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Love and Devotion - Erica James

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Author: Erica James / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 May 2008 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: Love and Devotion / ISBN 13: 9780752883410 / ISBN 10: 0752883410

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      15.01.2010 15:22
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      Another thumbs-up for Erica James

      Harriet thinks that she has her life mapped out with a job she loves, her own flat and a fairly steady boyfriend, but all of that changes when her only sister, Felicity, is killed in a car crash when a joyrider smashes into the car in which she and her husband Jeff were travelling. Harriet is forced to move back to their parents' house to take care of Felicity's young children, Carrie and Joel. As the family struggle to adjust to life without Felicity, can life ever return to normal?

      Will has recently moved into the same street as Harriet's parents and has swapped his legal career for one in antiques. Happier now than he ever was in his marriage to Maxine, he is intent on being a good father to their teenage daughters, Gemma and Suzie, and finds himself increasingly drawn to Harriet. Does she reciprocate his feelings, and if so, can he ever hope to break down the walls that she's built up?

      As you may well have guessed from my synopsis above, the main theme of this book is grief, particularly for Harriet and her family. Each member of the family is struggling to cope without Felicity and is attempting to deal with their grief in their own ways. I won't go into any more details about this as it starts to give various aspects of the plot away. I've never personally experienced the type of grief that these characters are, but they all came across as being more realistic and well-rounded, which is very common in the Erica James books that I've read to date. When the book starts, Felicity and Jeff are already dead and the reader is launched straight into the aftermath of this, which makes it very hard not to feel a great deal of sympathy for them. Initially, this sympathy wasn't enough to make me like all of the characters (such as Harriet's father, as his means of dealing with his grief didn't really endear him to me) but as the book progressed, it became more apparent that each of their individual actions were merely ways to cope with their loss.

      After a few chapters focusing on Harriet and her family, Will is introduced to the equation. At first, he is a totally separate character who is adjusting to having moved house and the news that one of his teenager daughters hits him with a few chapters later. As is inevitable in multi-character books, he crosses paths with Harriet and becomes a more integrated character. I liked his character from the start, as was also the case with his daughters and had a great deal of sympathy for the events that occur towards the end of the book. His ex-wife Maxine was a character that I did not take to very well as she seemed cold and hard in comparison. I could have summoned up some sympathy for her given events later on in the book but her take on things is never really explored and she is seen mainly through Will's eyes from this point.

      Although Harriet and Will are the main characters and large sections of the book focus on them, there are also various sections that focus on other key characters, such as Harriet's parents, Carrie, Joel, Gemma and Suzie. In keeping with the writing style of the book in general, these are written in the third person and aren't first person accounts but we still get a very good idea of their thoughts and feelings. This is particularly interesting as far as Harriet's family go, as their various ways of coping with their grief can be explored in greater deal with personal reasoning explaining their actions. If we had only experienced this through Harriet's eyes, it wouldn't have been as effective as she wouldn't have been privy to their reasonings.

      All in all, I really enjoyed this book. Being largely focused on grief, it has a somewhat morbid slant but it isn't macabre and doesn't focus unnecessarily on death as it is more to do with the aftermath of that and how it affects the various characters. By the time I was halfway through, I was wondering how the author would stretch the book out by another couple of hundred pages without introducing various tedious sub-plots but by the end I was impressed that she had covered over 500 pages without losing my attention, especially given the fairly narrow plot. I suspect that this was largely to do with the number of characters that were being focused on. My only minor criticism is that I think the book could have been a bit shorter without losing anything as 560 pages is a lot to plough through but it doesn't feel like the author is padding things out so this is only a very minor niggle.

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