In exchange for an honest review, Ms. Reyner provided me with a copy of her debut novel, Twelve Days–The Beginning. My intent in reviewing her book was mainly to provide feedback regarding a particular chapter that she had softened out of concern that detailed content might be too brutal. So I read her novel in the space of two days (including the wee hours of one morning) and provided her with the following review. Ms. Reyner gave a kind review of my review so I’ve since posted it on Goodreads and Amazon, and now here:
Twelve Days – The Beginning is an emotional whirlwind of a novel. At first, Elise Grayson seems to have it all: great marriage, great job, great friends, great looks. But author Jade Reyner doesn’t take long to start peeling back the layers of deception in Elise’s life, as she tries and fails to keep her secrets. First, her best friend and favorite “eye candy,” Cole Andrews, sees through all her lies; ironically, he is the one she confides in, not her best girlfriends who are left in the dark until the truth refuses to be hidden. Then Elise meets Vaughn Granger, a tall, dark, and handsome, and highly sexed man who serves as Elise’s boss. Initially she fights her attraction to him, and initially I wanted her to because I was afraid he would be no better than her husband, that he would be just another man to dominate and control Elise.
But Granger is different and he shows Elise what it means and how it feels to be truly loved and worshiped. Although married for ten years, Elise has had limited sexual experience. Granger not only opens a new sensual and sexual world for her, but Elise also experiences a sexual awakening, the kind of awakening that, at least in our dreams, can only happen with someone who truly, truly loves us. The sex scenes are explicit but not gratuitous: there’s a context for every touch, every kiss, every caress. The same is true of the physical and sexual violence that occurs: the detail provides a searing look at Elise’s reality and an unforgiving portrayal of the monster that is her husband.
I did find myself frequently arguing with the characters–usually Elise–as I read along, a good sign that I was hooked, that I was invested in their exploits and decisions. Admittedly, Elise and her sermons on the sanctity of marriage and her stubbornness often drove me up the wall. She makes some, what I can only call, stupid decisions, but she makes them because she really thinks she is doing the right thing. I’ve worked with survivors of domestic violence, and it never ceased to amaze me how desperately some of the women I worked with wanted to believe that only if they acted rationally, then all would be OK. They needed to believe that their lives were not the nightmare that everyone else told them it was. I see Elise going through this, wanting to believe that there still some rational part of her husband that she could reason with. So, while I was sometimes angry with her, I also understood her need, her desire that everything turn out OK.
Of course, in real life, things don’t turn out quite OK and the novel has a hell of a cliffhanger. Fortunately, Ms. Reyner provides her readers with a taste of the sequel, Twelve Days – The Future, and we can at least be assured that there is indeed a future for Elise and a future for us as Ms. Reyner’s readers.