Monday, 20 May 2013

Review of STAGES OF GRACE by Carey Heywood

Author: Carey Heywood
Publication Date: April 23rd 2013
Source: e-copy received from author for review purposes

"Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance...

When facing death a mourning period is to be expected. But what if it's not a person but a relationship that dies? Grace and her boyfriend Jon have been together for three years. They live together and have shared many beautiful memories. Those memories are what keep Grace from admitting Jon has changed and is no longer the man she fell in love with.

Afraid of being alone and holding on to something that no longer exists Grace is a shadow of her former self. Her daily objective is to hide her pain from the world. Then, an unexpected letter sets off a whirlwind of potential life changes. In life sometimes the hardest thing to do is let go"

*I Hereby Award This Book 5 Wings!*

When Carey Heywood said she was looking for reviewers, I jumped at the chance. I have never read anything by her before but she came highly recommended by a friend. So it was a chance for me to meet a new author and be introduced to her world. I can tell you now, I am so very happy that I did. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have known what a fabulous author she was and what she would bring to my life in the form of Stages of Grace. 

This book made such an impact on me for a couple of reasons, one because it's written so beautifully but it also resonates with me on a deeper level because I suffered similarly to Grace. So much so it could have been called "Stages of Keren" instead. 

Denial... Anger... Bargaining... Depression... and finally Acceptance.
These stages of grief are more prominently associated with death. But what happens when it's the death of a relationship not an actual person?

At first, Grace and Jon were blissfully happy. She'd been out on a blind date with someone and had seen Jon across the bowling alley - he was gorgeous, kind, funny... all the things you'd want in a boyfriend. They were always stealing kisses and sharing happy moments. That was until they'd been together for 3 years and Jon wasn't the easygoing man she had come to know and love. He became distant and cold, snapping at her for the slightest thing. 
They used to have a morning routine of sharing a coffee and then seeing each other off to work, then Jon lost his job. For a short time, he kept up with the routine, seeing Grace off to her job as a doctor's receptionist but then one day he just stopped. 
Every little thing Grace did seemed to annoy him. She was permanently walking on eggshells. She got to the point where she would put her clothes for the following morning in the bathroom the night before because getting dressed in their bedroom had Jon shouting at her for making too much noise. 
This resonated within me because I once had a partner who was much the same, only he hit me too. Fortunately for Grace, Jon never physically hurt her, but the mental abuse was just as bad as physical abuse. 

Grace would go to work, and that would be the only reprieve she got because she worked with her friend Nikita. But when she got home on a night, she never knew what she'd be walking into. 

There were no more tender moments or romantic gestures. Jon would wait until Grace went to bed and then he'd have the cheek to take her car out (because he now couldn't afford the upkeep of his own car) and he'd stay out until all hours doing lord only knows what. If Grace had asked him what he was up to, he would have gone ballistic. So she never asked. 

Grace was an orphan, her parents having died recently. Jon had seen her through those times with a tissue for her tears and a shoulder to cry on. So what had happened to the old Jon? Where had the sensitive guy she'd fallen in love with disappeared to? What could she do to bring him back? Was it her fault?

One day, an unexpected letter has Grace shocked. She has a grandmother who is alive and living in Florida. Why hadn't her mother told her this when she was alive? She had always believed her mother when she said that her grandmother was dead. But here, now, she was reading a letter that confirmed this to be a lie.

Upon visiting her grandmother Kate in Florida, Grace has time to reflect on what her life is like. She sees it through fresh eyes. Of course, it helps that her grandmother's next door neighbour Ryan is hot. Not that I condone cheating to any degree, but with what she had suffered, I was silently encouraging her to at least kiss Ryan. 

Kate asking her to stay with her in Florida makes Grace reassess her life. Is she happy? Does she love Jon anymore?  Is there anything keeping her in Ohio? She could get a job in Florida. She could live with Kate. She could do anything with her life. But could she leave Jon or would she stay and try to make the relationship work?

Well these are questions you must endeavour to find out the answers to for yourself. 

This book is an emotionally fraught journey for sure. The first stage, Denial, I was right there with her. I kept leaving the partner that beat me but I kept returning. He had a way of emotionally blackmailing me into staying, promising he'd never hit me again. I kept believing he could change. Lesson to be learned from that? A leopard never changes it's spots.
The next stage, Anger. I could feel this emotion probably just as strongly as Grace. How could Jon turn from someone so loving to someone who shouted and screamed at her for the slightest of things? She felt the anger rising inside her because all the times she thought she was in the wrong, she wasn't. There was nothing wrong with the way Grace acted. It was Jon who was in the wrong and how dare he assume to take it out on her. 
Then there was Bargaining. Well, Carey Heywood knows how to play with my emotions and she had me here too. 
I was all too quickly thrown into Depression and so I totally felt Grace's plight. I was hurt that he mentally and physically bullied me into staying by his side. Calling me whenever he was on a break at work. Not letting me have a job because he was jealous that I might find someone else. Well in the end, I did find a job and I did find someone else. Someone like Ryan. Someone who treated me as an equal. As a person to loved, desired, cherished. not beaten and destroyed. It was in this stage that I must admit, I cheated. Looking back on it, it wasn't the right thing to do... BUT... he had beaten all the love out of me and I craved someone to put the pieces of me back together. 
Lastly, we have Acceptance. For Grace, it was acceptance that it was time to make a change in her life. She had to stand up and be counted as an equal. She had to accept that it wasn't her fault that Jon had taken his problems out on her. He tried making her think that it was her fault for rubbing it in that she had a job and he only got "an allowance" like a child. Well she finally succeeded in standing up and making herself heard. 
Acceptance for me was realising that it was not okay for [bleep] to beat me or mentally abuse me. I finally took that step to leave him, permanently! 

So I felt Grace's every moment, cowering in case anything she did set Jon off. But I also felt every moment when her smile started to shine through. The moments she felt happiness being with her grandmother or being around Ryan. 

Even if you've never been through a similar situation, I truly believe that you will have a hard job keeping yourself from empathising with Grace. She is such a beautiful character, both inside and out. She craves the love she used to have, but with the finality of the death of her relationship, a butterfly emerges from the cocoon. A stronger woman who can finally get what she wants from her life.

The writing style of Carey Heywood sucked me in. She pulled at my heartstrings at every turn. A tumultuous journey from beginning to end, Stages of Grace shoots right toward the top of my Best Books of 2013 list. 
I am now looking to get all of the books Carey has written and I believe she is writing a sequel to SoG, I truly hope she does. 
There aren't enough words to describe this story without totally ruining your own first-hand experience of it. All I can tell you is that you won't be sorry you bought this book and spent a wonderful few hours lost within the pages. I smiled when Grace smiled, a laughed when she laughed, and I even cried a couple of times. People who know me know that I can't resist a book that makes me feel this much emotion.

If my review gets even just one person to read this book, then I will have done my job.

If you are in a similar situation to Grace, it may even help you take stock of your own life and get out before getting too hurt.

Thank you Carey for providing the e-copy of SoG for review. Thank you for hitting every emotion on the head. But thank you most of all for creating Ryan for me to swoon over.
Ryan... how I long for a second book... maybe from his POV?... A girl can dream!

Thank you everyone who came to read my review today. I hope I have convinced some of you to purchase this book. Hope to see you all again here soon!

To purchase your copy of SoG, here are some links:

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