BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review of Say You'll Be Mine by Julia Amante

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Buying Links:  Amazon     The Book Depository

Book Blurb (from goodreads):
Isabel Gallegos is only a handshake away from living her dream life. After years of putting everyone else's needs before her own, she's selling her family's vineyard and moving to a quiet cottage on the California coast. But just as she's about to seal the deal, a letter arrives from Argentina with shocking news: Her beloved cousin has died and Isabel is now the sole guardian of three young children. 
 Still holding on to her dream, Isabel travels to Argentina. There she meets little Julieta, the cherubic baby of the family; eight-year-old Adelmo, as hot-tempered as his sister is sweet; and ten-year-old Sandra, whose heart-shaped face and quiet confidence remind Isabel so much of her late cousin. She tells herself to let the children go, to leave them in the care of their grandmother or perhaps their long-lost uncle who abruptly reappears. Or should she listen to her ex-husband, who is suddenly at her side, urging her to give the children--and him--a chance?

 If she's willing to take a risk, three tiny strangers just might change Isabel's life in ways she's never imagined.

Teaser:

"He needs to be understood and loved. He needs us to be on his side, Isabel. Everything is new and scary for him, even if he tries to be tough."
"I know that." She resented that Nick felt he had to instruct her on how to deal with kids. What made him any more qualified than she was? The way he'd taken over when he had no right to do so made her angry. But then, a huge part of her was glad that he'd handled it, and that, made her even angrier. "But the children are my responsibility. My obligation to raise them the way I see fit. I don't want you to interfere again like you did today."
"They're not my responsibility or my obligation, Isabel. Sometimes people do things because they want to, not because they're supposed to."
 Was that a slap in the face? She tried hard to control her temper.
Reviewed By: Bea

Bea's Thoughts:

I requested "Say You'll Be Mine" in part because of it's vineyard setting and in part because of it's storyline. The vineyard setting lived up to expectation, the rest was a mixed bag. The blurb is pretty accurate and in some respects sounds like one we've seen before: single character finds him/herself suddenly responsible for a relative or friend's child; can they cope, will they find love with the person who appears or reappears in their life and is all kinds of helpful. It's a plot line we've seen in womens fiction and in romance. This book was marketed as a general fiction title so I expected that it would be lighter on the romance, heavier on the family stuff and maybe a bit heavier on the literary side. As a result, I was discombobulated for about the first third of the book until I realized and accepted that I was wrong and adjusted my expectations. It read a lot like a Harlequin romance, which is not intended as a put-down. It simply wasn't what I thought I was getting.


Perhaps as a result of my mixed up expectations, I had a hard time getting into the book. I would put it down to eat, or feed the cat, or what have you, and I'd be reluctant to pick it back up again. Several times, I almost talked myself into giving up on it. In the end, I finished it. It was okay, but not one I expect I'll read again.


I had a hard time connecting with Isabel; while I understood her shock at becoming guardian to her cousin's children, and her struggle to come to terms with it, she was so adamant about not even trying, refusing to give up her plans and dreams, and jumped at the chance to dump them on someone else. She had to choose between her dreams and her obligations. I understood it intellectually, but emotionally, it just rubbed me the wrong way. They do end up living with her, for a while at least, and that was when I started to connect and to like her more. She makes mistakes, but she is genuinely trying, and she comes to care about them over time. Helping her is her ex-husband, who still works with her at her family's vineyard and even lives on the grounds. He forcibly inserts himself into her family crisis, against her wishes, and  of course, the kids love him and everything he does. Isabel, meanwhile, is the meanie who took them from their homeland; it doesn't help that she hadn't seen them in many years and they had no recollection of her at all. It's all very soap opera-ish.


The teaser above is a good illustration of Isabel and Nick's relationship (Nick being her ex-husband): she's insecure and defensive, he simply takes over, and they snipe at each other. That scene happens after one of the children, Adelmo, is physically attacked by an older boy at school who has been bullying him. He gets in trouble for fighting in self-defense and Isabel and Nick are called. The boy and his friends had been bullying Adelmo for a while, he had casually mentioned it to Isabel (he's casual because he doesn't want to seem scared or incompetent.), she dismisses it as unimportant, but when he tells Nick, Nick is there for him immediately. It was one of many instances where AmanteAmante's dismissal of that subplot. It seems to serve solely to help move along the Nick and Isabel, will they or won't they get back together plot line, and the Isabel is a horrible parent and doesn't want to be a parent plot line.

Now, the children have another relative who could take them in: their uncle Ramiro, their father's brother. But Ramiro and his brother Andres had a falling out before the children were born, and he's never been a part of their lives. He believes it's his familial duty to take them, and he also wants them to remain in Argentina, he does not want them moving to the US as they would if Isabel took them. At first Ramiro is presented to us as bad boy, wild and crazy and perhaps a criminal. Gradually Amante shows us that while that was his brother's perception of him, it's not an accurate representation. He can be very arrogant and condescending, as well as macho, but he has settled down and grown from the teenager that Andres knew. He has a law degree, a reasonably prosperous farm and lives a mostly quiet life. Because of things he did as a teen, and because Ramiro briefly dated Brenda, who later married Andres, his brother cut off all ties with him. Unlike Isabel, he wants the kids; like Isabel, it's a hard adjustment. I liked that Amante took Ramiro beyond stereotypes and showed us a multi-dimensional character. I felt that he was more developed than Isabel, who was stuck on 1) living her life, her way, on her terms, after spending so many years making her parents and other people happy, and 2) resisting Nick's intrusions into her life and his determination to win her back. Now Nick could be downright obnoxious, in my opinion, about shoving his way into her life and making decisions for her but her protests usually felt more token and not real. I should say that I am NOT a fan of the exes getting back together. In real life it so rarely works out, I can't help but feel it gives an unrealistic message and expectation.

So, not a bad book, especially once you know what you're getting, but not one that held my attention and not one I'll re-read. Although it sounded like a book I'd enjoy, it ended up not being the right one for me. 

I received a paperback from the publisher for review.

2 comments:

  1. It's so hard when you don't connect with the main character..it really messes with the flow. I would have grabbed this for the vineyard setting too and I am delighted that that aspect of the book was fulfilling!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, when you can't connect with the characters, you may as well put down the book. I nearly did, several times. Oh well, now I know to think twice before reading another book by this author.

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