The Many Lives of June Crandall by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

The Many Lives of June Crandall by Suzanne Whitfield Vince
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (308 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Shuffled from one orphanage to another and finally abandoned into foster care, Grace Adams finds comfort only in her dreams, only these dreams are unlike anything Grace could ever dare to imagine. From a Nazi concentration camp in World War 2 to a Geisha house in Feudal Japan, in her dream world Grace is loved and protected by one person: a woman named June Crandall with a face she is unable to forget.

Believing that the woman from her dreams is the mother she’s never met, Grace petitions the court to unseal her birth records, and what she learns about her birth mother will shake her to her core. Years later, at the urging of her husband, Grace publishes a book about the woman from her dreams. At a book signing, a stranger appears and offers a clue to the mystery surrounding Grace’s birth.

Putting her skills as an investigative journalist to work, Grace uncovers a web of secrets and betrayal that threatens to destroy her dream of being reunited with her birth family. Will Grace find the woman from her dreams? Will she solve the mystery of her birth? Will she be able to put the past behind her and find forgiveness for the family that abandoned her?

Can dreams hold the key to your destiny?

It was interesting to watch Grace change as a result of everything that happens to her as she’s growing up. Her painful childhood doesn’t give her much of a reason to trust others, but her intelligence makes her question these knee-jerk responses. The result is a young, troubled woman I couldn’t help but to root for. Don’t get me wrong – Grace is deeply flawed. Her weaknesses make her more relatable, though, and kept me glued to the plot even when I encountered bumps in the road.

The character development of everyone Grace meets during her life was weak. Her friends and enemies are described in such a black and white manner that I had trouble connecting to them emotionally. It was never quite clear to me if the sketches of them were meant to subtly cast light on Grace’s damaged psyche or if the author intended to skim past these characters. Some of them had fascinating backstories either way, and this tale would have earned a much higher rating if they’d been given more of a chance to express themselves.

This book has the kind of premise that snags my attention right away. As soon as I read the blurb, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. What I liked most about it was how straightforward it was about the events in Grace’s early life. It gave away enough details to spark my curiosity, but the author did a good job at keeping enough of the plot hidden that I didn’t feel as if I already knew everything in advance.

It would have been helpful to have more showing instead of telling. Grace experiences a lot of traumatizing things as a child and young adult, but the rough times in her life weren’t given as much attention as I would have liked to see. The scenes describing them were often brief and factual even when what was happening should have evoked much stronger emotions from the characters involved in them.

I should note that this isn’t a traditional romance novel. While there are many tender moments later on, the characters involved in them don’t necessarily fit into the tropes that one would typically find in this genre. When I first started reading I was expecting an entirely different sort of plot. It was a pleasant surprise, though, and the romantic subplots ended up working well with everything else that was going on.

The Many Lives of June Crandall is a good choice for anyone in the mood for something unique and (mostly) contemporary.

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