Plot: This novel is solidly constructed. The plot's complexities and surprising twists are well handled.
Prose: Told with flashes of surprising humor, the author handles a complicated plot with verve and flair.
Originality: A reasonably familiar storyline is handled professionally, and the author offers enough surprises along the way to engage readers and keep them turning pages.
Character Development: While the presentation of Gracie has a few flaws—particularly the reasons for some of her decisions—the supporting characters (particularly her grandmother) are revealed slowly and believably, as are Gracie's relationships to them.
Date Submitted: August 04, 2017
The Highmore Circle
iUniverse, 397 pages, (paperback) $28.99, 9781532006760
(Reviewed: February, 2017)
In The Highmore Circle, Cricket Reynolds delivers an utterly engaging, humorous romance that follows a young woman’s life as she wrestles with love and loss.
Gracie Anderson, a college professor in her 30s, finds her dating life so empty that “An exciting Friday night for me was People magazine hitting my mailbox a day early.” She reluctantly agrees to attend a support group for those contending with parental loss at the insistence of her best friend who believes that it offers a potential opportunity for Gracie to meet a man. However, Gracie’s mother died 20 years ago and the group turns out to be for motherless daughters.
Although it appears unlikely that Gracie will bond with this diverse group of women or find romance, she does both, entering into a relationship with a participant’s brother. As their feelings for each other deepen, a past boyfriend reappears, and soon Gracie must choose between the two. She does so while coming to terms with the emotional scars left from her mother’s passing that “ran so deep that I wasn’t even sure where one stopped and another one started.”
Despite its slapstick beginning, The Highmore Circle transcends farce. Reynolds touches on the significance of losing one’s parent and the effects of lingering grief. She writes deftly, with an ear for witty banter, and seamlessly integrates texting exchanges without appearing gimmicky. She also strikes a successful balance between comedy and earnestness while populating the story with empathetic characters and particularly strong women. The novel includes occasional coarse language and an ending that may leave some questioning Gracie’s choice, but readers will easily forgive both.
A page-turning romantic comedy that acknowledges the different ways people mourn and the importance of family and friends in healing, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Also available as an e-book.
The Highmore Circle
Cricket Reynolds iUniverse (Dec 31, 2016) Softcover $28.99 (404pp) 978-1-5320-0676-0
Friendship and past challenges factor in to this romance novel that happily tests genre boundaries.
Cricket Reynolds delves into the romantic life of a college professor with a troubled family past in The Highmore Circle, a novel that breaks genre rules to pleasing effect.
Her mother dies when Gracie is young. With her grieving father closed off to her emotionally, she grows up with unanswered questions that impact her into adulthood and into her career as an English professor.
Gracie’s best friend Chloe signs her up for the Highmore Circle, a support group for women whose mothers have died. Gracie is not used to sharing her feelings, but the group welcomes her in and she makes friends, including an unexpected one: the wealthy, handsome brother of one of the Circle’s members. Jack comes on strong, and Gracie is immediately smitten. Yet each has lost their mother and each has a past love that lingers as a stumbling block. It also happens that Gracie’s stumbling block has just reappeared in her life at exactly the wrong moment.
Parts of the book flirt with genre clichés, but the story also deals with more serious themes: difficult relationships, cheating, a parent’s death, family secrets, and abandonment. All of these elements shape Gracie’s low self-esteem, making her unsure of herself.
While Gracie tries to decide between the two men who love her, the story is at times open-hearted, frustrating, renewing, and romantic. Reynolds does such a good job of creating confusion about each man’s value and motivations that when Gracie at last makes a decision, it might be an unexpected one.
Writing is straightforward, and the story is absorbing. Characters are clearly differentiated through dialogue, action, and clothing, making them so vivid that the heroine sometimes pales beside them. Most of them feel real, with the exception of Gracie’s grandmother, whose insults and controlling nature make her two-dimensional, and Angie, Jack’s fashion-model ex-wife.
There’s a little more psychology here, and a lot less sex, than in a typical romance novel. Sex scenes are written with subtlety, leaving much to the imagination. Some dialogue goes on too long, driving the point farther than it needs to go. Yet the prose is self-assured and modern, with a touch of humor that feels heartfelt and true.
The Highmore Circle is a romance novel that tests the boundaries of the genre in a great way.
THE HIGHMORE CIRCLE
Cricket Reynolds iUniverse (404 pp.)
$28.99 paperback, $4.00 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-5320-0676-0; December 31, 2016
A debut novel follows a young woman who comes to terms with her mother’s death by joining a community therapy group.
Gracie Anderson, this tale’s protagonist, agrees to join a support group at the local community center when her best friend, Chloe, insists it’ll be a great place to meet guys. As it turns out, Chloe has signed Gracie up to attend a women’s-only group. And the only thing Gracie, an accomplished college professor, has in common with these women is her dead mother. Gracie feels sure she does not belong in this haphazard crew, which includes a dominatrix, a librarian, a fashion consultant, and a homemaker. Reluctantly giving the support group a chance, Gracie finds that the
shared status of these women as motherless daughters is sufficient to start a legitimate bonding process. Even better, the fashion consultant has a super-hot twin brother, so there might be a guy to meet after all. As Gracie gets to know each of the women in her group and finally starts dealing with the grief she has harbored for years, she also begins an exciting courtship with Jack Bradshaw, the handsome twin. Unfortunately, just as the romance starts to flourish, Gracie’s childhood sweetheart, Sam Patterson, shows up, insisting that he’s finally ready to commit to her. As her relationship with these two suitors grows uncomfortably complicated, Gracie relies on her new friends from the therapy group to help her wade through the confusing love triangle. Thanks to many refreshing twists throughout this comical story, Reynolds avoids predictability and keeps the reader guessing until the end about which man will ultimately win Gracie’s heart.
Told in chatty, accessible prose, reminiscent of Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin, Reynolds’ story draws the reader in by combining the hefty topic of debilitating grief with many lighthearted, nearly slapstick moments centered on friendship and romance. The author provides an in-depth look at the coping mechanisms used by motherless daughters and the potential effectiveness of human interaction in dealing with despair. This tale turns out to be an appealing beach read with a little meat on its bones.
A heartwarming and wholesome commentary on the importance of human connection.
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Article about The Highmore Circle
Featured on JED in the morning discussing The Highmore Circle