Sway by Melanie Stanford #Review

Sway by Melanie Stanford #ReviewSway by Melanie Stanford

Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Samhain Publishing on December 29, 2015
Pages: 312
Format: eARC
Source: Author
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four-half-stars      one-flame

One heartbreaking moment’s decision broke up a pair of young lovers and for eight years they have gone their separate ways.  Until now…

I love second chance romance if for no other reason than it allows for momentous mistakes to not do irrevocable damage.  It also allows for ‘right people wrong timing’ to happen.  In this tender and emotional retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the author offers a modern retelling of a second chance romance set against the world of music and Hollywood.  There are some heartbreaking moments, some humor, but a whole lot of healing and growing for the heroine, the hero, and the heroine’s family.  I found it compelling and read it through in nearly one sitting.

The story opens with Ava Elliot returning home to LA after spending eight years in NYC attending Julliard.  She is a good pianist and loves being part of an orchestra, but her real heart is toward teaching.  She is bruised from not quite being good enough to make it into the music doctorate program and to have broken off a relationship that lasted three years.  And now, when she returns home, she finds the family in flux.   Her retired-actor father, Walter Elliot and her older sister, Beth, have blown through the family money and now must downsize quickly.  Goods are returned and some economies are made, but it isn’t enough.  The family home, Kellynch mansion, in the Hollywood hills must be rented out and the family move to the Malibu cottage.

Ava has never been close to her family since her mother’s death.  Her dad, her older sister, and her Aunt Rose all think highly of themselves and are pretty self-absorbed.  Their snobbery and influence pressured Ava into the worst decision of her life and she can’t forgive them.  She was happily in love with a guy who had dreams, but no immediate prospects.  She let her own fears and her family influence her to break off her engagement.  She will not share a home with them and Beth’s golddigger friend that now is living with the Elliots and has eyes on Ava’s dad.

Now in an odd turn of events, she is the one with no immediate prospects and Eric is a star coming off yet another successful tour.  It is his sister and her husband that will rent the family mansion.   Ava chooses to stay with her younger sister, Mari and her husband Charlie while finding a job and then her own place.  Life is dreary as she sees where her decision in the past has left her particularly when the successful Eric Wentworth returns to town, looks on her disdainfully and easily takes up with her brother in law’s younger sister, Lacey.

Eva is set on picking up the pieces and happily enjoys the company of one of her oldest friends from school along with a new hot guy who seems really into her.  She determines to show an indifferent face to Eric and the others, but deep down she slowly realizes that she never got over him, and worse, she wants him still.

Alright, so this was no light and easy romance.  It is told entirely from Ava’s perspective in the present and through flashbacks to show the foundations of friendship and love between Ava and Eric.  She regrets and he is still angry and hurt so it is not easy.  No, it was downright painful.  Eric demonstrates that he is moving on and uninterested in Ava.  She works hard to convince herself and others that its been eight years and its long over.  Ri-iight.  I confess to wanting to bop him a few times for cruelty and her for denial.  Most of the book, the reader must sit back and wait for things to play out even while knowing full well that there is too much between this pair for them to move on with others thought that looks like exactly what they try to do.

The romance is only believable because the author took the time to establish the past between the pair and the hints a few times that all is not lost.  Eric is bitter and angry and gets in a few licks against Ava as a result (and by that I mean that he says stuff- no violence).  But there are enough poignant moments to give the reader hope that all is not what it seems with Eric’s anger and then indifference.  Truthfully, once stuff started coming out, it is easy to see that he is as much to blame as Ava for destroying a good thing.  She might have ended it, but in his pain, he let her go and let her stay gone.  As I noted earlier, this wasn’t easy to read.  This pair had/have their flaws, but they still love and get their second chance.

And to be clear, they both are dating other people, but there is no cheating going on though Ava does her fair share of wishing and hoping while dating Gage.

This story is a romance through and through, but it is also more.  Ava has come full swing around to where she left.  She wanted to prove that she learned from her mistakes.  She had to prove that she could do things on her own and didn’t have to use her family and their wealth as a crutch.  She now starts to realize that though her family disappointed her that they are still her family and she will only heal if she deals with her anger from the past.  There is also secondary stories of those around Ava who also need to grow like her sisters and her dad.  And finally, she has to decide what she really wants and have the courage to go get it.

As to setting and backdrop, I loved the old Hollywood, the classic music, and especially the Jazz and Swing influence to the story.  Eric has a band and he writes and sings retro like Michael Buble’ or Harry Connick, Jr.  Ava is a classical pianist and plays in a pops orchestra.  Ava’s dad was an actor who had enough talent to get in, but not quite to the top with Hollywood.  These were fun things.  It was also neat that the family through a party with Doris Day and Rock Hudson’s Pillow Talk movie as their theme.  I felt quite nostalgic and wanted to pull out old movies and play old songs as a result.

The connections to the original story were there and easily recognizable both in the characters, events, and settings, but I loved that the author made the connections in a way that it was also its own story and not a weak copy of the original.

My only real niggle is that I would have loved to know what Eric was thinking and feeling a few times at crucial moments.  I had a pretty good idea because of his actions, expressions, etc, but I want to know for certain.

Speaking of Eric, this guy had a lot of making up to do for his earlier jerk behavior.  But wow, that song he wrote and sang for Ava had me weak at the knees and swoony.  That and a few other actions went a long way to win me over.  I was right there with Ava feeling all hearty and romantic as he sung and then made the grand gesture.

In summary, this was a hard-fought romance.  I appreciated the layers to the story and attention to nuance and detail.  The characters are well-developed as is the long-drawn out plot.  The atmosphere and settings were perfect for this modern retelling.  I would recommend this for those contemporary sweet romance lovers who don’t want easy and who enjoy the feels in their romance.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Books ‘N Tunes

About Melanie Stanford

Melanie Stanford reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Adding this to my TBR! It sounds intense and well put together. Great review!

    • Yes, this pair had it rough. He was very cruel to her at first to pay her back for hurting him and then they were entangled with others. Definitely not easy, but I enjoyed it.

  • Debbie Haupt

    I love second chance romances Sophia Rose and wow thanks for the fab song from Dino Martin too! Its going on my wish list

    • You are so very welcome, Debbie. I had to pair the song since it was running through my head through much of the book. 🙂

      This is a loo-loo of a 2nd chancer. Hope you enjoy it, Debbie!

  • No light and easy, I can read that

    • Yeah, this pair took the rough road to love. 🙂

  • Oh I’m with you on second chance romances. I love those (as long as cheating wasn’t the cause for the break up). It really sounds like quite the read, Sophia!

    • It wiped me out because of all the big emotions. This was definitely a strong second chance. No cheating, though. I hate that stuff, too.

  • I love second chance romances, they are so great to read and some of the most satisfying. I am not always a fan of the lighthearted stuff….I like the tougher romances and this seems to fit the bill!!! Great review.

    • Yes, this is definitely a tough fought. I liked that part, too.