Desert Isle Keeper
Part of Your World
Narrated by Julia Whelan and Zachary Webber
Strong word of mouth about the author and their new audiobook led me to request Part of Your World from NetGalley last week. Abby Jimenez is a new-to-me author and lately, I’ve been a bit leery about veering away from old favorites, but I’m happy to tell you I plan to binge her back catalog right away! I’m usually a bit slow to turn around book reviews – even with books I like (much to my editor’s despair), but I couldn’t wait to sit down and tell you all about this one. While Part ofYour World has a few minor problems, the central relationship – featuring a whopper of an opposites attract pairing – is romantic and sexy, the primary and secondary characters are well realized (with one glaring exception), and the narrators are supremely well-suited to the material. The novel had me totally absorbed during my morning walks this last week, and I was sad to finish it on my ride to work today. I enjoyed almost every bit of it and recommend you read – or listen to – it, too.
Growing up, Alexis Montgomery always knew she was destined to follow her parents into medicine, and expected to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons. But after graduating at the top of her class at UC Berkeley, and then Stanford, she opted to become an ER doctor instead. The work doesn’t come with the same fame or glory, but it brings her happiness – even if her father diminishes her decision whenever they’re together and her workplace has recently become less comfortable.
When the story begins, thirty-eight year old Alexis is in the small town of Wakan, Minnesota, stuck in a ditch after swerving to avoid hitting a raccoon. After calling for roadside assistance, she discovers it will be at least an hour before someone can tow her out and opts to spend the time talking to her close friend Brianna on the phone. They discuss the funeral she just attended; the fortunate absence of her brother Derek (a plastic surgeon currently volunteering in Cambodia); therapy, and the state of her relationship with her cheating, gaslighter of an ex-boyfriend Neil (head of surgery at her hospital); and Brianna is urging her to go ahead and remove the uncomfortable Spanx she has on under her Dolce & Gabbana dress when Alexis spots headlights in her rearview mirror. She frantically attempts to pull her undergarments completely off before the approaching driver reaches her window. Friends, this information dump via a chatty conversation between friends is supremely well done. Slightly wicked and supportive Brianna is an excellent foil to Alexis’s more stoic persona, and their conversation is alternately hilarious and sobering. It’s smartly done by Jimenez, and a terrific way to get to know both these characters. Also, the panicked race to remove the Spanx had me giggling out loud.
Twenty-eight year old Daniel Grant is the mayor of Wakan (following in the footsteps of generations of Grants before him). He’s also a carpenter, manager/host of The Grant House (a local landmark and bed and breakfast), and – when the town tow truck operator is two sheets to the wind at the local VFW (an out-of-season hot spot hangout), he’s the guy who pulls cars out of ditches. So when he spots a Mercedes in a ditch, he pulls over to offer help. As he approaches, he notices the passenger’s frantic efforts to remove her undergarments, but plays dumb as he taps on her window. The beautiful redhead who turns to partially unroll the window and inform him she’s waiting for a tow truck is a surprise, but he quickly informs her it’s going to be a long wait for the tow truck and convinces her to let him help her instead. He refuses her offer of payment, hooks his truck up and pulls her out. Daniel doesn’t expect to ever see her again… which is why he’s surprised to spot her later that same evening. Well, he isn’t too surprised. It’s dinnertime in the off-season in Wakan, and the only place open after six is the VFW. Unfortunately, Daniel’s friends have noticed her, too, and he decides to warn her about their $100 bet to see who can take her home that night. Alexis asks if there’s anywhere else to eat in town and Daniel offers to make her dinner at his place. She’s clearly wary – and then he mentions his buddy Doug plans to serenade her with a guitar rendition of More Than Words. Alexis offers to leave with him to help him win the bet, and they head out together for dinner at Daniel’s.
Oh, friends! It’s a great meet-cute. I loved it – and Daniel! Suffice it to say, the night… ahem, takes a turn and what starts out as a one-night stand quickly becomes something more – despite Alexis insisting it isn’t. Told in multiple, parallel plotlines that don’t converge until a swoony fairytale-esque ending, Part of Your World explores what it does – and doesn’t – take to be happy, and how life often leads in unexpected directions.
Both Daniel and Alexis were raised with heavy expectations; Alexis by an emotionally abusive father and submissive mother, and Daniel by beloved grandparents who raised him after his teenage mother abandoned him as a small child. Alexis is determined to meet the personal and professional obligations inherent as a member of the Montgomery family, while Daniel feels a similar sense of obligation as a Grant in Wakan. But while Alexis is convinced Daniel doesn’t belong in her world and works diligently to keep him out of it, Daniel loves having Alexis in his world – and believes he can find a way to fit into hers. The story unfolds in their alternating PoVs – Daniel, head over heels for Alexis, and Alexis, in denial about her own feelings for Daniel, digging in her heels and determined to keep him at a remove.
If it all sounds heavy, well… it is. And that’s without telling you about Alexis’s ex-boyfriend, or Daniel’s friend Liz, whose boyfriend regularly beats her up. Look, this story has highs and lows (obviously), but the author masterfully juggles the PoVs and the plotlines, and those highs? Um. They’re marvelous. The relationship between Alexis and Daniel is super hot and sexy; she’s a good person trapped by fears of failure, he’s?…oh man. He’s good looking, fit, handy with tools, kind, generous, sweet, an amazing cook. Is it overkill? NO. IT ISN’T. He’s amazing. More please. And then there’s the magical town of Wakan – a character in and of itself, the terrific cast and characterization of both good (and bad) secondary characters – shout out to super bestie Brianna – the friendships, the positive therapy-rep. Friends, it all works! The only flaws of any significance are Alexis’s doubts – which grow tedious, Liz’s storyline, which is powerful until it isn’t, and perhaps the author borrows a bit too heavily from fairy tales (for my taste) to craft this happily ever after. But those are minor flaws folks, and they didn’t take away from my pleasure in this romance.
The narration is equally good. I liked both narrators very much, and I think each does a great job bringing these principal characters and their story to life. Jimenez and/or the producers have done a terrific job finding voices that match my idea of who these people are and I was wholly absorbed in the story every time I turned it on. I loved listening to it..
Abby Jimenez is a new addition to my auto-buy list. If you haven’t tried one of her books yet either, give Part of Your World a try. It’s excellent.
Breakdown of Grade: Narration – A; Story – A
Run time: 10 hours and 5 minutes