Carly’s Gift: A Novel
by Georgia Bockoven
A love triangle … an illegitimate child … transcontinental transplant … dark secrets … grave illness … all the ingredients for an engrossing story. Only, it tries too hard to be something it’s not.
I agreed to read and review this book for TLC Book Tours because something about the book description intrigued me:
Sixteen years ago Carly Hargrove made a decision that would irrevocably alter her life. With little comprehension of the life-long consequences of her actions, she trades her own future happiness to protect the man she’s loved since kindergarten …
That, coupled with the cover picture gave me the impression that this would be a story that raised questions of perhaps a societal or moral nature – something deep and thought-provoking. Instead, I was disappointed to realize that it’s really just melodramatic chick-lit, verging on cheesy romance, neither of which genre I’m a particular fan, but trying to be a Jodi Picoult novel and failing because it’s just too contrived.
The story line itself is … interesting. Carly, Ethan, and David grew up together, a threesome of best friends. Predictably, both guys eventually fall (hard) for the girl, but the girl’s heart belongs to only one of them. This, of course, wrecks the friendship. One night the unthinkable happens, and Carly winds up pregnant. She loves David far too much to saddle him with a kid, so sets him free – free to pursue his dreams and have a full, happy life (at the expense of her own happiness – that’s apparently the “gift” the title refers to), but seeing that she’s now pregnant and unwed, she agrees to marry Ethan, who she does not love (well, only as a friend), but who loves her so much that he’s willing to take her on and her illegitimate child. Over the years, Ethan grows more bitter that Carly doesn’t return his love, jealous of David to whom he knows Carly’s heart really belongs but who’s living far away in England and is now a famous author, and less and less accepting of Andrea, the “love” child in question. Ethan assumes that Andrea is David’s child, and Carly lets him assume this, because the truth is just too painful: Andrea is the product of a rape – and pretty much the most repulsive and heinous sort of rape you can imagine. The circumstances of Andrea’s conception make it impossible to swallow the picture the author paints: that Carly couldn’t bring herself to abort, that she adores her daughter without reservation, and that Andrea herself is seemingly so perfect.
One day, sixteen years after Carly sets David free, he returns to small town Baxter, Ohio, for his father’s funeral, and … well, the spark is reignited, as expected. What happens after this is just a little too hard to swallow.
There are a couple of love scenes that did nothing to get me hot and bothered, but they were good for some laughs; my husband actually read one of them aloud and I had tears running down my face because I was laughing so hard. My husband’s a funny guy, though, so maybe it was just us. In addition to the predictable, contrived love scenes (of course the men are strapping! Of course the females must stand on tiptoe to receive the devouring kisses of the strapping males! Of course the men sweep the women into their arms and carry them to bed!), the dialogue is generally too thought-out, and the scenes that take place in England try a little too hard to be, well, English. Then the grave illness – it’s sad, but the author kind of skims over it, so it doesn’t manage to pull the heartstrings as much as it could have, I think.
I didn’t hate this book – not at all. It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and I do think that there is a fanbase for this particular type of story. In any case, it served well enough as escapism; I did find myself sucked into the story, even if I frequently rolled my eyes. My biggest problem with it was that the author took some monumentally grave life circumstances, and painted them with a light brush, almost making a mockery of them.
Another review brought to you by TLC Book Tours.