Monday, February 24, 2014

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
Release Date - February 25, 2014
Publisher Website - Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**received in exchange for an honest review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Set on the rugged, mountainous west coast of Mallorca, this taut, sultry, brilliantly paced novel is an urgent meditation on female desire, the vicissitudes of marriage and the allure of youth.

Taking place over the course of one week, The Lemon Grove lands in the heat of Deia, a village on an island off the southeast coast of Spain. Jenn and Greg are on their annual holiday to enjoy languorous, close afternoons by the pool, and relaxed dinners overlooking the rocks. But the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of their teenage daughter, Emma, and her boyfriend, Nathan. Jenn, in her early forties, loves her (older) husband and her (step)daughter and is content with her life, she thinks. But when this beautiful, reckless young man comes into her world, she is caught by a sexual compulsion that she's seldom felt before. As the lines hotly blur between attraction, desire and obsession, Jenn’s world is thrown into tumult--by Nathan's side, she could be young and carefree once again, and at this stage in her life, the promise of youth is every bit as seductive as the promise of passion. Jenn struggles between the conflicting pulls of resistance and release, and the events of the next few days have the potential to put lives in jeopardy as the players carry out their roles in this unstoppably sexy and unputdownable novel from a brilliant observer of the human condition.
The Lemon Grove is a sexy look at attraction, obsession, and the allure of youth. It examines the tangled web lies weave and the true cost of being unfaithful.

The story is written in such a way that it allows the reader to fill in many things themselves. I've often said that your imagination is capable of conjuring up things better with only a few details, instead of having something describe in painstaking detail. Leaving room for the reader to let their imagination wander allowed me to immerse myself into the story. I never felt I was missing anything, it was just a lovely, realistic balance. It read like someone telling you the story and letting you have the juicy details, but giving enough background for you to fill in the rest.

The only exception to this would be the tension between Jenn and Nathan. I wanted a bit more build up. I wanted the tension to become unbearable for Jenn, and the reader. The bit that is explored crackles off the page, but left me wanting a little more teasing and taunting. The will she/won't she nature of the story provides some delicious torture, and I would have gladly had that last a little bit longer.

Jenn's attraction to Nathan seems grounded in both his attractiveness, but also in the allure of youth itself. She seems dissatisfied with her life, longs for a bit of a second chance at her youth. She mentions wishing she had made a few youthful indiscretions before it was too late. She wants a taste of the naughty side. It's unclear how much is actually Nathan, and how much is this desire within Jenn. It is a haunting look at the regrets you might have about the roads not taken as you get older.

The relationships in this book are all fleshed out much more than I expected them to be. The most striking is the one between Jenn and her step-daughter Emma. Fraught with stressful moments that are balanced with some touching ones.  There relationship is pretty complex and felt really authentic. Jenn feels like Emma doesn't see her as her mother, and is even unsure if that's how she sees herself. Emma appears to think that Jenn resents her a little and tests boundaries as any normal teenager does. Their relationship is a little like a tightrope walk at times, each trying to keep their balance. Each is trying to be careful of the other, and neither is really sure how to handle their relationship.

The ending made me want to immediately read the last few chapters again because it delightfully shocked me. I wasn't expecting it to go in the particular direction it did, but was almost relieved it did. The ending itself is a conversation starter, and leads you desperate to know what comes after. Your head fills in the next scenes, and words almost automatically because you want to continue the story. Each reader is left to make up their own fate for the characters, and that may have delighted me the most.

The Lemon Grove is certainly a perfect fit for beaches, summer, and poolsides. I predict this one may be in quite a few beach bags come summer. It's as dangerously addictive as it is sexy. Complex characters, and a stunning ending made me really enjoy this quick, sizzling read.

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