This book was not my usual read. I was drawn in by the words “literary romance”, but in the end, I felt like it was more of a romance than a literary fiction read. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. There were passages of literary fiction writing, but they faded in and out with a different, fluffier (to me) writing style. I still enjoyed this book, however, and I will tell you why.
First, a little bit about the plot. It follows Emerson, a wife and mother who is trying to start a gardening business and whose father has recently committed suicide. She voluntarily takes on the task of restoring a garden at an elegant mansion for free, and begins spending a lot of time with Sybil, the elderly owner of the mansion, and Finn, a very attractive military police officer who is friends with her husband. Sybil is ailing, but recounts many stories of Einstein for her guests, as she was his intern (and perhaps more) once upon a time. Her discussions with Emerson about myth and philosophy and Einstein are where some of the more beautiful passages in the book come in. As the summer goes on, Emerson finds herself more and more dissatisfied with her husband Holt, and growing closer and closer to Finn, who is also married with children. This growing desire obviously complicates things.
I found Emerson likable and very sympathetic. I often find that when I read love stories, I care very little for morality and just want everyone who loves each other to wind up together, even if they’re married to other people. I wouldn’t condone that sort of behavior in real life, but it’s fiction, so. What I found to be interesting was her inner conflict over what to do with her situation, which I feel is not frequently explored in romantic novels (or at least not the ones I’ve read). It was explored in depth, and it makes you think about marriage, how it changes over time, and how true love can change your life. However, I did find it hard to sympathize with her plight, mostly because I couldn’t understand why she loved her husband at all, ever. The way her husband, Holt, is written, he comes off like a selfish, arrogant jerk. I’m sure he was nice at some point, but any sympathy I had for him was pretty much nonexistent. As Emerson reads Finn and tries to figure him out, I found myself trying to figure him out as well, which was another bonus. I like enigmatic characters and the bits and pieces we learn about them as the book grows. His wife, however, was also fairly unsympathetic, so the author was clearly trying to get me to root for Finn and Emerson (which I did).
For me, this was a solid romance read. The story kept me interested and I enjoyed the main characters and their conversations and dilemmas. Cons for me included unlikable secondary characters (Holt, Finn’s wife Jennifer, and Emerson’s best friend Sarah–who was totally unsympathetic to Emerson for reasons I couldn’t quite grasp), and that it didn’t quite live up to the literary part of “literary romance” for me, and so fell a little short of my expectations (which is likely just personal to me at this point in my life). I do recommend it if you like romantic reads, and are looking for something a bit fresh and different. There is also a sequel coming that further explores Sybil & Einstein’s relationship, which I might pick up and give a go.
I received this e-galley courtesy of Netgalley and Northside Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 3 stars