I feel like my heart is glowing like a Christmas tree from the sheer exquisiteness of this beautiful, oh-so romantic and yet very tantalizing story, a story that sneaks up on you unhurriedly, pulling you in deeper and deeper, as you lose yourself in a swirl of emotions and truly superb prose. A tale of second chances, of finding the courage to give one’s heart what it desires the most, this is a love story that spans over fifteen years, showing that even some of our most painful memories can become our most treasured ones. This book left me beaming, bursting at the seams with child-like delight, knowing I’d found a story I would never ever want to forget.
“When are you going to stop being afraid to love your life, Pearl?”
Pearl and Boyce’s lives have been gently intertwined since they were children, when a seven-year-old boy saved a little girl from drowning. But growing up in two very different families, from opposite sides of town, meant that their everyday lives had very little in common, their unlikely friendship born over the years as a secret they both guarded fiercely, rather than nurtured openly. As their story is given to us in snippets—their past and present intermingling continuously to slowly but purposefully paint the picture of their shared history before their future can truly be understood—we unravel their past through both their eyes, both their hearts.
“Boyce Wynn—my guardian angel, the imaginary best friend of my childhood, my unprofessed adolescent crush, my dirty little secret.”
We watch a young girl from a privileged upbringing fall desperately in love for the bad boy at school, because while everyone else only ever sees her façade, he sees the person she hides from the world. He understands her like no one else ever has, his bluntly honest and often cantankerous attitude spurring her to open up to him and express all her doubts, fears, and wildest dreams. He makes her feel safe to be herself, to take chances in life, and to follow her heart, their secret friendship evolving over the years into a young romance that never quite takes flight, never gets a chance to blossom. And eventually, Pearl’s education takes her far away from Boyce, leaving them both full of regrets over the many missed opportunities they had.
“In four years, nothing had erased or even dimmed my memories of Boyce. His kiss. His touch. The disorienting intensity of his gaze.”
When Pearl returns to her home town after college to pursue a childhood dream, thus giving up the one she was always expected to blindly follow, she finds herself seeking the help of the only man who has always only protected her—Boyce. As their lives become once again entwined, this time more than ever before and in ways they never even dreamed possible, every new step forward in their budding relationship stems out of a shared memory from the past. They remember it all, every kiss, every stolen smile, every moment spent in each other’s arms, as they gather the courage to finally open up their hearts to one another and confess what they’ve been hiding for so long.
“I’m gonna kiss you. Unless you tell me not to good and loud right now. I’m gonna kiss you, and I’m not gonna be sorry.”
But old insecurities and fears lurking behind them never stop making them question everything they mean to one another, everything they’ve always meant to one another, forcing them to fight, for once, for their place in the other’s life.
“I’d rather her be happy the rest of her life without me than be the thing that made her sad.”
Ms Webber is a very unique storyteller, her narrative structured in a way that not only felt new and different to me, but also utterly gripping. Through frequent flashbacks of sorts, generously dispersed all throughout the storyline, she marries her characters’ past with their future, each sliver of their shared story fitting perfectly together to form a heart-warming picture like no other. She gives us both their voices, a window into both their hearts and minds, and she makes us love them both, equally, unequivocally, leaving no gaps in their emotional growth and character development in general. I cannot believe that this is my first novel by this extraordinary author, a real shame I waited so long to experience her astonishing writing style, but it will not be my last.
“I was a man who’d loved this girl from the moment she’d come back to life and saw no one but me.”