued by the fact that Wade doesn't shy away from, quite literally, anything in even her short fiction, so I am curious as to how weightier topics are dealt with in a full length novel format. Given room to "breathe," I hope that her storytelling could be less dramatic and more emotionally effective. Therefore I'm definitely going to read True To You, Nora's story, when it releases in May. And inspy authors, take note -- I would love to see more epistolary fiction!

About the book:

A leather-bound journal. A single father. A woman in pursuit of freedom.

Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn't know much about babies. But he's going to have to learn fast because he's just become a single father to his newborn daughter. As he confesses through his journal entries, he's not entirely sure how to keep a newborn alive, whether or not he'll ever patch together his shattered heart, or how to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can't seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart. There's something extraordinarily tempting about his beautifully sad green eyes. . . . 

Told through journal entries, phone conversations, and letters, Then Came You is a unique, heart-stirring romance novella by acclaimed author Becky Wade.

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