Book Review: A Family of Strangers – Emilie Richards

Author: Emilie Richards
Book Name: A Family of Strangers
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Could a lifetime of memories…be a lifetime of lies?

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lays low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This book surprised me. In good ways and on a couple of different levels.

Initially, I got frustrated because I wasn’t seeing what the blurb had led me to believe this book was about and I thought it was beyond time to start seeing those things. That’s when I noticed I was only at like 15-20% and I was a bit shocked. So much had already happened, I felt like I was much farther along than I was, so it wasn’t unreasonable I hadn’t hit those things. Once I realized that, I let go of the impatience and settled into the story.

One of the things I really liked about this was that there were lots of threads in this story, but they are all mostly tied together and related. The only real exception is Ryan and Teo’s back story, which you get in drips for a while (one of the points of early frustration and my one real irritant). The connected threads all fit smoothly together.

I loved how those threads all developed. Even as the story seems to get complex and convoluted, the author does a good job of making it all work, of making it believable. There are several “surprises” along the way. Most I could see coming, but I still liked how they came about. One that I saw, the author managed to distract me enough I’d forgotten about it only to have it pop back up when I wasn’t looking (LOVED that).

The very few negatives I’d have to mention are all mostly centered around Ryan and Teo’s relationship. Those early drips of their back story did annoy me as there didn’t seem to be any real purpose to the slow doling out of that part of the story other than to add a level of suspense, which was unnecessary with so much other stuff going on. The one piece I struggled with believing was how their previous relationship ended. That part really didn’t get wrapped up until deep into the story and it felt a little weak, as though there had to have been a lot more to it than there was. It wasn’t enough to do too much damage to how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and once I got over myself and my impatience, this kept me intrigued all the way through.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars
Just wanted to point out that the cover was one of the things that got me to look closer at this book. It sets the perfect tone and backdrop for the story.

 

Wedding Ring: Shenandoah Album, Book 1

Wedding RingAuthor: Emilie Richards
Book Name: Wedding Ring
Series: Shenandoah Album
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Three generations of women discover the healing gift of family, memories and love

Needing time to contemplate her troubled marriage, Tessa MacRae agrees to spend the summer helping her mother and grandmother clean out the family home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. But the three women have never been close. Helen, the family matriarch, is domineering and sharp-tongued. Nancy, Tessa’s mother, appears to be little more than a social climber. And Tessa herself is in turmoil following a family tragedy that has affected them all.

Now, with the gift of time, Tessa’s eyes are opened, and she begins to see her mother and grandmother for the flawed but courageous women they are. As she restores a vintage wedding ring quilt pieced by her grandmother and quilted by her mother, the secrets that have shadowed their lives unfold at last. And each woman discovers that sometimes you have to clean house to find the things you thought were lost forever.

Review:  Powerfully emotional and beautiful, this is a poignant reminder that love isn’t always perfect, just like the people that experience it aren’t.

Every single character is richly layered in their imperfections and history and their struggles with the relationships in their life.  This is a story about families and the difficulties in loving those in your family, seeing them all the way to the inside and the truth of who they are and learning to love the whole of them, not just the parts.

This tugged hard and deep on the emotional strings throughout the entire book.  Smiles and tears and smiling through tears, it just sticks you in a place that is sometimes hard to get to.  It is the kind of book that kind of forces you to examine your own relationships in a new light.

Truly an awesome one.