When our love for two people forces us to make an unwanted decision, how do we balance our hearts and our minds to take us in the direction that’s right for us?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
With so many JAFF readers recently enjoying Beau North’s debut book, “Longbourn’s Songbird,” I wanted to share with our readers an award-winning modern JAFF book that I believe JAFF readers will love as well! Karen M. Cox, currently an author of three modern-day JAFF novels, has written this story that takes place during a similar timeframe as “Longbourn’s Songbird,” but with a whole different cast of characters, in a setting that feels as vintage and as accessible as “Longbourn’s Songbird.”
For me, this story was such a blast from the past in our nation’s history! Here we meet young Lizzy Quinlan and Billie Ray Davenport, two young people trying to figure out the paths to take in their own young lives, while attempting to define their relationship with each other, in this “Pride and Prejudice” modern variation, set within 1959 small town America.
The story is told through Billy Ray’s POV, beginning when he shows up as the new guy in town. He has come to spend the summer serving as an intern to the town doctor before Billy Ray himself leaves to study medicine. Granted some newfound freedom as he stays in his own apartment, we learn about his reactions to meeting Lizzy, how Charles’ sister drives him crazy by hanging all over him, (think Caroline Bingley in a tight sweater,) and how Billy Ray struggles to understand his uncertain feelings towards Lizzy Quinlan.
As we learn from the onset, small town equals even smaller minds, and boy oh boy, do the residents of Orchard Hill have their minds made up about Lizzy Quinlan! Poor Lizzy has been the victim of malicious town gossip, from all four corners within her hometown. Everywhere she turns, she can’t escape the reminders of her past. Young people blatantly malign her, and most of the older town folks look past her… all because of a mistake she made long ago with her very own heart.
Yet, as we come to know Billie Ray Davenport, he shows us why he’s unique from so many other young men. His upbringing as the preacher’s son has given him a different perspective from other people, especially in regards to Lizzy. Here’s a young man, willing to take the time to reflect upon Lizzy’s actions, and not just base his opinions on her abrasive tone. He’s also willing to learn her side of her story, as he attempts to reconcile the Lizzy he has befriended, with the girl that everyone seems to enjoy gossiping about all over Orchard Hill.
Naturally, part of this is because, as a man, he’s immediately drawn to Lizzy’s physical presence. From the moment he sees her, he’s taken in by her lively spirit, as well as the way she looks in her form-fitting outfits. So, as the preacher’s son, he soon finds that he is torn between reconciling his heart, his mind, and his desires.
After spending the long, hot days of summer together, Lizzy and Billy Ray develop a friendship that takes a turn towards something deeper, yet this move requires them to make some difficult decisions involving their own futures… Eventually, these decisions take Billie Ray and Lizzy down a path that’s typically “less traveled” by the residents of their hometown, in an effort to gain some well-needed distance from their tumultuous relationship. But, will this decision tear them apart, as they explore their true feelings towards each other, or bring them closer to a future that they can both feel confident and passionate about as a couple?
Billie Ray must also come to terms with his relationship with his own father. As the son of a preacher, Billie Ray has been raised to judge people and their situations, in a rather conservative manner. As a widower, his father has played a significant role in his upbringing, and yet, it is now these very same values and ideals that threaten to tear their relationship apart. I think most of us can empathize with this type of struggle, as so often, people experience similar conflicts within their own families. When our love for two people forces us to make an unwanted decision, how do we balance our hearts and our minds to take us in the direction that’s right for us? Can Lizzy leave Orchard Hill behind so that she can allow her future, and not only her past, to define the woman that she will become?
The references to “Pride and Prejudice” were fundamentally well done. These little details enhanced the story while the struggles our dear couple endured felt just as significant within this 1959 American setting, as they did in Regency England. As readers, we witness how our backgrounds and/or our own families can either keep two people in love apart from one another or enable them to cement their lives together in hope and optimism.
Quite a few of the new characters that Karen created for this story made me feel like I was also making some wonderful new friends. Mrs. Gardener, the mysterious medicine woman, and friend to Lizzy Quinlan, shows readers how things have certainly changed within modern marriages, as well as how difficult these changes were for men and women alike. Marlene (the Miserable,) as I like to think of her, was fun to hate and gave me moments where I laughed out loud in the story!
Regardless of the time, or the setting, “Pride and Prejudice” is also a story about one’s own personal struggles to come to terms with who he/she is, combined with what this means within the world that he/she lives within. To pave a course that looks very different from others, requires courage, fortitude, and love. We have this story and more, here in the book, “At the Edge of the Sea.” With currently all five and four-star reviews on Amazon.com, this is a modern JAFF not to be missed!
I certainly look forward to reading more modern JAFF from Karen M. Cox!
To get into the groove of the era, enjoy this Spotify playlist.
To enjoy an engaging video playlist, try this YouTube playlist.
To take a walk down memory lane, Southern style, 1959 America, check out this Pinterest board.
I want to thank Karen M. Cox for writing modern JAFF that helped me fall in love with this sub-genre. I also want to give her a big hug of gratitude for being a supporter of this blog from the very first day…