Estelle Pettersen has long been a favorite author of mine, from the sizzling Lessons on Seduction to the heart-melting Elizabeth …
Now, there’s Forgiving Liam, the follow-up to Elizabeth. (To read my review of Elizabeth, click here: https://virginiawallace.com/2022/02/11/elizabeth-by-estelle-pettersen-a-review/ ) Elizabeth was the prequel to The Starling Sisters series, and Forgiving Liam continues its tradition of lush, engaging contemporary romance.
Rose Starling is the daughter of Elizabeth, the title heroine of the prequel novel. Her tale begins with a classic, coming-of-age trope: a seventeen-year-old girl feeling insecure about going to a dance. The story opens with a note of adolescent angst, quickly pulling the reader into Rose’s life.
Liam McAvoy is an old family friend of the Starlings, and he is a most complex character! He possesses endearing qualities, but he is also plagued by a few inner demons—not the least of which is feeling insecure about being part Aborigine, as the story is set in Australia.
Therein lies part of the charm of Estelle Pettersen’s writing. She’s an Australian author, but—like her contemporary, Jan Selbourne—she makes her work very, very readable to an American or European audience. The geography is clearly described, even down to how far apart the various towns in the story are; this keeps the reader from being confused about who’s going where. And, much as the biblical Gospels explain the oddities of Hebrew culture to non-Hebrew readers, Estelle Pettersen clarifies some of the quirks of Australian culture for her non-Australian readers.
While Forgiving Liam is a classic, Harlequin-style contemporary romance, it is a bit … darker than the sweet Elizabeth. The story arc involving Rose’s sister Jasmine is especially disturbing. Also, Liam’s personal issues are almost overwhelming at times, at one point even bringing his and Rose’s relationship to an end. Yes, you know that in a contemporary romance, the heroine and hero always end up together. That ain’t a spoiler; it’s just the truth. If they don’t end up together, then the book isn’t a romance; it’s some other kind of book with a romance in it. But the life-like struggles of Rose and Liam are so painful that one almost wonders if they might not end up together …
I almost left this part out of my review, but I feel like I need to say it. I am firm believer about being open and honest about what’s in a book. I would rather scare a reader away, than have them hate the story because they weren’t warned about certain content. Such an approach, I believe, treats both the reader and author with respect.
So here’s the deal: Forgiving Liam is partially set during the era that the World Health Organization dubbed ‘the pandemic.’ Also, Rose Starling’s father is a politician. So given the nature of the story, there is some overtly political content. Now, mind you, it wasn’t at all distracting from the story—to me. But I am well aware that others might be more sensitive to such things. The Western world is evenly split between between two radically opposed socio-political idealogies, which—for the sake of avoiding controversy—I will simply label ‘right’ and ‘left.’
The political content of Forgiving Liam is, by and large, solidly on the ‘left’ side of the political spectrum. That’s all I’m going to say. That statement is no reflection whatsoever on my personal opinions or beliefs, so much as it is simply a ‘heads-up’ as to what’s in the book.
That having been said, Forgiving Liam is not only a worthy follow-up to Elizabeth, but it ratchets the saga up to a whole new level. I am now very, very interested in the Starling girls and their relationships, and I am eager to see how Rose’s younger sisters, Jasmine and Daisy, fare in the future!
So yep! Forgiving Liam, by Estelle Pettersen. Check it out!!!
‘Til next time! – V
TO READ AN INTERVIEW WITH ESTELLE PETTERSEN: https://virginiawallace.com/2021/03/09/meet-estelle-pettersen/
TO STALK ESTELLE (AND ORDER HER BOOKS): https://linktr.ee/estellepettersen