I bought Amy Garvey’s debut Harlequin SuperRomance strictly out of curiosity. She’s written a handful of books for Kensington Brava – fluffy, light contemporary affairs, some of which feature a hint of mystery. The SuperRomance line? Yeah, about as far away from fluffy and light as a person can get. Frankly, I was curious to see if Garvey could pull off a story with a more serious tone and, for the most part, I believe she does.
Tess and Michael Butterfield were high school sweethearts and have been married for almost 20 years. They have a fifteen-year-old daughter named Emma. Tess is a photographer and Michael is a writer and editor. They have a good life. They love each other. Then a call one May evening changes all of that.
Michael has a son. A twenty-year-old son he didn’t even know existed, by a woman he dated briefly when he and Tess were “taking a break” from each other. His name is Drew, and he wants to not only meet Michael, but Tess and Emma as well.
Certainly secret baby stories are a dime a dozen, but that’s not really what Pictures of Us is about. It’s actually a book examining a marriage that started when the couple was quite young. How that relationship blossomed, was passionate, and got a little bumpy as the characters matured, went out into the world, and started exploring life away from each other. I’m always awed by couples who were teenage sweethearts, mostly because I look back on my college years, all the wildness and craziness that ensued, and marvel at how two people, so young, know they are destined to be together for the rest of their lives. The author explores that here, and just for fun, she throws in the conflict to examine love at first sight, long distance relationships, marriage, child birth, raising a family, and all the stuff that goes on between a couple that’s been together for so many years.
That’s not to say I found Pictures of Us an entirely smooth read. I like adult characters in my romance novel reading. Characters who think logically and aren’t prone to flighty too-stupid-to-live behavior. That said, there were moments when I really felt these characters were a little too good to be true. Mostly notably Tess and Sophia, the other woman. Sophia was a little too self-sacrificing and Tess, I guess I expected her to have at least some moments of anger early on. Both of these women are a little too cool, and while Sophia never really seems to find a pulse, Tess does manage to exhibit some emotion later on in the story, especially after they meet Drew in person.
That aside, this is a strong emotional read that had me sniffling into a Kleenex by the final chapter. It’s not perfect, but if you want a book that will tug at your heartstrings, this one is definitely worth a look.
The photographs lining the mantel of the Butterfield home tell their story. From shots of Michael and Tess as high school sweethearts to images of their daughter’s wedding they look like the perfect family. But behind the pictures is a different tale that doesn’t quite fit the love-at-first-sight, happily-ever-after version of Tess and Michael’s marriage. And it’s a tale that’s revealed by a shocking phone call out of the blue.
With that one call the fabric of their life together shifts, and everything they believe is challenged. Are they the perfect family? Or is that a facade as thin as the photos themselves?