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Vida is 19, has a heart condition, and has spent her whole life waiting to die.  When she receives a transplanted heart, she is given a second chance at life.  But how does someone who has never really lived know how to start?  And why does she think she can remember things which she has never experienced?

Richard’s life falls apart when his wife is killed in a road accident.  He donates her heart, and feels compelled to meet the young recipient.  However, the first time he meets Vida, she tells him that she loves him.  He dismisses her as a silly young girl – but could she possibly be right?  Could it be that her new heart remembers it’s former life?

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  On the plus side, I thought the writing flowed well, and the story moved along quickly, but still had plenty of time to focus on each character.  It was narrated alternately by Vida and Richard, so we got to see both points of view, and to see events from both sides, as it were.  The premise of the story is strongly connected to the possibility of cellular memory – enabling organ recipients to retain the memories of the donors.  I’m not at all sure that I believe in this, but it was not hard to suspend my disbelief for the duration of the book.

There were a small number of other characters – Vida’s mother Abigail, Richard’s mother-in-law Myra, Victor – a friend of Vida, and her best friend Esther.  My favourite character was Esther – a 90 something women who had survived life in a concentration camp in Germany before coming to live in San Francisco, and who was perhaps the only person in Vida’s life who knew what it was like to expect death at every turn.

On the negative side, I found Vida to be an intensely irritating character, especially at first.  While I could understand that due to her mother’s over-protectiveness, she had never really had a chance to mix a lot with other people, and was therefore perhaps lacking in some social skills, I felt that her attitude and some of her actions towards Richard were beyond stupid and insensitive.  He actually came across as very patient under the circumstances.

I also really disliked the ending, especially in regard to Richard’s actions.  I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but I thought it was inappropriate and not in keeping with the way the story had played out prior to that.

Overall, while this book was not terrible, it left me feeling ultimately a bit disappointed.  It had it’s good points, but an irritating main character and an ending which took me by surprise (and not in a good way) made it feel like a bit of a let down.

(I’d like to thank Transworld Publishers for sending me this book to review.  Transworld Publishers website can be found here.  Catherine Ryan Hyde’s website can be found here.)

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As a child in California,  Jack Renoir witnessed the brutal murder of his uncle, and ever since then, he has cut himself off from emotion, refusing to allow himself to get close to anybody.  He gets a job in security clearance, which means that he has to unearth the secrets that people hope to keep buried.  But thirty years later, he meets Kate Palmer, an English businesswoman, and can’t help falling in love with her.  Jack moves to England to start a new life with Kate, and put his past business behind him…but it’s not long before little things start to raise doubts about Kate, and despite his intentions, Jack can’t help trying to discover exactly what it is going on…

This book has two storylines;  Jack’s life with his uncle Will and Will’s girlfriend Maris, and the events which led to Will’s murder; and Jack’s life with Kate and his suspicions about what she is not telling him.  The story switches between California and Belfield (Kate’s family estate in England) and also between the present day, and thirty years before.  I enjoyed the parts set in California very much.  I do believe that in fact, the story of Jack’s childhood and his subsequent approach to relationships, would have made an interesting novel in itself, without the storyline of his relationship with Kate. I do believe that the book would have been much better if it had been about 50 pages shorter, and had concentrated more on the events of Jack’s childhood (and their subsequent effects) than on his current life and relationship.

The storyline about Jack’s relationship with Kate was less interesting; the secret which Kate was obviously hiding from Jack was not as interesting as it should have been, and I ended up not really caring how that particular aspect of the story turned out.  I did not think Kate was a particularly likeable character, and found it hard to care about her or her family.

However, the book was interesting enough to hold my attention. I am not sure whether it was supposed to be a romance, or a mystery, and I think the mystery aspect worked better.  Renoir was a likeable character, and certainly easy enough for the reader to like.  I would certainly be interested in reading further books by this author.

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