Review: The Sweethearts' Knitting Club by Lori Wilde

I am not a fan of what I like to describe as 'cozy romances.' Books that idealize small town life and are border-line family sagas. They are just a little too sugary for my taste. I happen to hail from (and live in) a small town. There is nothing idyllic about them. Looking at the cover of Lori Wilde's newest book, I almost skipped picking it up because the title and cover art so clearly evoked exactly that type of romance. I'm glad I was familiar enough with Wilde's style to give it a chance--despite the obvious attempts by the marketing department to portray this book as one of those sticky sweet books, this is not part of that subgenre.

The Sweethearts' Knitting Club
is indeed a story set in a small town. But that's where the resemblance to those other books ends.

The main character. Flynn, was admittedly a little spineless for my taste. I had to force myself to read the first part of the novel because she annoyed me so badly that I kept putting it down so I wouldn't pitch it at a wall. She got better, and less confused, as the story went on and finally owned up to some serious character flaws. And, given the sacrifices she's made for her family, she's allowed a little leeway.

The hero in the story, aptly named Jesse, epitomizes the James Dean rebel stereotype. Leather jackets, motorcycles, an ex-con. All of that blends to create a near-caricature of the
quintessential bad boy. It's saved from being only that by using that outward, initial impression to conceal the more complex character underneath. A man wrongly accused of a crime. A man framed by someone who is now the chief law enforcement officer of the town in which they live. A man who, despite everything, still loves the girl that (arguably) cost him a decade of his life.

The final character in the "love triangle" is the town's sheriff, Beau. He's been dating our heroine for most of the 10 years Jesse has been imprisoned. As the story progresses, he morphs from an overly correct person to someone with some clear psychological issues. And despite all that happens throughout the course of the novel, he retained my sympathy and pity. 

In addition to very complex characters, I found myself stopping to pause and reread a line here or there simply because the prose was that well done. Little pearls of writing that were so excellent that they caused me to pause and savor them. Not to mention Wilde's unique writing style that skillfully blends humor and wit in both the descriptions and the dialogue. I found myself smiling on just about every other page because a turn of phrase or a snippet of dialogue appealed to my quirky sense of humor. And that humor keeps the book from sinking into melodrama.

Wilde's little town of Twilight came alive for me in this book. I could see it clearly. And the characters--each and every one of them--were well crafted, believable, and emotionally genuine. This is one powerful and moving book.

My grade: A

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