Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Retrieving Morning by JoAn Watson Martin

TITLE: Retrieving Morning
AUTHOR: JoAn Watson Martin
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 41k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $4.50

Widow AnnaMarie Whitson is trying to get on with her life, but her three adult children are making it very difficult for her. A reunion in her small hometown reconnects her with her childhood sweetheart, and through their renewed friendship, she’s able to start finding the strength to live again, for her…

I’m not sure I’m the target audience for this romance as the heroine is in a very different part of her life than I am, but I was really looking forward to reading it, as the prospect of a widow trying to find new love in her golden years really appealed to me. There aren’t that many out there, so this stood out, and even though Wild Rose is notorious for ridiculously short excerpts, I took the risk anyway. I can’t say that it paid off.

Problems start relatively quickly, not with the story itself, but with the execution. The bulk of the story is told in third person, but occasionally, in the numerous flashbacks, that perspective shifts to first. The first time it happened, I thought it was a deliberate choice. First person lends an immediacy to a protagonist’s voice, which seemed in keeping with the fact that memories were becoming increasingly stronger. But that perspective wasn’t maintained. Within the same paragraph, it would switch back and forth between third and first, and it happened more than once. It made it very difficult to slog through, and what should have been a quick, heartwarming read, instead took me hours longer to finish.

Another flaw lies in the story’s characterizations. All three of AnnaMarie’s children are just dreadful, selfish and egocentric with no hints of what might make them decent human beings. It might have been a deliberate choice, to highlight AnnaMarie’s decision to find independence, but it got to the point where I resented every scene they were in. They’re awful people, and they got progressively worse as the story went on.

AnnaMarie’s characterization is uneven at best. For the first half, she’s quite charming and likable, but there is this weird episode in the second where she just goes off the deep end. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be depression, or something medical. Both possibilities were hinted at in the story. But it derailed me entirely from the story, even when she seemed to get her act together.

In spite of the many flaws, there are moments of genuine pleasure. AnnaMarie’s return to her hometown is lovely and well-balanced, with memories that felt incredibly real for me. I liked who she was there, and the thought of the group of senior citizen women having a sleepover like they were teenagers had me smiling throughout the entire scene. But that wasn’t enough to save it from its other problems. When the story doesn’t even really end with an HEA or an HFN, I find it difficult to call it a romance at all. I think I’m meant to believe the HEA is around the corner, but I never got to see it. It just ended, with many of AnnaMarie’s problems still intact, and Jay – her high school sweetheart she’d reconnected with – still married. Not satisfying at all.


5/10 – Shifting POV and stilted dialogue made it difficult to read


6/10 – Hints of a really nice guy, but the lack of focus in the story kept me from knowing him too well


6/10 – Felt all over the place, lacked consistency in characterization

Entertainment value

4/10 – I loved the idea of a silver romance, but this wasn’t the story to do it

World building

7/10 – The small town feel and memories were excellent. The rest of it, not so much



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