Review by bookowlie 30.04.16
What if one drunken night resulted in a pregnancy? What if the sex happened to be with your oldest, best friend who then reconciled with, and married, his girlfriend? What if the child you secretly gave up for adoption tracks you down twenty years later? High Hopes by Sue Lilley is a romance novel about secrets and lies.
Grace Cavendish receives a letter from the now grown daughter she gave up, requesting to meet her. Grace decides she should tell Sam that they had a child together and travels to see Sam and his wife Dixie for the weekend. Did I mention that Sam’s wife Dixie has been Grace’s best friend since college? Of course, a romance novel wouldn’t be complete without a hunk to round out the cast of characters. In this case, it’s Danny, a twenty-something gardener who works for Sam and Dixie and befriends Grace.
I enjoyed this well-written book. The writing is intelligent and sophisticated without being dense. The author’s sharp observations and snappy dialogue are a joy to read. It’s a refreshing change from many romance novels where the writing is simplistic. However, the premise is not very original and has the feel of a TV soap opera storyline.
The story is told in third person from alternating points of view. This is an effective plot device although the POV switches sometimes interrupt the flow of the story. The plot isn’t all that cohesive as the central storyline is relegated to the back burner during long stretches. Still, I was kept interested with a few unexpected zigs and zags along the way.
The characters are sketched well with interesting backstories. Although the women are best friends, Dixie has long had mixed feelings about Grace. Jealous of Sam and Grace’s close bond, she is secretly glad that Grace lives far away. Dixie and Sam’s marriage feels realistic. They are at a crossroads and act awkwardly toward each other. Grace is a hot mess of drunk, impulsive, slightly slutty, and directionless at forty; she also has an on-again/off-again relationship with her ex-husband. Her character is well drawn, but I can’t say I liked her. Danny becomes a much-needed confidant for Grace and is an affable, layered character. Although their friendship/possible romance often veers the main plot off track, Danny sparkles in any scene he’s in.
The story is set in England, which was a nice bonus for me. There is something about the English culture and setting that immediately draws me into a story. I felt like I was transported to the rustic, fishing village of Perranstone. The dialogue sounds intelligent and proper, even when the characters are discussing the simplest things such as making ham and cheese butties (sandwiches).
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The crackling dialogue highlights this interesting tale of long-held secrets. There are a few pesky errors, but nothing that distracted from the story. Romance readers will find much to enjoy here, especially those who like stories told from alternating perspectives.