Review by Suze
Andrea and Jonathan are going through a rough patch in their relationship. When they are supposed to have dinner at their favorite restaurant together he even stands her up. At the same moment their house burns down. Andrea, who's taking care of her forgetful mother and three children, has nowhere to go. Fortunately her new neighbor David, who's just moved into the area, offers them a place to stay. Andrea and her family bring some much needed liveliness into their new temporary home. David is getting used to raising a son by himself and he needs help to improve their relationship. He's a GP and seems to be able to be there for others, but not for himself.
While Andrea is waiting for insurance money Jonathan keeps being absent. There's something strange going on and she has no idea what. While being away from Jonathan she has the chance to think about her fiancé-to-be and what they still mean to each other. He doesn't want her to follow her dream of opening her own shop and he isn't particularly friendly about her mother. David on the other hand is kind and he's there when she needs him, while the man she's supposed to get married to is nowhere to be seen. Andrea has lost so much, will she lose even more or will she also gain something from these unfortunate circumstances?
Learning to Love is a wonderful romantic story. Andrea and David are both warm and caring people and it was a joy to read about their kindness. They went through a lot and they truly deserve happiness. Life is unfair sometimes and Sheryl Browne writes about the sad parts in an empathetic way. I could feel the grief and the misery. The happy times are being described in a spirited cheerful way and they put a smile on my face. There's a great balance between the positive and the negative, which is something I enjoyed very much.
Sheryl Browne's writing is energetic and uplifting. Her stories are whirlwinds made of beautifully controlled chaos. I love that she has such a unique characteristic style. The enthusiasm she has for writing oozes of the pages, which is absolutely fantastic. I like that she writes about people who are human, characters with flaws. It makes them more realistic and approachable and they're even more lovable because of those character traits. It takes me seconds to start sympathizing with them and I laugh when they are happy and cry when they are going through a difficult time. I really like this way of telling a story.
Learning to Love is set in a small town and I'm a big fan of them. Andrea doesn't have a rich social life and David's just moved there, so there aren't that many nosy neighbors, but the inhabitants who are on the scene are fascinating. Sheryl Browne loves writing about animals and the dogs in the story have distinct personalities. I absolutely adored them. The joint families are good together and I loved the cozy feeling of the household. Every detail in this story is exactly as it should be. I really enjoyed reading this brilliant book, it's compelling, gripping, moving and heartwarming.
About Sheryl Browne
Heartache, humour, love, loss and betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, heart-wrenching fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.
By Sheryl Browne
Thank you for inviting me along to With Love for Books, Anniek and Suze. I would love to share a little about the inspiration for my stories
I write in two genres, contemporary romance and psychological thriller, gravitating towards family and just how strong a family unit can be. Whichever genre I write in though, people and the whole gamut of emotion that comes with them are my inspiration. I tend to people-watch and I find every scenario, every face, every place tells a story. A glimpsed situation, an argument between a couple, a romantic liaison, or a father and son playing football in the park, for instance, and you have your stimulus for a story upon which your overzealous writer’s mind will weave fictional facts.
The kernel of an idea from which Learning to Love grew was an article I read about helping children through the loss of a loved one by allowing them to remember and cherish the good times. A subject I’m familiar with, it struck a chord with me and I wrote a short around it, which was published in a Birmingham City University Anthology. The characters, though, simply called to me and I knew I had to write their whole story. Learning to Love looks at bereavement in childhood and a single father desperately trying to help his son come to terms with his grief.
But how does a man reach out to a child who is furious with him? My hero, Doctor David Adams, knows his son’s anger towards him is justified. He did something which would be unforgivable in most people’s eyes. Writing aspects of his character that showed him to be a man worthy of forgiveness was a huge challenge, but also hugely satisfying. The challenge with the heroine, Andrea, was writing a strong female character, yet portraying her to be forgiving and sometimes vulnerable, as we can all be at times. This is a woman who will claw and fight for her kids. The scene where she’s furious with David (when he seems to be every bit the womaniser he claims not to be) was fuelled by her determination to protect their respective children. Funnily enough, David’s instincts were to do the same.
Fundamentally, “it’s a story about family as beautifully chaotic as they can be” – thank you, Sophie at Bookdrunk for this quote from your wonderful review. It’s poignant at times, but also amusing and uplifting. Learning to Love is about moving on, trusting yourself and opening yourself up to the possibility of loving again, even though life might be full of complications. The book, which has had some truly fabulous reviews, comes in print soon. I can’t wait for people to see it in the actual flesh and find out whether they love it as much as I do.
