We support our fellow romance pioneers

One of our lovely comrades over at The Page Girls (fight the good fight, girls), Cecily Gates, was kind enough to send me a copy of her debut novel, An Imaginary House by the Sea, the first of a series of novels set in Bridgeport. I have to say, I was hesitant at first, thinking, What if I don’t like it? What if it’s terrible? What then? Luckily, I was fretting for no reason. I started the book on my train ride down to London for the World Travel Market with my other site, Savvy Girl Travel (that’s been sucking up all my time lately and the reason for my no-show post last week), and flew through it.

An Imaginary House by the Sea

So What’s it about?

Dawn has just been fired from her high-powered event planning job in NYC. She’s been living the life: expensive dresses, the hottest clubs, an even hotter boyfriend… This turn of events leaves her reeling and forces her to reexamine what she wants out of life. She decides to move home to Bridgeport, leaving everything she’s worked for behind.

Then she bumps into John, her childhood best friend and “the one that got away”, and old feelings reignite. Until she finds out he’s married. Old Dawn would have quietly accepted the marriage and wished for happiness for her best friend. But new Dawn takes what she wants. She pursues John despite the fact that he’s taken, and tries to drive a wedge between him and his wife, Marguerite. Instead, she finds out Marguerite’s closely-guarded secret, and old Dawn finally rises to the surface.

What did I think?

“Nicholas Sparks with snark” is a very accurate description. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief for a minute, the story will take you through a rollercoaster of emotions. To be honest, I was a little repulsed by Dawn at the beginning — she’s dating a married man — and knows it — she returns to Bridgeport in a last-ditch effort to repair what’s left of her dignity, only to fall for — and pursue — another married man! Part of me really wanted her to just move on and find somebody who’s available (I had my fingers crossed for Scott). Like, really. Instead, though, after she finds out a big secret about Marguerite, the two of them form a friendship. I did like this part, though I found the significant change in Marguerite’s attitude a little jarring. I mean, I know we see what we want to see, and, filtered through Dawn’s earlier bias, Marguerite appears to be a devil-woman. But I think this could have been done a little more subtly. Like, maybe Dawn’s friends don’t see the crazy side of Marguerite, and Dawn is left wondering if it’s just her. That said, I liked the progression of the story, the way it moved by seasons. And I enjoyed seeing Dawn’s gradual return to her old self. Witnessing that change was a significant force driving me to finish the story.

Clear Characterization

The author clearly has a firm grasp on who each of her characters is. She pulls the reader eagerly through the novel even though there are times at which we don’t like the protagonist. I love the parallel story line with Dawn’s sister Kayla and friend Aiden, both of whom have very “real” personalities (and are very entertaining). I did feel like her characterization of John left something to be desired. I understood who he was as a teenager, but I struggled to understand him as an adult. He seems very swayed by the women around him, unable to make his own decisions. Also, he doesn’t have a job. Which makes me wonder how he affords to feed his kids.

Overall, a very engaging read. Definitely recommended for a rainy afternoon indoors.

My rating: 4/5 stars