Saturday, July 8, 2017

Where Love Leads by Erin McKenzie

Sarah O’Shaughnessy, a high school counselor, is very good at taking care of others. What she hasn’t mastered is how to take better care of herself. Four years after the death of her wife, Sarah’s life has settled into a safe, solitary rut. That is, until the arrival of a new student and her mom.

Lauren Emerson and her teen daughter, Kat, move back to Lauren’s hometown in Central New York, fleeing her unsupportive husband and Kat’s traumatic bullying experience. Lauren is determined to create a better life for them both. She soon discovers that the compassionate Ms. O’Shaughnessy is someone in whom she can confide.

The newly forged friendship between Sarah and Lauren provides support and encouragement, yet neither is prepared for the undeniable attraction that ignites between them. When the future looks like nothing they had planned, will they find the courage to go where love leads?

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Our main characters are Sarah, a high school counsellor who lost her wife four year ago, and Lauren, who has moved to New York with her teenage daughter, leaving her husband behind in Alabama. Sarah and Lauren become friends, their move to romantic partners is a lovely slow burn. Sometimes a little too slow for me, but there are other threads in the story that kept me reading.

The romance between Lauren's daughter, Kat, and fellow student Bridget is really sweet. Kat's struggle with panic attacks, Lauren coming to terms with the end of her marriage and realising she likes Sarah as more than a friend, and her issues with her husband are some of things that kept me turning the page. But for me, the highlight of the book is a fantastic scene at a PFLAG meeting that left me in tears.

Where Love Leads is a lovely story, but sometimes I found there was too much tell and not enough show and as a result, I didn't connect with Sarah and Lauren as strongly as I would have liked. But all in all, I enjoyed Where Love Leads. Given it is a romance that is heavy on the story and light on the steamy scenes, I think it would make a good first f/f romance for anyone wanting to try the genre.

This story of the romance between Sarah, a high school counsellor, and Lauren, a new parent, is sweet and slow. Lauren and her daughter, Kat, move to New York after Kat has some awful experiences in her former school. And as Sarah helps to settle Kat into her new school, she finds herself attracted to Lauren.

I’ve never before read a book which follows the romantic relationships of both a parent and her child. This story mainly focuses on the adult relationship between Sarah and Lauren, but a third of the story follows Lauren’s daughter Kat’s first lesbian relationship. At times, the result is sweet but at other times there is a little bit of an ‘ick’ factor as it becomes difficult to separate Lauren and Kat from their roles as mother or daughter.

I feel like Kat gets lost at times. When the story starts, she has had some horrific experiences but there really isn’t enough focus on her to fully explore her feelings and reactions. Lauren’s reactions to Kat’s experiences are explored in more detail and actually feel genuine. I think the story may have worked better if the focus had remained on Lauren and Sarah with Kat’s experience only explored through the adult characters’ perspectives.

It was Sarah’s character that caught my imagination in this story. She is a complex character and when we meet her, the popular school counsellor is isolated and lonely even as she spends her time caring for her students. I loved the details about her work and I really enjoyed her students. Her secrets are revealed slowly and I enjoyed the growth we see in her during the novel.

Lauren is mostly viewed through Sarah’s perspective. I was intrigued by her, but slightly skeptical of the gay-for-you storyline. I loved the companionship and tentative friendship that builds between Sarah and Lauren but I struggled to believe there was any real passion between them. The coldly reasoned timeline for their relationship certainly didn’t add any intensity to this pairing. Lauren is interesting and warm and I easily understood Sarah’s instant attraction.

This story tackles many important issues, but there were times that this felt like a Stonewall infomercial or an After School Special film. There are possibly too many issues introduced into a single novel and at times, the characters feel like vehicles for concepts.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and I’m looking forward to watching this author develop as a writer.

Erin McKenzie has been a lover of words since she first learned her ABCs, sparking a lifelong passion for reading, writing, and of course, word games! She is a professional school counselor, mom to her three young children, partner to her wife of fifteen years, chief dishwasher and laundry folder, soccer mom and homework checker. She and her family live in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and share their home with several furry friends.

Where Love Leads, Erin’s debut novel, has been a long-time labor of love. She hopes you enjoy the story!

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Where Love Leads by Erin McKenzie to read and review.

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