Dear Reader, here is another in my unplanned series of book reviews. I hope you enjoy this commercial break. Did you know that currently the ebook version of Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan, the subject of this review, is available for just 99 cents. If you’ve been on the fence about getting yourself a copy, well, here’s your chance to get it cheap. And if the price alone isn’t enough to sway you, then I do hope the following “different kind of book review” will knock you right off the fence and onto Amazon’s page for Occasional Soulmates.
Sarah stuffed the manila folders into her messenger bag. She rubbed her eyes. She was tired of reading dark, gruesome material: coroner reports, Sheriff Cooley’s statement of Misty’s battered body, arrest records. She needed a break. Something that would take her away from the seedy world of small-time drugs and cheap sex. She reached back into her bag and pulled out a paperback that Michael had given her. It had seemed funny to him that the woman in the novel was named Sarah and that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. He’d tried to hide his smirk when he said this to her, and Sarah, in turn, fumed to herself.
Still, Sarah was impressed that he was reading a novel, and what looked like a relationship novel. Michael had insisted it wasn’t. What the hell, Sarah thought to herself as she drove Michael to his friend’s house—the marine biologist, female friend.
“I mean, it’s about relationship novels in a way. The twist here, the way Brennan handles it, is that you can’t control your life that way. You can’t just “write” your life the way you want it to be. Other people make a difference. Other people have their own novels.”
“I don’t get it. What’s wrong with this character, this Sarah Phelan, trying to control her life? You said she’s a doctor. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She really cares about her patients. But she’s in her late thirties and afraid that time is running out on her finding Mr. Perfect. I get that nobody should be looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, but —“
“Exactly!” Michael thumbed the book as he interrupted Sarah. “The problem is when she finds Mr. Right, she sets about trying to make her relationship novel happen. She’s kind of desperate. She’s divorced. Her best friend has already bested her by being happily married, which I think surprised the both of them.” Michael sat back in his seat and pointed to a ranch-style brick house, with a huge front lawn. Sarah pulled over and put her Volvo in park. Michael didn’t move to leave.
“So she meets this guy. Actually, he’s her patient. He has this fantastic name: Dylan Cakebread.” Michael turned to smile at Sarah.
“Like the wine?”
“Never mind. So he’s Mr. Perfect.”
“She thinks so. He looks like Jude Law, he’s an architect. He’s everything she believes she wants. He even turns out to be great with children.”
“But?” Was this Michael’s escape, Sarah wondered. Less than thirty minutes ago, they were in her attic office, Michael dictating to her what he knew about drugs and corruption and mayhem in Oyster Point, the circumstances under which his sister was now serving time for murder. Did reading relationship novels help him to cope with all of that?
“But, Dylan’s got secrets. A whole other life that he tries to keep from Sarah. She finds out eventually—“
Sarah threw up her hands. “Don’t tell me. I don’t like spoilers.” Actually, Sarah didn’t mind spoilers because if a book was any good, it should be a pleasure to read whether or not you already know the ending. Besides, she was starting to wonder if Michael had a deeper reason for wanting her to read Occasional Soulmates. Was there a subtle message just in the fact that book was titled Occasional Soulmates?
“Well, the point isn’t really what he’s trying to keep from her. The point is what she does once she finds out. She doesn’t give up. In spite of all the red flags, and her friend Jules never lets her forget them, she continues to pursue Dylan. She makes it impossible for him not to fall in love with her. The man doesn’t stand a chance once Sarah makes up her mind.”
Sarah gripped the steering wheel. What the hell is this, she thought. She had never known a man to use a novel as a way to send a message, but she wasn’t sure what the message was. She hadn’t been trying to force Michael into a relationship with her. She wasn’t the one always showing up unexpected.
“So this is one of those girl meets guy, girl falls in love with guy, girl loses guy.”
“No. You’re not listening. It’s much more than that. Dylan was the right man for Sarah. It’s just what he gives her isn’t what she expects. She’s so focused on him and how to keep him, she doesn’t see the love waiting for her right in front of her.”
“No!” Michael bumped his head against the headrest. Sarah cocked her head at him. Boy, she thought, he takes his reading seriously.
“Okay, so it’s not another guy.”
“You said no spoilers, so I’m not saying anymore. Except that this is more of a coming of age novel than a relationship novel. Sarah Phelan’s been married before. Again, there were warnings signs and she ignored them. For me, the take-home message from Occasional Soulmates is you need to keep your eyes open, don’t follow some script you just made up. Life isn’t scripted. Sarah learns the hard way but she needs to.”
“Sounds like you really liked the character.”
“I liked all of them. Brennan made each one come alive, even the mysterious Dylan. You don’t know for a long time what his secrets are, but because you are seeing him through Sarah’s eyes, it’s like you fall in love with him too. And you want to hate her older sister. And you feel frustrated with her mother. And you blame her former husband for their failed marriage.”
“Have you ever thought of writing book reviews?” Sarah found herself wanting to just stay in the car and listen to Michael. This was definitely more entertaining than talking about his and Misty’s miserable childhoods. And she hadn’t seen him so animated before, like talking about this novel gave him a boost of energy.
Michael laughed a little and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know it may seem weird that a jarhead would be reading novels, especially novels that are focused more on character than plot. Although this one is a page-turner. My friend gave me this copy while we were out on her boat, and I swear I had a hard time putting it down, even when she was yelling at me to pull in the nets.”
Sarah could feel herself bristle at the mention of his friend, who apparently was a tall, leggy Blonde now standing in the brightly lighted doorway of the brick house, waving to Michael. He passed her the book.
“Another thing was how well Brennan writes in a female voice. And in first-person. I think it’s pretty rare for a guy to pull that off. You’ll enjoy this, Sarah. It can be a quick read, but when you get to the end, you’ll want to read it all over again. Just more slowly next time.”
Sarah took the paperback and swallowed what felt like a hard lump in her throat. Perhaps this was Michael’s way of telling her to back off. She watched him as he crossed the lawn, admiring the way his jeans molded his legs, his butt. Disgusted with herself, she started to look away. But her attention was arrested by a man coming up behind the Blonde. He reached out for Michael’s hand and draped his other arm around the Blonde’s shoulders, pulling her in close to him.
Sarah felt a wave of relief and almost jumped out of her car to do a happy dance. But Michael turned around to wave good-bye to her. So instead she picked up the book and waved it at him as she turned on her car and prepared to go home.
So, Dear Reader, I hope you have enjoyed this different kind of book review of Kevin Brennan’s Occasional Soulmates. Consider writing a review yourself after you’ve read the novel. The more 5-star reviews, the merrier. Occasional Soulmates is available through these vendors:
Amazon (currently the ebook version is available for 99 cents)