Though I was curious about Libitz from hearing about her in Kate and Etienne's book ("Kiss Me Kate", The English Brothers #6), Jean-Christian (J.C. in short) ISN'T my kind of guy, I remember I had a similar thought when I read Alex English's book, I was wondering the same, basically if he will be "redeemable", because let's face it, he sounds like a douche.. (when it's NOT concerning his family). Like with Alex's book, I was happy to be worried for nothing, I truly appreciated J.C.. Yeah he started off as quite annoying in the way he was sure Libitz will fall into his arms (or rather, his bed..) but Libitz was feisty enough to show him she is NOT impressed. Not at all. Which is what I expected from her :) She never did disappoint me in this aspect, she put up a fight against J.C.'s pig like behavior, but she did it while making both him and myself laugh. I really enjoyed their banter. No wonder it made them realize they have more in common then they would easily admit, and that without mentioning they both share a love for art as well as own an art gallery.
This book start in a totally different way than the previous ones in the Blueberry Lane series, we are thrown back to France, 1939, where a painter is drawing a beautiful young jewish girl. When he bids her off after finishing her portrait - "Les Bijoux Jolis" - he asks her to save herself and sail over the sea to the US, "Live a good life" he prompts her. This is where we leave the beautiful young Camille and return to our current time, to Kate and Etienne's wedding in which Libitz and J.C. find themselves not only fighting with one another but sharing a kiss they can't forget 2 months later when they meet again to celebrate another good news from Kate and Etienne upon their return from the honey moon.
Libitz and J.C. find they have a reason to get on with one another but they find it easier said then done, up until J.C. shows Libitz a painting Jax found in Le Chateau's attic. A painting of a beautiful young girl wearing an emerald necklace - "Les Bijoux Jolis", one who has a striking resemblance to Libitz. This is a sort of turning point in their "relationship", as they begin on a "treasure hunt" of finding as much as they can about the girl in the painting. Not surprising once the "act" falls off both their faces, and they start to see each other more clearly they also fall for each other. The attraction was there from day one, the question is, can both of them commit to one another.
I don't want to say more about the plot itself, I'll leave you to enjoy it yourself :) But I have something else to say about this book which made it so special to me personally. First off, I felt HONORED to read a book about Jews that brought the Holocaust's narrative in such a realistic and genuine way. WWII, "The War", is a silent presence that cannot be ignored in the Jewish narrative. It's there through words spoken and unspoken. The way Katy brought the subject and dealt with it, was not only sensitive but truly felt right-on-point, not to mention I LOVED seeing the interaction between the family members, so much of it made me laugh about how realistic it sounded. I found myself highlighting all those paragraphs that sounded so, well, Jewish! (I would think of them for myself as Israeli, but I guess it's the same :)).
The way Libitz found herself connected to the young model, the way she wished she knew more about her, yet was somehow discouraged in case she was tortured and killed during the war felt so real to me. It's the fantasy vs. the horrible reality of the war's consequences. So many sad stories, so little with a happy ending. It's part of why I usually don't read fiction about the Holocaust, I rather read of TRUE stories that actually happened instead of made up ones, considering the truly remarkable stories should be the ones to be treasured (as we say - Remember and Never Forget). Also with everything this war have seen, there are enough real stories to be told. Here, it's not the main focus, it's just a sort of historical frame around the romance taking place at the current time which only added to their love story.
Another thing I was touched by was Libitz's perspective about relationships. Thing is, in romance we see the beginning, and we are promised a "Happily Ever After", but let's face it, most stories bring us the "falling in love" part, being infatuated, less of the real relationship, the core of it, and the fact that keeping a relationship, a long lasting one, asks for much more than feelings and attraction, it requires hard work from both partners. J.C. has his misgivings about relationship because of the way his parents fell apart, his father constantly cheating on his mother. Libitz states that it's a choice to be made. You can work on the relationship or you can throw it away (leave, betray, fall out of love etc.). I don't think J.C. ever considered relationships this way and moreover I don't think young people see it this way. I for sure didn't when I was in my early 20s. Yeah I was in a very meaningful relationship, but neither of us realized how much the relationship needed WORK in order to keep through the rough patches in life (not surprising it didn't..). I really loved the fact Katy brought this into a romance novel, showing there is more to a relationship than the usual formula we read in the genre. It made the whole story more realistic and moreover made J.C.'s decisions towards Libitz more genuine. It took him awhile but after thinking and re-thinking about her words he made his active choice.
" There are no guarantees. And yes, any of us could change at any time. [..] But forever exists. [..] forever takes work. [..] That's how I know that you're capable - that anyone is capable, it's not a predetermined thing like your blood type or eye color. It's a choice. It's a choice to love someone and be faithful to them and do the work. We're ALL capable of that. " [Libitz, Ch. 7]
This subject brings me to the next issue I feel the need to write about. I KNOW some people would be discouraged to read this book because of what I'm about to say, but please, keep an open mind..
So yeah, basically there IS an issue of Libitz being unfaithful to a guy she is dating while she and J.C. are getting closer. They share kisses, and they make out while technically there's a poor guy named Neil who is waiting for Libitz to come back to him. Usually that's one of the things I simply CANNOT read about. I'm a dog person - loyalty is all. I can't find ANY excuse to cheating and to put it in Libitz's own words "it's a choice". Thing is, Neil and Libitz didn't work out, they tried dating but they rarely even kissed, Neil kept complaining he wants more from her and she was cold and distant because she really didn't WANT him.. but he kept asking and she was trying to be a better daughter to her parents and also she knew that being with him meant she could have a family sooner rather than later and it's something she yearns for. Yet Neil was never for her.. everything she did showed it, to us and especially to him. One could argue they hardly WERE a couple. I don't know, I still see it as cheating. It does show us Libitz is human like all of us and she can and does make mistakes. I think she could have handled it better but I think I can forgive her because she didn't even realize the wrong things that drove her to be with Neil.. Yeah, okay, it's still no excuse.. but no one is perfect, even if this IS a romance novel. Please please please try and put this aside and give this one a go even if you, like me, usually don't appreciate reading of infidelity (in books and real life..).
This book was beautiful beyond words, I loved it SO SO much and naturally I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND it! I know it says it can be read as a stand alone, but I still think it's better to start with the first one of the Rousseaus. These three books are WONDERFUL. Each one is very different and enjoyable in a different kind of a way. So go ahead and grab it and read it ASAP! :) These three are mostly sweet and endearing reads, with this one giving us a bit more with the historical background story.
Okay, one last thing I want to say which made me squeal in excitement is the fact I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments. Katy asked me to help her out in a certain phrase in Hebrew and naturally I did my best to help so I feel truly honored to have a small piece of this book which feels like my own.
I kindly received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 160 pages, 21-22 November 2016 / On GoodReads