So. Good. Sad crying. Happy crying. This one has it all!
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April and Hale Abercrombie’s love is tender and sweet. While he serves in Vietnam, their marriage is marked by trust and the belief that they will grow old together with a gaggle of grandchildren at their feet. But, their charmed marriage changes in the face of losing their newborn daughter.
On leave from his tour, Hale can barely wait to hold his wife and her help her heal. When he arrives, his embrace, his touch, and his love are as perfect as April remembered. Their reunion is passionate and their physical connection is strong and soothing. But, April’s heartache remains.
Hale stumbles through his attempts to prove to April that their future will be rich and full of wonder. His good-hearted, but take-charge approach causes her to retreat. Even in grief, April can see Hale’s earnestness, yet she finds solace in putting space between them. With a short time before Hale must return to war will they see that real love endures in the face of adversity, that their marriage can be strengthened even when it looks as though all is lost?
Set on the beaches of the Outer Banks, Return to Love is the second book in the Endless Love series. Book one, Home Again, was named a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Return to Love is the second book in the Endless Love series. It follows the (very) short novella Home Again, but could stand alone if needed, since pretty much everything you need to know from book one is mentioned at least in passing here.
That said, Home Again is only seven chapters and eighty-five pages long–I read it during a trip and a half to the beach. It will definitely give you a deeper understanding of April and Hale’s relationship, so I do recommend reading it–even reading it after this one if you need to would be fine.
Return to Love (and Home Again, for that matter) have so much more depth than the cover would lead you to believe. Looking at the happy-couple-on-the-beach fronts, you might be tempted to dismiss them as just another fluffy summer beach read. They’re definitely more, though.
Home Again tells the story of how April and Hale, friends since childhood who now share a more recent tragedy, find each other again as adults and help each other to heal from recent events.
Return to Love takes place a bit more than a year later. The two, married for the space of time between the books, are once again facing a devastating loss–that of their baby daughter, a stillborn birth. Hale was on active duty in Vietnam when the tragedy happened, but now he’s on leave to try and help April come to terms with what has happened. His mother has told him that things aren’t going well for his wife, but he’s sure that four weeks together will help his already strong wife to recover.
Or will it?
This novel was heartbreaking–some of it in good ways, other parts not so good. The picture it paints of how stillborn births–and the mothers who were left to pick up the pieces of their lives after suffering through one–were treated by the medical profession is absolutely horrifying. I am so glad that things have changed and that people now realize that any death is still a death and must be grieved. Everyone had their own path to healing, sure, but to not even acknowledge that a woman who has lost her child at birth needs to grieve that loss? Unreal. I wanted to throttle April’s doctors and nurses. (Well, most of them. I won’t say more than that.) My heart bled for her and for Hale–both of them wanting to help themselves and each other but neither of them knowing exactly what to do or how to do it.
Watching April pick up the pieces of her life, forming new relationships and strengthening old ones, is what made this such a powerful read. I spent the last five chapters or so either sniffling, tearing up, or out-and-out crying–but it was the good kind of crying. Kathleen Shoop did an amazing job of showing how one couple, at least, can help each other through a loss and come out stronger on the other side, as well as how important our relationships (all relationships, not just romantic) with other people can be in times of stress.
So book two leaves us in a much better place than it began in–except that Hale still has at least one more year of active duty ahead of him in Vietnam. What new hardships will the two face when (if) he comes back? We’ll have to wait for book three to find out. I’ll be first in line!
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Autumn 1970
Hale’s lungs were tight as he gripped his duffel in one hand and held his uniform over his shoulder with the other. He flew up the steps of the small fishing cottage that his wife was renting from the Shelby family and arrived on the wide porch. He had imagined the moment he’d see her so many times that he felt like he was performing a play. He dropped the duffel right there and knocked on the screen door. Why was he knocking? She knew he was coming. He threw the door open and walked into the small entry. It opened into the family room. He wiped his feet while he scanned the space. “April!”
His heart beat fast and heavy. Yes, he was home under difficult circumstances. Hale’s wife was having difficulty coping with the stillbirth of their daughter. He was worried for her and knew if his skipper granted hardship leave that things must be bad. Yet he was determined, sure as he had finally arrived at the Outer Banks, he was confident that he could make her well. He just needed to see her, to hold her, to tell her everything was going to be okay.
The Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight” was playing on the radio. The tune brought a smile to his face. He rushed down the hallway and poked his head into two bedrooms and a bathroom before finding the room April had been using. He tucked his naval uniform into the closet, went back to the kitchen, and turned off the radio, straining to hear any noise that might signal April’s location. He went back outside, inhaling the salty air.
Where was she? He leapt off the porch and crossed the gravelly lane called Beach Road stepping onto the sand, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of her. A seagull clipped Hale’s head as it landed off to the side then flipped a whitefish into its mouth. As far as he could see, the beach was empty, yet he thought he should walk it, search for April. He didn’t know which direction she would have walked, but he started out anyway.
Heading south, a flock of black birds escorted him from above. Scores of them moved together like one great wing flapping in the wind. The whoosh of their collective descent was punctuated by their coarse, throaty screams.
The sand worked into Hale’s shoes, each particle stabbing at the skin below his ankles. He pushed one shoe off and then the other, leaving them near a smattering of driftwood that had been pushed ashore by high tide. The birds dropped, their calls growing louder, drowning out the surf. One by one the black skimmers rained from the sky like bombs, their red beaks bright against the gray sky that had crept in with Hale’s arrival. Some of the birds landed in the shoals and poked and prodded at the sand.
He came upon the largest cluster of birds, the beige sand peeking out in small patches among the blackness, and his eye went to a different form, a woman sitting rod straight, motionless in the center of the black avian shroud. Her blonde hair whipped in the wind like the sea grass at his feet. Hale stopped. His heart thumped. April. He willed himself to breathe, to move toward her. He’d never seen such a sight, the way she seemed partly born of the sand, partly able to sprout wings and fly away.
“April!” he said, waving even though her back was to him.
She did not respond. He called again, his words turned back to him by the stiff ocean gales. He jogged toward her, weaving in between napping skimmers, hopping over those that were too busy eating to move out of his way.
When he had nearly reached April, he halted again. He suddenly felt nervous about his excitement; he felt her sadness as though they shared the same soul. He’d never seen such a stunning sight in his life. Her elegance was apparent even sitting on a beach, in the middle of birds. She turned her head slightly, her profile facing him. His stomach flipped. Oh my God, is she beautiful. The wind tossed her hair, making her appear as though she were posing for a magazine shoot.
Even from a distance, even from the side, he thought he could see the sparkle of her blue eyes. The way they were set, wide on her face, made it seem as though he saw something slightly different every time he looked at her, something more, something alluring, hypnotizing. Those eyes.
There was no woman more captivating, he was sure. Or more lonely. Her sadness seemed to leap over the sand to him, to well up from the soles of his feet, filling him, squeezing the breath from his suddenly heavy lungs. If he felt this, then her pain must be far greater. Her emptiness more profound. He’d helped her create life, but he hadn’t been there when it ended.
Amazon Top-100 Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
Her latest book is the romance Return to Love.
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