I’ve had such an intense and personal response to this book that this post is somehow part-review, part-musings and possibly a little intense itself. You have been warned.
The book is the final volume in Morgan’s Puffin Island series, a trilogy (with a Mills & Boon Modern prequel) set on a little island in Maine, following three friends: Emily, Brittany and Skylar. I’ve loved each of them, but there was something about Sky and Alec, the hero and heroine of this final volume, that caught my imagination from the start.
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they kept on sniping at each other – I adore a hate-to-love romance – or because they’re fiercely loyal in their own way, but either way I was super excited about this book.
Conflict is always difficult to get right, and Sarah Morgan is a master of the art – as I’ve argued in the past – so I suppose it came as no surprise that Skylar and Alec’s internal conflict were deeply textured and developed. But it was Skylar in particular who stood out for me.
I’ve written in the past about anxiety and panic attacks and I’m a firm believer in a romance novel’s ability to deal with darker emotional issues. The reasons for Skylar’s anxiety and constant apologies couldn’t be further from mine – my family have always been incredibly supportive – but Morgan’s portrayal of this was perfect.
In some ways, it was shocking to see how ingrained it had become for Skylar to apologise or begin to panic as soon as she did something that her family or ex would have disapproved of or disliked. The automatic catastrophising, continually jumping to the worst possible scenario and apologising in an attempt to get ahead of it. And when she meets Alec’s family, he does the same thing, immediately fearing the worst possible outcome.
Catastrophising is pretty hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it; it’s as if you’ve been split in half and one of you is sat there panicking over and over again, whilst the other part of you drifts apart, completely aware that this is an overreaction, and that there’s nothing you can do about it.
I train myself to go to the middle ground. Whenever I feel myself catastrophising I force myself to think about the best possible outcome and they try and find some kind of middle ground. The problem with the extremes, is that they’re almost always something out of your control, and it’s only by stopping and thinking about the middle ground that you can truly start making your actions autonomous.
And the end of the novel does this perfectly. I found reading this surreal and emotional and intense because it was like reading my own journey mirrored on the page, and reading how everyone around Skylar felt about her anxieties was pretty moving.
Hence the sobbing.
But the book’s not dark and depressing, rather an uplifting experience, full of humour and friendship and sex scenes that made me smile and blush in equal measure. I loved this, and it’s my favourite Sarah Morgan book.