>> Friday, January 25, 2013
Rose Leonard is on the run from her life. Taking refuge in a remote island community, she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. But she is haunted by her past, by memories and desires she'd hoped were long dead. Rose must decide whether she has in fact chosen a new life or just a different kind of death. Life and love are offered by new friends, her lonely daughter, and most of all Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise. But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on life and sanity, have the courage to say yes to life and put her past behind her?
Rose Leonard has just moved to North Uist, an island off the North of Scotland, in search of some peace in her life. She hopes the slow pace and emptiness of the island will allow her to concentrate on her art and will do her mental health good. Rose is bipolar, and she's still recovering from a chaotic ending to a stormy relationship.
In North Uist, she not only finds a community she quickly becomes part of, but a man who weakens her determination to stay away from relationships.
I enjoyed this one very much. What I liked best about it was its treatment of Rose's mental health. For starters, when a book's protagonist has such issues, the book tends to be all about them, all about the character's struggles to deal with whatever they are. But here, Rose's bipolar disorder is not really front and centre. It's certainly important in Rose's life (I mean, it's the reason behind the change in her life that brings her to North Uist), but she's made peace with her condition. She understands and accepts herself, and is quite natural about disclosing she's bipolar and what that means to her. The story is not about her struggling with her mental health issues, but about her moving beyond a very important relationship in her life that has ended a few years earlier, and reaching for happiness, in a way that is right for her, and contemplates her mental health needs.
Also, I liked that a happy ending for her is not about true love curing her bipolar disorder, or even making it better. It's about her finding love with someone who accepts her as she is, doesn't want to change her and understands what being with her entails:
"Don't joke about it, Calum -it wears people out! It wears them down. All my friends walked away."
"What wears folk out is the wanting, Rose - wanting things to be different. Better. I don't want that. I don't want to change you. I don't want you "cured". I love you the way you are. It won't wear me out. I know there's a price to be paid for what I want. Maybe it's a high price, but I'm prepared to pay it. Seems like a bargain to me."
I accept that Calum does come across as a bit too good to be true. He's just lovely from the very first, takes one look at Rose and makes his interest clear, never looks at anyone but her, and takes her mental health issues completely in his stride. But as the book goes on, you realise he's got his own problems, and that he's getting the same love and acceptance from Rose as she's getting from him.
It's a book that feels literary in its style (and Gillard does some interesting things with point of view, which sort of swirls around), but it's one that fits in the romance genre, and will be satisfying to romance readers (it's more a hopeful than a full-blown HEA, but that's fine by me). I especially appreciated having more mature characters. Rose is in her
I also liked lots of other elements, the setting (there's a strong sense of community, and life on the island is fascinating), Rose's work, Calum's poetry, the secondary characters. A solidly enjoyable story.
MY GRADE: A B.