Learning to Love - Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …
Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.
Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …
David turned his attention back to his son, who was surrounded by a sea of photographs, he realised. Photographs of Michelle, from the albums in the spare room.
Cautiously, David walked across to stand by Jake’s side. Then, hands in pockets, he waited again, wondering what to say that could even begin to heal their relationship. What would he want to hear, if he were Jake?
Sorry perhaps? Wholly inadequate, David knew, but it might be a start.
He looked down at his son, whose head was bent in concentration on his endeavours.
He needed a haircut. Needed a lot of things.
David closed his eyes as he noticed the bottle of perfume tucked in the corner of Jake’s Adidas shoebox.
Because Jake wanted something to remind him of her.
‘Need any help, Jake?’ David asked softly.
Jake didn’t answer. That was okay. David didn’t really expect him to. He swallowed back a lump in his throat, then took a gamble, crouched down next to Jake – and silently waited.
Biding his time, he studied the photographs quietly alongside his son. ‘You’ve chosen all the good ones,’ he ventured.
Jake did respond then, somewhere between a nod and a shrug.
‘Not many fun ones though.’ David reached for a photograph. One he’d taken himself on what turned out to be their last time at the theme park together: Michelle, Jake in front of her on the log flume, both shrieking with laugher and soaked through to the skin.
Probably the last time she had laughed – with him.
David breathed in, hard. ‘I did make her sad, Jake,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t help much, but … I wish I hadn’t.’
Jake’s head dropped even lower.
‘She did laugh though, you know, Jake. With you.’
David placed the photograph carefully in the box. ‘Alton Towers,’ he said, ‘summer before last. She laughed so much she had to dash to the loo, remember?’
Jake dragged the back of his hand under his nose.
‘She couldn’t have been that happy without you, Jake. You gave her the gift of laugher. That’s something to be glad about. To be proud of.’
David stopped, his chest filling up as he watched a slow tear fall from his son’s face.
David hesitated, then rested a hand lightly on Jake’s shoulder. Jake didn’t shrug him off.
‘You won her a stuffed toy that day, do you remember? What was it? A tiger?’
‘Tigger.’ Jake finally spoke.
‘That’s right,’ David said, his throat tight. ‘Tigger.’
‘She kept it in the car,’ Jake picked up in a small voice.
The car she never arrived at the hospital in, David realised, overwhelming guilt slicing through him. ‘She kept a whole family of furry friends in the car. I’m surprised there was room for her.’
Jake’s mouth twitched into a small smile. ‘She talked to them.’ He glanced up at David, his huge blue eyes glassy with tears.
‘That was the little girl inside her. The little girl you made laugh.’ David squeezed Jake’s shoulder. He actually felt like whooping. Like punching the air. Like picking Jake up and hugging him so hard … Jake had looked at him. Full on. No anger.
David closed his eyes, relief washing over him. ‘I have one of Mum’s stuffed toys,’ he said throatily. ‘One she kept. Not Tigger, but … Do you want me to fetch it?’
‘Right.’ David smiled. ‘Back in two.’ He dragged his forearm across his eyes as he headed for his own room. He had something else, too. Something he’d wanted to give Jake before, but somehow couldn’t.
The antique locket he’d bought Michelle for her thirtieth birthday was in the bedside drawer. David collected it, ran his thumb over the engraved rose gold surface of it. If Jake needed something to remind him of his mother, this was it.
‘Bedtime Bear,’ David announced, joining Jake back on the floor. ‘Your very first toy.’ He handed his son the scruffy little white bear.
Jake laughed and David really did feel like crying then.
‘I have something else for you, Jake.’ He passed him the locket. ‘It was very special to her,’ he said gently as Jake’s eyes fell on the photograph of himself inside it. ‘She wore it right next to her heart. And that,’ he went on as Jake looked at the lock of hair on the opposite side of the locket, ‘is your hair and hers, entwined.’
Jake went very quiet.
‘Okay?’ David asked.
Jake nodded vigorously. ‘Okay,’ he said, around a sharp intake of breath. David reached out, ran his hand through Jake’s unruly crop, and then allowed it to stray to his shoulder. He wanted very much to hold him, to reassure him. But Jake’s body language was tense. It would take time, David knew, but maybe someday, Jake would let him back in.
One very lucky reader of With Love For Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Learning to Love.