You know that feeling you get when you stumble upon a stranger and instinctively know you should be friends—or even that you must be kindred spirits?
That’s what happened with me and this book (we can be friends with books, right? I say yes). Terms of Surrender | Harlow is just the first novel in indie author Karyn Rae‘s Terms of Surrender series, and I’m already eager to read the upcoming subsequent installments! Though she has a few other books under her belt already that I’ve not yet read, with Harlow, Karyn Rae has found a new fan in yours truly, Mandi the book blogger.
Itty-bitty sidenote: I read all sorts of books; I’m not a genre elitist, and I can’t seem to nail down one genre that I like best, though I’d say it’s somewhere between suspense/ thriller / romance / mystery / drama / chicklit / self-help / biography. (You’re welcome for that very helpful and pointed list.)
Anyhoo, I’d recently picked up another popular chick-lit-meets-murder-mystery that I was having a hell.of.a. time getting into. Like, it wasn’t happening. At all. I was trying way too hard to enjoy that book, thinking I should pick up another instead… And then VOILA. Terms of Surrender landed on my doorstep (literally, and in the prettiest pineapple #bookmail packaging!). And from the moment I opened it, I was whisked onto the cobblestoned, eerily polite port city of Charleston, South Carolina.
So, what’s it about?
Like it says on the cover, Terms of Surrender is the story of “When coming of age arrives late.” This first book in the series introduces us to our protagonist Harlow on her 40th birthday—right as her divorce is finalized, her mother lay dying, and the former love of her life walks through the door. Also, there’s a tiny, ugly dog named Chiquita, so ’nuff said. I AM IN. I mean, how cute does this sound? Totes a Lifetime movie romance, right? Butterflies all up in mah belly. Swoons. Soft and sorrowful and sugary sweet, right?
NO. No, my friends. Skeerrrrr! [record player screeches to a halt] This is not that book.
I mean, yes, there’s some gooey, fluffy stuff. And I’ll admit there were several times throughout Terms of Surrender that I thought to myself, “Aw cute. Good girl meets bad boy from across the tracks. Just like Dirty Dancing.” Because there are those elements, and there are also passages reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook and even James Cameron’s big-screen blockbuster Titanic (mostly because of a hot ‘n heavy, car-window-steamin’ scene… oh man, that was a saucy one… but I digress). That’s not a bad thing, though. I love all those girly bits.
Oh, but then.
The darkness, you guys. The deep-rooted heartache that grows between a high-society, mean-spirited mother and her insecure daughter. These relationships are intense, as are the aristocratic generations of ingrained misogyny. Because there is some brutal, scary shit in this book. There’s also some genuine heartbreak. And both are difficult to bare.
But you know what’s impressive? I mean besides the feelings I definitely have for the very fictional but deliciously sexy-sounding leading man and carpenter extraordinaire, Jade Ryan? The breakdown of relationships and societal barriers in this book. Allow me to share one of my favorite Terms of Surrender lines, which needs no backstory:
Unapproachable girls grew into unapproachable women, and the ones who made men a priority grew up to be alone.
Karyn Rae knows exactly how to work the delicate juxtaposition of a classic, sweet love story amidst decades of secrets and pain. There are some strong AF Southern women in this book, and I love them and the bonds between ’em. (There were times they annoyed me because some decisions they made and secrets they kept were in direct conflict of the women I hoped and thought they should be… But I guess conflicting emotions are integral to any good story.)
Every time I’d get to a cozy spot in the book, Harlow would surprise the heck out of me. I’d be like “OK, how cute is this? This is sweet. Really cheesy in an ‘I carried a watermelon,’ Dirty-Dancing kinda’ way, but I’m diggin’ it anyway. Yaaasssss, get it girl. Oh, how romant… WHAT THE HELL? WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?”
That Karyn Rae. She’s a sneaky one. And I like it.
Also, I’ve got to give Rae a hand for introducing characters at just the right time–and keeping secrets from readers for an appropriate amount of time. I think that’s something a lot of writers struggle with, including me but also huge bestsellers. There’s nothing worse than meeting a character or discovering something you feel is somehow integral—but then pages later, you’re still wondering where in tarnation they came from and why they’re in this book, flipping back pages wondering if you’ve missed something. But this is something Rae excels at. I like to be surprised.
Also, you know what else is great? And Rae will have to forgive me for this, but I’d dare say one of the most stunning characters in this book is the charming, breezy, scenic backdrop of Charleston itself. I can’t imagine Terms of Surrender taking place in any other town. And I’ve never been to Charleston. But I sure as hell wanna book a flight there right this instant.
How should you read this book?
With a happy buzz and your comfiest cozies. So, go get you a glass of wine. A big one. Get yourself a donut, too; I’m not here to judge. Put on those sweatpants you’ve had since 10th grade, crawl into bed, and get reading. Incidentally, this is exactly what I did… And I ended up staying up ’til past 1:30 AM on a work night! Hashtag worth it.
Pick up this book. The Terms of Surrender | Harlow eBook preorder went live a few days ago on Amazon, and both eBook and paperback will debut for sale on June 19th. I mean, it’s not like you’ll be able to resist it anyway. Look at that cover! It’s BREATHTAKING.
But guard your heart. And your sensibilities.
**I was provided this advanced reader copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest reader’s review, and that’s what you’ve got here, friends. All opinions are my own.**