What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – but how strong can one person be?
Griff Hendry knows what it is to be strong. After a turbulent past, he’s dedicated himself to saving lives, working as a coastguard along the breath-taking shores of Dorset. It’s Griff’s belief that everyone is worth saving – which is why he can’t forgive his father, Logan, for what he did.
Griff’s future is plunged into uncertainty when his wife, Evie, tells him she wants a separation. The revelation is a shock and leads Griff to question what Evie could possibly be hiding – and she isn’t the only one holding back. Griff’s troubled stepdaughter, Tess, also harbours a dark secret.
As the truth is uncovered, Griff is forced to accept that perhaps he’s never understood what real strength is.
Now, you all know how much I love everything (well, almost everything!) Choc Lit Publishing does, don’t you? When I heard they’d launched a new imprint called Dark Choc Lit, I really couldn’t resist. And when I saw the first book was the latest by Laura E James – I really enjoyed her Follow Me, Follow You (you’ll find my review here – and it’s currently just 99p) – I really wanted to see what it was all about. Compelling, emotional, and hard-hitting they said – not your typical romance story. And they really did mean it – I felt like I’d been through a wringer when I finished What Doesn’t Kill You (published by Choc Lit on 26th November for kindle), but I have to say it was really, really excellent.
When you see “Choc Lit” you might expect romance, always a good story, great writing, and a delicious hero. The hero of this one is Griff – separated from his wife Evie for reasons he doesn’t understand, loving and caring, dedicated to helping people, damaged by the death of a childhood friend. He’s also estranged from his father Logan – cared for by Evie – for reasons we don’t understand at first, but that soon become clear. And this is a story that really has a bit of everything – death, suicide, secrets, guilt, abusive relationships, the value of life and so much more. Heavy, you think? Maybe just a little, but so wonderfully handled – some parts aren’t easy to read, but the whole story is ultimately uplifting, with hope and love present throughout.
Griff and Evie are such well drawn and likeable characters – you ache for them to talk properly, to resolve their problems, to get back together – and teenager daughter Tess is simply wonderful, with all the emotional baggage she carries. The fact that the story is told by switching from viewpoint to viewpoint is a masterstroke – you slowly get to understand everyone’s issues, and where the obstacles to their happiness lie. The book really does give you a full emotional work-out. One of the key scenes mid-book had me in tears and setting the book aside – but I soon picked it up again, because I’d invested so much in the characters that I really wanted to know how everything worked out for them all.
This was excellent writing – I always knew Laura’s writing was a little darker than many of her fellow Choc Lit writers, but this was way darker than I ever expected. Laura handles extreme emotion as well as any author I know, and I suspect the strength of her writing might surprise people – the dialogue is incredibly real, the relationships wonderfully described in all their complexity, the pain of her characters something you feel. These are real people sharing very real problems, and the book has an immense emotional impact – it may surprise many Choc Lit readers, but I’d urge people to try it. I absolutely loved it.
My thanks to publishers Choc Lit and netgalley for my advance reading e-copy.
Laura E James write romance without the soft edges, focusing on gritty, sometimes dark, modern day issues: having found her happy ending, she says it seems right that she gives her characters the same chance. As a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, and one eighth of The Romaniacs, Laura spends as much time as life allows playing with words, and asking, ‘What if?’
Laura has her own website, and you can keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter. (And while you’re looking at links, don’t miss the wonderful dark trailer for this book on the Romaniacs’ website – wonderful!).