Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61922-572-5
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Joel Graziano is finally out of jail. Oh, he was in the can for just 18 months, so it’s not that long an incarceration. He wants to lay down low, stay on the straight and narrow, and keep his appointments with his parole officer. His grandmother left him a beach cottage that he could stay in the meantime, and he thinks of sprucing up that place and flipping it for some profit. Of course, the locals all act like a guy with a tattoo is the weirdest thing ever – and here I am, thinking that tattoos are so common these days that it seems like I can toss a can randomly and it has a high chance of hitting a fellow who has some generic rose stamped on the skin somewhere.
Fortunately, his neighbor is in need of some TLC. Charlotte “Charlie” Sanger once thought she would leave town after high school and do something for herself… maybe in Manhattan, but then her mother died, her father needed her, and now Charlie has never left. Her sister had been kicked out by her father for getting knocked up, and Charlie herself has a relationship with her father that isn’t the most warm and lovey-dovey. I don’t blame her for jumping on the hot guy next door for some fun. The whole thing is supposed to be simple, just two people enjoying themselves, but you know what it is with these “uncomplicated” relationships, I’m sure.
You know, there is something very hypnotic about Ruby McNally’s narrative style in Turning Tides. It’s hard to explain in words – there is a bitter kind of underlying melancholy in the narrative that just gets to me and refuses to let go, and this bitter tinge actually makes the two characters’ eventual realization that they love one another even more sweeter as a result. As I’ve mentioned, I find myself wondering when exactly this story is set in as there are a few characters who act like they have never seen tattoos before, and even the hero acts like having tattoos is some kind of mark that one is somehow shady and criminal-like. Do many people these days still have that attitude? However, the characters’ emotions feel very real to me, and I love the way the author has these feelings slowly peeled away layer by layer in a most fascinating manner. In many ways, Charlie and Joel are two lost souls who manage to connect and hold on to one another despite their very different backgrounds, and as a result, I never felt that their romance is forced. Organic, natural, even real, instead.
Turning Tides is a simple story in its core, at the end of the day. While I feel that it has outer trappings that may not be as authentic as I’d have liked, the feelings and the romance all feel real enough to make it a complicated, intriguing, and even poignant kind of simplicity. I like this one, I really do.