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Monday, March 30, 2015

Victoria Bylin: Together with You

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim List, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?

Known for her realistic and engaging characters, Victoria Bylin delivers an emotion-packed story reminiscent of The Sound of Music, one that reminds us all to believe in the power of faith and love.

My Thoughts:  

I have never read anything by Victoria Bylin, but her latest book, Together with You, wove a story with a missing child, which stroked a cord within me since I have three boys of my own. Plus, the cover drew me in. I like the image of a guy and girl in a tight embrace with the clouds hanging around in the background. It was simple, yet effective. Victoria Bylin’s story, Together with You, met all my expectations for a contemporary romance.  

The characters of Ryan and Carly are flawed characters with a lot of baggage. In the beginning of the story, Ryan is an angry, bitter man with a bunch of regret and failure from his choices in the past. You can’t help but fall in love with Ryan as he is determined to be a better father. By seeing Ryan spend more time with kids, Carly’s opinion of him starts to change. Typical to a contemporary romance, Carly Mason is a caring, compassionate, and patient woman who never falters from her faith while being haunted by an error darkening her every move. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is watching Carly keep her strong faith even through her struggles. Throughout the entire novel, Carly works a miracle in Ryan, his two teenage sons, Eric and Kyle, and five-year-old Penny. Carly clings to the hope that if she can make a difference in Penny’s life, maybe she can forgive herself for failing Allison, another Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) kid. While Ryan starts to see the world in a different way, thanks to Carly’s influence, Carly does not change. She still has her strong faith in the end, but her past baggage has dwindled.

Most of the tension revolves around Penny, who was born with FASD, which limits her ability to be around a lot of commotion and noise. While Ryan, Carly, Kyle, and Eric try to deal with Penny, Penny struggles with the recent loss of her mother. As for the romantic tension, there must be roadblocks to detour the relationship. Bylin places God as that roadblock to keep Ryan and Carly from pursuing a deeper relationship. While Bylin takes a while for the characters to fully seek redemption for their past, Ryan’s conversation scene seemed a little too rushed. He only turns to God because Penny is missing again. Then the romance between Carly and Ryan is allowed to move forward for the first time.

Even though the story starts off with a gut wrenching incident and runs away with the reader’s imagination, I still think the story’s pace was quick at times but dragged at other places. I could not imagine asking someone you did not know to work in your home after the first meeting. Romance lovers will be happy to know that the ending is typical of a contemporary romance. The writing is grammatically sound with no head hopping. The story moves from scene to scene, showing the changes and the growth affecting each character. Characteristic of a good book, Bylin’s use of dialogue brings the characters to life, inviting the reader into their lives, sitting in the kitchen, intruding on their struggles. A couple of times, Bylin gives Penny a voice. They are not long segments, but the voice of Penny sounds no different than the voice of Ryan and Carly. The prose and dialogue from Ryan and Carly enhances the character’s personality, bringing depth to the story.

Using an important issue plaguing a number of babies today, Bylin weaves FASD into a story where the readers experience first-hand how FASD affect families. This could be an excellent book for parents and teenage children to approach the topic of how decisions made in a moment of passion can affect your entire life. There is mention of drinking alcohol while pregnant, cigarettes, and an affair, but it is all handled well. Bylin’s research into the world of FASD is evident as she weaves together a memorable character in Penny and depicts how adults have to handle a child affected with a disability by showing that the inflicted child is not a burden but needs attention and love. The story idea with incorporating FASD was original, but the romance was predictable and typical for the genre. This was a book I could put down, but fans of Becky Wade, Melissa Tagg, Karen Kingsbury, and the Love Inspired Romance line will love the romantic struggle to the end.

Overall, Victoria Bylin’s Together With You is a contemporary romance that sheds a light on FASD with flawed characters who try to move past their baggage while finding unexpected love.

I received a complimentary copy of Together With You from Bethany House Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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