Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause

Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Fiction
Length: Full length (244 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

For readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, debut author Suzy Krause delivers a quirky, colorful story about love, loss, second chances, and what it means to truly live.

Valencia, a timid debt collector with crippling OCD, is afraid of many things, but the two that scare her most are flying and turning thirty-five. To confront those fears, Valencia’s therapist suggests that she fly somewhere—anywhere—before her upcoming birthday. And as Valencia begins a telephone romance with a man from New York, she suddenly has a destination in mind. There’s only one problem—he might not actually exist.

Mrs. Valentine is an eccentric old woman desperate for company, be it from neighbors, telemarketers, or even the funeral director (when you’re her age, you go to a lot of funerals). So she’s thrilled when the new cleaning girl provides a listening ear for her life’s story—a tale of storybook love and incredible adventures around the world with her husband before his mysterious and sudden disappearance.
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The stories of Valencia and Mrs. Valentine may at first appear to have nothing in common…but then again, nothing in life is as straightforward as it seems.

I decided to read this story based on the blurb. It sounded interesting and I thought it might be fun. Well, Valencia and Valentine was absolutely interesting but fun wouldn’t be my word choice. It was a story that spoke to the heart in a way that was unconventional and surprising. There were so many times I expected Valencia and Mrs. Valentine to meet. In the end, they did, but not in any way I could have guessed or imagined or predicted.

There were times during reading where I wanted to skim or skip some paragraphs or pages because I didn’t think the plot was moving fast enough. My advice, slow down, take it in, and keep on keeping on. I ended up doing that because I discovered there was this intangible sense, a knowing that I was heading for a revelation that I couldn’t fathom but I wanted to get to. I needed every little clue to understand.

The author wrote in such a profound and effective manner about Valencia and how OCD affected her life, it made my heart ache. It gave me insight into those whose lives are dogged by the specter of revolving doubts, questions, panic attacks, worries and the ever-present ‘what-if?’ – if they did or didn’t do something, would it cause harm? Then there’s the guilt that comes from the imagining and then the questions, is it really imagination or is it real? I can’t visualize feeling that way all day, every day, yet the author clearly showed me though the heroine’s point of view just how challenging and hard a life can be when dealing with OCD. It was an eye-opener.

The reason I didn’t give this novel five stars was because I did get the feeling like I wanted to skim through parts, to hurry up and get to where the good stuff I believed should be. The kick of it is, I needed all those reminisces from Mrs. Valentine, I needed to read about Peter’s interaction with Valencia and how she tried to like him back – I needed to understand these two ladies which meant I needed to not rush things and let the author guide me to where she wanted me to go.

Because I eventually became so invested in their stories, when I came upon the scenes about the plane ride, I turned into a water faucet. It came upon me so suddenly – the knowledge of what I had been actually reading and what it meant and I cried and sniffled and used many tissues. My heart broke, and yet, there was a nostalgic love and gentleness, and a bittersweet happiness woven into the wrap-up. Even with that little bit of brightness, as I type this, I’m tearing up all over again. My heart was engaged at a much deeper depth than I believed it could be and I credit my emotional response to the care and expertise of Ms. Krause’s writing.

Valencia and Valentine is a difficult book to describe because anything I think to say doesn’t seem to do it justice. It’s not my usual type of book and yet, I feel better for having read it. In my own life, I want to be more like Grace. She was a great secondary character and a wonderful ally for Valencia to have. Readers who enjoy books with serious substance shared with love, character driven plots and protagonists who are brought to life before your very eyes, should definitely consider reading this novel.

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