Monday, June 9, 2008

From Sweeter Romantic Notions, Please Welcome Liana Laverentz

From Front Street Reviews

Romance novels often fall victim to the genre’s standard plot devices such as trauma, emotional baggage, and interfering characters. Liana Laverentz’s Thin Ice gracefully sidesteps such pitfalls. Most of the standard elements of a typical romance novel are present, but Laverentz has created a romance with depth.

Thin Ice sounds like it should be a typical romance. The main characters appear to be polar opposites. Dr. Emily Jordan hates violence. When hockey player Eric Cameron walks into her ER after a fight, she takes an instant dislike to him. Their paths cross again, and they form a tentative friendship that quickly turns to romance. The story follows the usual pattern of highs and lows, breakups and makeups, but that’s where the similarities to other novels end. Laverentz has included a dark undercurrent of domestic violence in this story.

Violence plays a huge role in the story. It shapes the characters and their actions. Emily is a survivor of domestic violence. As a result, she remains vehemently opposed to all forms of violence. She also bears emotional scars from her past. These scars cast a shadow over her burgeoning relationship with Eric. Fighting on the ice is just part of his job, but the violence unnerves Emily. She worries about Eric’s ability to maintain his temper off the ice. Emily’s lingering fears stem from her failed marriage and turbulent childhood. With the characterization of Emily, Laverentz captures the long-term repercussions of abuse.

The most impressive thing about Thin Ice is the character development. Laverentz manages to avoid stereotypes for all of her characters. Emily is much more than a battered woman trying to run from her past. In many ways she faces her past head-on through her work at the hospital and her volunteer work at the local women’s shelter. Likewise, Eric is more than just a hockey hunk. He relishes his volunteer work with local children and plays the cello in his spare time. These are atypical, but genuinely likable characters.

Even the supporting characters are well-developed. Each supporting character serves a purpose in the novel. Some characters provide insight into Emily and Eric’s past lives; others propel the story forward. The cast of supporting characters includes a violent ex-husband, an abused former mother-in-law, and a reporter. Laverentz does not waste a single character.

The plot is solid. It features more than the usual number of twists and turns for the couple. Of course, the ending is a foregone conclusion. After about fifty pages, you know this couple will make it somehow. This is one of those books where the characters’ journey is more important than the destination. Laverentz has also included a nice epilogue.

Despite the heavy presence of violence, Thin Ice is really a very enjoyable novel. It has sharp characters and more depth than other romance novels. It is a bit heavier than other romances, but it works. Such well-drawn characters would be out of place in a lighter work. Overall, it is a fun read.

Reviewed by Cynthia Murphy

Liana Laverentz
Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf and EPPIE Award Winner)
Jake's Return Available in e-book, print,
and on Kindle Ashton's Secret (coming in 2008)

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