Hawkins’ (Dance for a Dead Princess, 2013) tale of addictive love is a roller coaster of emotion.
Jumping between the past and present, Hawkins spins the story of Karen Moon and her ill-advised love, Stan Benedict. Their relationship begins in 1994. Karen is a talented attorney who works all the time, though she hates her job at a top law firm in San Diego. Stan is a jazz musician who manages to catch Karen’s eye, distract her from work, and inadvertently win her heart. Stan repeatedly warns Karen he’s bad for her, a supposition his actions only support. Karen—who now, based on Stan’s recommendation, once again goes by Carrie Moon—is convinced her love can change him, and she doggedly pursues Stan in an attempt to prove he is worthy of love. Ultimately, their relationship ends in tragedy, and Stan leaves her in horrific fashion. More than a decade later, Carrie is now the Honorable Judge Karen Morgan. Though she’s married to a successful trial attorney and surrounded by tangible signs of their wealth and success, she is dreadfully unhappy. Her marriage resembles a corporate merger, her job fails to satisfy her, she still misses music, and she can’t seem to get over Stan. When Stan suddenly reappears in her life, Karen finds herself reliving their past and considering a future together. Hawkins presents a study of love’s all-consuming power, both good and bad. While it opens Carrie up to new possibilities, it often blinds her to the true nature of Stan’s personality. Hawkins does an admirable job painting Stan as a likable jerk. He’s the selfish liar, philanderer, and gambler you want to succeed. Alternately, Karen is beautiful, smart, driven, and incredibly understanding; the couple is such a stark contrast that it tests the bounds of believability to imagine them together. Hawkins’ intriguing descriptions of the emotion underlying Stan’s music provide a window into his troubled soul. Meanwhile, Karen’s own journey of self-discovery is equally if not more compelling. The transition from Carrie to Karen (and perhaps back again) is relatable and honest.
Troubled romance that knows the messiness of real life.