Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Review: One Mountain Away

One Mountain Away
By Emilie Richards
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: July 31, 2012

Charlotte Hale has position and power and great wealth, things she has spent her life working to acquire not just for themselves but because they made her feel in control. In the process of acquiring these things, she has also lost much. She is divorced, she has been estranged from her only child for ten years, and she has a ten-year-old granddaughter with whom she’s never spoken. She is a force within her real estate development company and within the city she has called home for all of her adult life, Ashville, North Carolina. Sometimes she is a force for good but always she can see only one point of view—her own. She is admired and respected, but she is essentially alone, a state she realizes when, confronted with her own mortality, she begins to examine her life. She determines that in whatever time remains to her she will atone for the mistakes she has made.

As Charlotte begins her journey on this new path, her life intersects with the lives of others, most of whom she has wounded directly or indirectly. First, there is Analiese Wagner, pastor of the Church of the Covenant, where Charlotte is a member. Charlotte didn’t feel that Analiese was the right choice to pastor the church and voted against her. The two disagree about many things, but as Charlotte shares some of the truths of her life with Ana, she grows to depend upon her honesty and compassion. And Ana comes to value Charlotte.

Harmony Stoddard, with sun-bleached hair, freckles, and a gold ring in her nose, may look like an All-American girl with an edge, but she is a young woman with burdens almost too heavy for her slender shoulders. She is a waitress at Cuppa, the coffee shop that Charlotte frequents. When Charlotte finds Harmony sleeping in her car, she offers the young woman first a place for a night and later a home. Charlotte, a mother estranged from her daughter, and Harmony, a daughter whose mother is too beaten down to be there for her child, fill empty spaces in one another’s lives.

Georgia Ferguson was once headmistress of Covenant Academy, the school Charlotte’s daughter attended. Charlotte used her influence to see Georgia fired after her daughter Samantha is involved in a drunk-driving accident. Samantha, now a nurse and the mother of a young daughter, is also the best friend of Charlotte’s daughter. All of these lives are interwoven with Charlotte’s and with one another, offering Charlotte ways to make amends, ways to make a difference, and ways to make memories of a woman warmer and more giving than the Charlotte Hale she was.

The most significant relationships are those with Charlotte’s family. Her former husband Ethan, who has spent a decade trying not to think of Charlotte, sees her at the park where their granddaughter Maddie is playing. He wonders what she’s doing, he questions whether he should tell his daughter about Charlotte’s appearance, and he remembers the Charlotte he first met, the one with whom he fell in love, the one he’s never been able to forget.

Taylor Martin teaches yoga and Pilates. Her salary and the child support Maddie’s father pays make it possible to support herself and her daughter. She has a degree in health and wellness promotion, but the kind of job she wants can’t be found in Ashville. She depends upon her father not only for additional financial support but also for emotional support. She needs him, and she believes Maddie, an epileptic, needs to be surrounded by people who love her—her grandfather Ethan, her father’s parents, Samantha and her daughter Edna, who is Maddie’s friend. Taylor can’t bring herself to leave Ashville. She can’t bring herself to let go of the anger she feels toward her mother either. A relationship that was made difficult by what Taylor saw as her mother’s unrelenting need to control her was shattered by a remark that Taylor cannot forget and will not forgive.   

Charlotte can only hope that these relationships can be mended in some way. She is afraid to act for fear of doing the wrong thing. When Ethan makes an effort, she can meet him halfway gratefully. But she is uncertain that she will ever talk with Taylor again or get to know Maddie. Time might heal all wounds, but time is one gift that Charlotte has only in limited measure.

I’ve been reading Emilie Richards books since she was writing category romances back in the 1980s and 90s. When she moved to single titles, I followed, and I followed again when she began writing women’s fiction and mysteries. I’ve read most of the seventy books she’s written, from Sweet Georgia Gal (1985) through the Happiness Key books (2009-2011). I always include The Trouble with Joe (1994) and Prospect Street (2002) on my all-time favorite one hundred list, and my love for her Shenandoah Album books inspired my heroine’s profession in my first manuscript. So when I say, no Emilie Richards book has moved me so powerfully as did One Mountain Away, I speak from the perspective of a long history with this author.

This is the first book in a new series, Goddesses Anonymous, It sets up the series beautifully with a rich and varied cast of characters that win the reader’s heart and capture her imagination. But it is not merely a setup of the controlling premise; it is foremost the poignant, tender story of Charlotte Hale, a woman who reclaims her life and makes it one worth having lived. I found the novel engaging from the first page, but these words at the end of the first chapter had me heart, mind, and spirit.

I’m struck by how many possibilities confront us each moment of our lives, possibilities we rarely notice. We move on to the next decision by habit, then the next, and we never look around to see all the paths leading to other places, other lives. . . .

As always there are too many choices to contemplate fully, but as I stand and turn in the other direction, I know I’m making the only one I can.

I highly recommend this book, but I do so with one caveat. One Mountain Away is women’s fiction. It includes a wonderful love story with a hero who is easy to love, but the focus is Charlotte’s journey. The ending, although uplifting and life-affirming, is not the conventional HEA. I was relieved that I had a box of tissues handy. But if you can move beyond the expectation of the sacrosanct HEA, you will find a book to cherish, one with characters who will linger in your mind after you’ve turned the final page, one that may even inspire you to look at your own life with eyes that see more truly.

Have you ever read a book that totally captivated you with one moment or one paragraph? How do you feel about books that may require the judicious use of a hanky or tissues to wipe away the tears?


Kathleen O said...

Oh the more they make me cry, the more i love them.. I like a good book that has me feeling many emotions...I like to laugh or cry, or even get angry... I have this book already on order.. Emile Richards is a wonderful writer and I never miss her books..

MsHellion said...

A "Nicholas Sparks" tear jerker, isn't it? Not sure I'd be on board with that...reading between the lines of your review, but if anyone could write a review compelling me to read it (and this review was beautiful), it would be you!

Janga said...

Kathleen, yay for another Emilie Richards fan! She is indeed a wonderful writer.

By the way, you won a copy of How to Romance a Rake by Manda Collins. Be sure to send me your contact info before the 31 so that I can send you your book as soon as it releases.

Janga said...

Thanks, Hellie. I think a big difference is that the ending of One Mountain Away felt totally organic to me. I never felt manipulated as a reader. Instead I felt that the ending was the way things had to happen. A different ending would have seemed false.

quantum said...

Richards sounds a very interesting author and she is available in audio; a big plus for me. I'm a little wary of the title 'Women's fiction'. It rather suggests that the book will be all about 'women's problems', using the story format to explore the emotional issues involved.

This is OK if the plot interests me. A story of courage with the woman struggling against adversity is good and the HEA is not sacrosanct with me. Though I do like an optimistic tone to finish.

I enjoy Luanne Rice for example and Kristin Hannah's 'Winter Garden'. Hannah's description of the siege of Leningrad left my eyes feeling moist. Though I proudly proclaim that I have not yet resorted to a box of tissues!

Great review Janga.
Richards is now on my list of authors to sample!

Kathleen O said...

I replied via email to you about the book I won? Please let me know by what other info you need...

Janga said...

Q, I love Kristin Hannah's Winter Garden. There are so mant layers to the book, and it's such an emotional read. It's another that required the Kleenex box. I hope you do sample Richards.

Janga said...

Kathleen, I didn't get your message. Did you send it to jangarho at gmail dot com?

Kathleen O said...

I have sent it again....