Saturday, March 5, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Not Without You by Jean Barrett

Not Without You
Jean Barrett

Page Count: 288
Release Date: 9 March, 2011
Publisher: Five Star (Gale)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author (thank you!) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review

Falling in love while you are prisoners in side-by-side cells, unable to so much as glimpse at each other, is highly unlikely. But that is just what TV correspondent Kate Groen and army Lieutenant Efrem Chaudoir find themselves doing when they are held in a small jail deep within Iraq during the Gulf War.

In spite of all the complications of their relationship, they are unable to deny their powerful feelings for each other. But the promise of a future together is shattered after their escape. Efrem learns that the wife who intended to divorce him is instead pregnant with his child. He sees no choice but to remain in his marriage while a heartbroken Kate finds solace with the gentle Gordon May, who helps her to deal with her grief.

Kate and Efrem meet again during the Kosovo conflict when he aids her in rescuing a group of orphaned, Albanian Muslim children. Efrem is divorced now. He has never stopped loving Kate, but she will not abandon Gordon, who is ill with leukemia.

It is much later, after Gordon's death, that Kate seeks Efrem's help in present-day Afghanistan. The baby she gave up for adoption as a teenager is now a young soldier missing in action. There is no longer reason for Kate and Efrem not to be together... unless Kate finds it impossible to love the man he's become.

Not Without You is a sweeping, exciting romance as fresh as today's headlines—the story of a man and woman whose love is tested by time, sacrifice, and endurance.

What Stephanie Thought: Timeless love is ethereally portrayed in Barrett's powerful novel set in medias res the Middle Eastern wars. The way Kate and Efrem fall in love is romantic—they fall in love without even once seeing each others' faces. Sighhh :) The only problem? Efrem's sort of married. Not sort of. Still. He swears he is on his way to a divorce, but Kate won't have it.

And yet... they hook up before separating. This was the first thing that irked me about the story. Kate seems really distant when she finds out Efrem is married. She keeps repeating that she doesn't want to be the cause of a divorce. But she still has sex with him. A few conflicting emotions there, but I let it slide.

Then Efrem goes back to his wife only to discover—she's knocked up! Wistfully, he decides to stay with his wife, and Kate goes back to her life feeling nothing but pity for herself.
Fast forward a couple years. Kate and Efrem meet again. He's divorced, but this time she's in a committed relationship. Perfect timing, huh?

Fast forward a few more years. Kate's old flame has passed away, Efrem's still divorced... now they can finally be together and be happily forever after, right? Nahh. Efrem isn't the "same" anymore. Kate's curt change in preference seems uncharacteristic. Years later, finally reunited, the couple embrace. Efrem is a man she has secretly loved and longed for during the twenty-some years after she met him. But all of sudden she falls out of love with him because his kiss isn't the same (as it was more than twenty years ago). Shrug.  Only happens in romantic suspense, folks.

The incident of her teenage pregnancy (the result of a date rape when she was sixteen—another fascinating but abrupt twist to the story) is brought up rather suddenly also. I wish I would have been given some sort of warning, like foreshadowing of Kate's loss or something. I was able to tell she had trust issues because of the difficulty she had in accepting Efrem as someone she truly loved, but I had no idea it might be because of her illegitimate child.

Either way, it shakes up the plot a lot. In her early forties, the search for her son (who was put up for adoption when he was born) is now her top priority—one thing I could seriously sympathize with. Eventually, she finds him, alive but not well. They reunite, but it is up to the reader's imagination to determine exactly when she tell him that she is his birth mother. 

I personally thought Not Without You was really slow-moving, but it was drawn out for twenty years, keep in mind. The plot was very intriguing, I'll admit. My friend saw me with the book on the bus and she read the blurb and told me she was hooked. It was a great story, but the writing style was rather bland. When I read a good novel, I either hate or love the characters. Thankfully I didn't hate Kate and Efrem, but I couldn't really find solace or admiration in them either.

Stephanie Loves: "'And Kate?'
'You might want to reconsider eating that sausage. They're pretty spicy. Unless,' [Efrem] added softly, his gaze riveted on her mouth, 'you like them hot. I seem to remember you did like some things hot.'
Was this a bold reminder of all his possessive, passionate kisses back in Iraq and Saudi Arabia? [Kate] was afraid it was and that, suddenly aware of his sensual mouth, she was susceptible to his suggestion. 
'People change in their tastes,' she informed him sharply. 'I have.'"

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