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Peace. Love. Books.

A Song for Julia - Charles Sheehan-Miles One of the authors whose books I swore to read prior to attending the Toronto Author Signing was Charles Sheehan-Miles. I only knew that he was Andrea Randall's mentor, and after finishing In the Stillness and reading the preview for The Last Hour, I was intrigued. I bought that book when I caught it on sale earlier this summer, and while the books in this series are standalones, a reviewer I came across recommended to go with A Song for Julia first. For some reason, maybe largely due to 9/11's anniversary, I had this strong urge to start this yesterday. By the time I finished it it was 2 AM and my eyes were puffy and red already.

I'm so bummed to find out that CSM is no longer in the author lineup, but I'm positive I'll be reading his other books soon. It's fascinating for me to read romance written by a male author, probably because I haven't read many. At this time only Ian McEwan and Sylvain Reynard come to mind. A Song for Julia was done in alternating POVs, and Julia's voice sounded authentic to me. The distinction between her and Crank's narration was explicit in the beginning, but as the story progressed, there may have been an instance or two when Crank didn't sound male enough for me. I don't know. It could be because he had it bad for Julia by that time, and we all know how love can turn the coldest of us into a bunch of emo saps.

Julia may not be a heroine most people would instantly warm up to. But I easily connected with her, maybe because at one point in my life, I was that freshman with an emotionally-abusive senior boyfriend. On one hand, I wanted to shake her and tell her to just let her goddamn guard down a bit and let people in, and she did have moments of clarity, but I do understand that you can't undo many years of conditioning the moment a loving man comes along. I loved that their romance was slowly paced and that Crank was so patient with her.

And Crank. My goodness. That boy breaks my heart.
"What do you want from me, Crank?" Her voice was raw, desperate.

I looked at her. She was so close, but might as well have been a thousand miles away. I said, "I want you to love me."

He may be that stereotypical hero who was a manwhore prior to meeting the one. But his character has so many layers, from being the protective brother, to the rebellious yet respectful son, to being a struggling artist desperate to take the first crappy offer, to being an insecure boy who just needed someone to believe that he can do anything.

This is not a story of two people rescuing each other. It's about self-discovery and learning that people aren't always what they seem, and that things don't always go your way despite your best efforts. The relationships that Crank and Julia have with their families add so much insight into their characters, especially that with Sean, who brought tears to my eyes every time he said "sorry", and Julia's mother. I do feel that she was "villainified" quite extremely, but the point was definitely not missed. I thought that the inclusion of war as a subject was also sensitively handled, and I appreciated that instead of pushing a strong political opinion on the matter, it focused instead on the impact it had on the lives of the families left behind, Crank's in particular.

Given the influx of New Adult Contemporary Romance nowadays with little depth and highly sexually-charged pages, this was a welcome breath of fresh air. It was surprisingly meatier than I had anticipated and also as emotional and heart-tugging as I wanted. But if there's anything new to take away from this, it's that playing NIN's Closer is a sure way to get your date hot and bothered. Much less inexpensive than oysters and chocolate-dipped strawberries, no?