Title: Love Always
Author: Harriet Evans
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Natasha Kapoor’s life is falling apart. She is separated from her once-beloved husband and her business is failing. When her grandmother dies, Natasha travels to her grandparents’ home in Penzance for the funeral. The last thing she expects while there is to receive another life-changing jolt, but she does – the lost diary of Cecily, Natasha’s aunt who died tragically when she was just a teenager. Through the diary, Natasha begins to uncover some of her family’s darkest secrets, while also learning how to put her life back together.
In Love Always, women’s fiction author Harriet Evans has successfully managed to combine the storyline of a dark, hidden past with the plight of a modern-day woman struggling to understand her place in the world. Natasha Kapoor is a broken woman when the novel begins. She had such high hopes and lofty goals for herself and never thought she would sink this low. But now that she’s hit the bottom, she has the chance to rethink her life and what she wants out of it. She can build things back up the way she wants and learn from her mistakes. Natasha is a capable and smart woman, and while she does wallow in self-despair for parts of the book, it’s wonderful to watch her pull herself out of her misery and start succeeding again.
Cecily is the other main character of Love Always, and it’s interesting to see her, considering she’s been dead for nearly fifty years when the book begins. Natasha is so like Cecily in some ways, a more mature and seasoned version of the teenager. Cecily hasn’t had the heartbreak and loss Natasha has had, but she’s dealt with her own issues. The insight into people’s reactions to Cecily’s half-Indian/Pakistani, half-British heritage is very interesting and gives the novel a welcome cultural depth.
The story of Love Always is equally divided between Natasha’s personal struggles and her search for the truth behind Cecily’s death. These plots are balanced well; the book is never too introspective or self-pitying. When Natasha can no longer stand to focus on herself, she throws her energy into Cecily. The unraveling of the family’s secrets is handled at a slow but satisfying pace. The reader learns just enough to keep them curious, but not so much that they are overwhelmed with information. Evans’ timing is well thought out, and makes the book a bit suspenseful, driving the narrative forward.
Love Always is an enjoyable novel that I recommend to fans of character driven novels with a hint of mystery. While it will appeal to women’s fiction fans, the cultural touches and family secrets make the book appropriate for a wider, contemporary fiction audience. This was a satisfying summer read, and I look forward to seeing what Harriet Evans does next.