My friend Laura's very first book comes out today!!!! Woo-hooooo!!!
I can't remember how long we've been friends, at least ten years, and Laura has been writing much longer than that. Her writing journey is an example of never quitting until someone finally says, “Yes.” And now you get to read Laura Drake's first published novel!
The Sweet Spot was an unexpected pleasure for me. I knew Laura said she wrote more “women's fiction” rather than “romance” but the book cover looks like a romance novel so I guess I forgot.
In the first chapter you find out that this is the story of a couple who has been married for a long time, but are no longer together. You know it has something to do with their young son (and the back cover copy tells you he died, so I'm not giving anything away), and you start seeing that the story will be about whether or not they can give their love and marriage a second chance.
What I liked most about Laura's writing is that it never felt like “just a romance novel.” The story felt real, like I was reading about real people. It's set in Texas in the world of Pro Bull Riding (PBR), so there's lots of cowboy-like stuff and, being Texas, there's some to-be-expected Southern manners and Bible-belt story elements – her friends and pastor calling to see if she's okay, her putting them off, etc.
I also liked that the husband's point of view seemed like what a man would do and feel and how he would talk to his friends, not just a woman's idea of what she wishes a man were thinking. (If you read a lot of romance novels, you know what I mean!)
There are also lots of interesting secondary characters and the story lines that go with them. There is a really interesting element of “on the outside looking in” for many of the characters. I don't know if Laura did that on purpose, but the main couple are struggling with not being part of their usual social circles now that they're divorced, and there is a New Yorker trying to fit into this small Texas town, and a teenager trying to figure out who he wants to be. For me, the best part is that all of them find a place for themselves.
Another thing I loved is that Laura put a quote at the beginning of each chapter. They kind of foreshadow what might happen in the chapter, and sometimes I laughed out loud when I read the quote because I knew something about what was going to happen now. It added to the anticipation. Plus I liked the quotes – Winston Churchill, Abigail Van Buren, Rita Mae Brown, lots of people I've never heard of, and even a quote from a pamphlet from the fictional county health group. It was fun.
If you're a romance reader, you'll love this book even though it isn't a boy-meets-girl romance. If you like deeper stories with lots of other issues, you'll definitely love this book! There are so many things going on in these people's lives that it feels like the author must've experienced them all in some way because it just seemed so doggone real. I'm almost embarrassed to say that there was something in at least half the chapters that made me cry, but I also laughed and smiled a lot, too.
5 stars, Loved It