Back in July I read an amazing book which has become one of my favourites of the year (read my review of The Guilt of the Sparrow here), so I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the author’s new book, Fierce Grace. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for offering me a place on the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.
“Annabelle Dare is in a good place. She landed a sweet job, teaching at the quaint Fox River Elementary School. She has everything she needs: teaching music and sharing an apartment with her best friend. A simple life, she’s convinced, is all she needs.
Asher Grace knows who he is and what he has to offer. Nothing. A poor boy from the wrong side of town, steel worker, with too much weight on his shoulders as he is trying to hold his family together. Best choice is avoiding too-sweet-for-her-own-good Annabelle at all costs.
Annabelle falls in love with the way she comes to life with Asher. He awakens a hunger for life and love in her that she didn’t know she possessed.
Asher must learn his worth beyond his upbringing and his past. Annabelle must learn to stoke the fire of life as it burns within her and learn how close she can get before the flames lick her. “
This is the second book by Jess B. Moore set in Fox River, a small town on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and some of the characters from The Guilt of the Sparrow make cameo appearances but this is a whole new story focusing on a different set of central characters so it is effectively a standalone novel and can be read and enjoyed as such by anyone.
What it does have in common with the first book is that it is a character-driven story that deals with the internal, emotional lives of two people, Annabelle and Asher, who are starting out in a relationship and how they explore and develop that relationship in the midst of pressures from their families and histories. As such, there are no major dramas or huge happenings in the book. It is a story about the small, ordinary lives of real people.
Jess is brilliant at drawing characters and really delving into their psyches and pulling out what makes them tick for us the examine and understand. The people come alive on the page and the reader is able to get right under their skin and explore their thoughts and emotions, live their experiences right along with them. Her writing is very powerful and for people who are interested in the psychology of human behaviour and like this kind of story, this is as intimate as writing gets and it can’t fail to move you.
But…and I hate that there is a but because I wanted to love this book as much as the first one …but I didn’t. There was something blocking me from falling in love with this book and I have thought hard about what it is before sitting down to write the review. I think part of it is that the first book was written from the perspective of both protagonists and this was what made me so involved in their story, as we could see it develop from both sides and it felt extremely intimate. In this book, we only get Annabelle’s perspective. I thought maybe I just didn’t relate to Annabelle as much, and this probably was part of it.; I just didn’t get her, I don’t think. For someone supposedly so independent, she seemed a little weak and needy and I couldn’t quite buy in to the fact that this was all caused by unaccustomed vulnerability due to love. It just didn’t quite ring true. I believe my main problem, though, was that this relationship didn’t feel like a particularly healthy one, especially for Annabelle. Even her friend, Kendra, expresses this concern multiple times, right to the very end of the book, so it was obviously something the writer was conscious of and I am just not a fan of books portraying women willingly staying in unhealthy, unbalanced relationships. I don’t find it appealing or romantic, particularly in a modern, rather than historical, setting.
It may have helped if we could get a better handle on Asher’s perspective, as in the first book with Cotton, but we only get Annabelle’s interpretation of what Asher is thinking, which is inevitably skewed. I am sure the writer had a different take on his feelings which just didn’t translate through into the book for me. I also understand that this is just my interpretation of the book and how I felt about it. The literary canon is littered with books where there are romances between unequal partners that people adore. It just doesn’t suit my tastes in a modern setting, I’m afraid.
There is no doubt that this book is beautifully written and the characters vividly brought to life and their emotions explored. I loved the setting again, and a lot of the subsidiary characters are fascinating and I hope Jess returns to Fox River to explore some of their stories further. I am sure many people will love the central relationship in this book, and maybe read it and find a different perspective on it and reaction to it, this is a very personal response. I also think that I maybe I had too high expectations after my reaction to book one which were possibly never going to be met. You should definitely read this book and be your own judge. The story held me throughout, it just didn’t worm its way into my heart this time.
Fierce Grace is out now and you can buy a copy here.
To follow the rest of the tour, visit the blogs listed on the poster below:
About the Author
Jess B Moore is a writer of love stories. When she’s not writing, she’s busy mothering her talented and stubborn children, reading obscene numbers of books, and knitting scarves she’ll likely never finish.
Jess lives in small town North Carolina with her bluegrass obsessed family. She takes too many pictures of her cat, thinking the Internet loves him as much as she does. She is a firm believer of swapping stories over coffee or wine, and that there should always be dark chocolate involved.
Connect with Jess:
Facebook: Jess B. Moore
Goodreads: Jess B. Moore