Introducing the first in a series of occasional book reviews. There are many, many sites devoted to reviewing the kinds of romance novels I read and write, so this will be a fairly intermittent feature of my blog, but every so often I’ll review a book I’ve particularly enjoyed or by an author I quite like.
Review, Eric Arvin’s Another Enchanted April (Dreamspinner Press, January 2011).
Inspired by the novel Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, Another Enchanted April tells the story of three friends who find love and transformation over the course of a week spent at a grand bed and breakfast just before the regular tourist season opens in the beach town of Beechwood. There’s damaged and broken Tony Fisher; Douglas Dester, the pretty boy approaching his sell-by date; and self-effacing Jerry Wilkins, who’s carried a torch for Douglas since their college days. While their lives and experiences in Beechwood intersect, in some ways, each man experiences his own journey of renewal. One finds healing, one finds self-knowledge, and one finds self-respect and knowledge that he’s worth something. All experience the possibility of love in the liminal moment of a week spent in a slightly unreal place, and all three carry this possibility forward into their lives at their vacation’s end.
No sooner do the three friends arrive at the B&B in the middle of a storm, then the ball starts rolling on the transformations. As each man wakes up, he’s first drawn to and then seduced by the gardens around the B&B. At first the sheer amount of time devoted to describing the B&B’s grounds threatened to overwhelm me, but there’s a method to Arvin’s botanical largesse. The gardens, overseen by an at first mysterious gardener, themselves serve as a metaphor for the changes of the characters experience, and in some ways, the Mr. Roarke-like gardener and the plants he tends give each man what he needs.
Lyrically humorous like Arvin’s other works, particularly the charming Simple Men, Another Enchanted April gives the reader likeable characters, a satisfying story, and even a happy ending. My only critique, and it’s admittedly a pedantic and minor one, is the use of the phrase “crew team.” That’s redundant. It’s either “crew” or “rowing team.” But then, I’m a competitive rower who clearly has perspective issues, so this mustn’t deter anyone from reading this fine novella.
Since this is my first review, I don’t have any kind of ranking system in place, so we’ll go ahead and give five out five ergs. If someone with graphic-design skills wants to make me a small silhouette of a Concept2 ergometer (and a half an erg), I’d be very grateful.