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Friday, July 18, 2014

What Grows in the Garden by Stacy-Deanne

What Grows in the Garden is a sweet, but short (around 34 pages when read using my Nook), story. Elle is a widow with a son and a daughter. She lives in a small town named Sunset where she's lived all of her life. Growing up she was in love with a boy named Harper. They were each other's first loves and first lovers. Harper didn't see a future in Sunset so he left for Germany and, in doing so, he also left Elle behind. In Germany he carves out a good life with a great job that he loves and where he makes good money. Although he still has feelings for Elle, the money and his life in Germany are more important and it is the life that he chooses. In the meantime, Elle has married another friend from her childhood who also happened to be Harper's best friend. Over the years, on the occasions that Harper visits Sunset he's become a default uncle to her kids and remains a part of their lives. But those visits are few and far between, and he hasn't always come back to see the people he left behind even when he should or when they've needed him the most. When Harper shows up in Elle's garden, he's back with a purpose. He wants a second chance. The question is why, and is Elle willing to give him what he wants?

This is a very well written story, and like I said it has all the makings of a sweet and touching book. Unfortunately, I have mixed feelings about it. There were parts that I actually did find touching. It was well written (as expected of this author) and didn't lag at any point for me. If it had been longer, maybe I would have liked it more, but as is I couldn't feel what I was supposed to feel about it. Actually, I couldn't feel what I was supposed to feel for Harper and his situation. In my humble opinion, Harper was a grade-A selfish man.

The best way for me to sum this book up is to look at how the characters made me feel. Since my problems are with Harper, I'll start there.

Harper: Harper was suspect to me throughout the book. Frankly, I didn't believe him at first, but then I just felt he was only thinking of himself and not Elle or her family. This isn't what I was supposed to feel for this man, but he just did not endear himself to me. His mysterious motivation, if anything, made me look unfavorably on his actions. It's established that he's selfish and nothing that happens proves to me that he's a changed man. He left poor Elle behind and only returns for her when it suits his needs. He makes promises to Elle's kids that he can't possibly keep. Selfish. It's my word of the day when it comes to this man.

Elle: I loved Elle and her flowers. Stacy-Deanne's writing comes across at its best when she writes about Elle and the love/dependence that she has for her flower garden. It touched my heart to read how Elle turned to her flowers as a source of comfort during times of loss. And Elle has experienced enough loss in one way or another in her life. What I see of Elle I like, but I also pity her. I see someone who's had to make due with her life. I'm glad that she didn't pine away the years without Harper and that she did have an actual life and the love of a good man (even if it wasn't the one she thought it would be).

The Kids: The kids didn't stand out a great deal to me. I was pleased that they were not "secretly" Harper's kids. I enjoy that story-line from time to time, but I don't need to read it in every book. Ultimately, I think Elle and Harper divulged too much of their feelings in front of another man's kids. Elle's deceased husband was their father and no matter how much they love Harper as their "uncle," their love of their real daddy would trump that. No one wants to know that their mother always loved another man. During one scene near the end of the book in particular there should have been some (understandably) upset kids.

My Final Thoughts: Thirty-four pages isn't enough in my opinion to tell the story of these two individuals. Amazingly, the story that you do get makes good use of those pages and your time. In What Grows in the Garden, readers get a glimpse into the lives of Elle and Harper. A snatch of time that gives us a fast, emotional blast of who these two people are and where they are headed. We're told of past actions and we're able to see some of the consequences to them. It's a story of second chances, but Harper needed to show that he could think of someone other than himself. He needed to earn a place in Elle's life (what little he does do isn't convincing to me), but unfortunately the book isn't long enough for that to happen. As is, I can't say with all honesty that I loved this book.  I also wasn't close to hating it either. I can say that I would gladly read more, and that means something. It would be great to read what happens from this point on. In addition, the importance of Elle's flowers and how she explained it really did stand out for me.

Ultimately, I think it is worth checking out. I'm very curious what other readers will think about Harper. Read the book then leave a comment below and let me know. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys: second chances and well written novella size stories

What Grows in the Garden gets 3 out of 5 stars.

* I was given a copy of this book by the author for a fair and honest review.*

Publisher: Sugar and Spice Press
Published: July 19, 2014 (expected)
Pages: 34 (when read as a PDF)

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