When a romance author is recced by Ros Clarke, I seek her out. That’s how I came to new-to-me-inspirational-romance-author Kara Isaac’s One Thing I Know. It was like no inspirational romance I’d read. Hero and heroine, Lucas Grant and Rachel Somers, come with heavy baggage; how their paths cross and they fall in love is a fraught journey. Looking back, they’ve got things to work out, looking forward sometimes seems impossible. That’s the genre’s beauty: all things are possible even when they seem highly improbable.
Rachel has a most unusual profession. She ghostwrites her aunt’s, Dr. Donna Summerville’s, advice-to-the-lovelorn books. Together, they make a lot of money, money that was once most necessary to Donna (when her husband left her to bring up their sons) and now is necessary to Rachel because she pays for her father’s care in a chronic-care facility. Though to all appearances Rachel and Donna are deceiving their vulnerable audience, their actions are understandable, even sympathetic, to the reader.
Lucas Grant came into their lives when “Dr. Donna” occasionally joined his late-night sports call-in show to dispense advice. When Donna’s publisher and Lucas’s producer propose that their mutual interest take the form of a “Feelings and Football Tour”, Rachel and Lucas meet, Rachel acting as Donna’s PA (while she spends hotel-room nights struggling with writer’s block to produce “Donna’s” final book).
Lucas and Rachel are diffident, circumspect, and cautious with their attention and affection. They’re serious people who take their love for their families and responsibilities as the centre of their lives. But their childhoods were difficult: their parents were absent, negligent, abandoned them, or were abusive. These details are not graphic, nor do they define them. Lucas and Rachel aren’t wallowers in misery, neither are they of the plucky, buck-up variety. I would have long-deserted them if they were.
Rachel wants to do right by everyone: her aunt, father, even though he doesn’t deserve loyalty and care, her readers. Her role as ghostwriter and assistant makes her fade into the background. Her constant worry about paying for her father’s care (and the guilt she carries about an incident that led him there) have left her without joy or life of her own. Until Lucas. Lucas is funny, affectionate, serious, and carries the same sense of love and care for his family. He’s close to his brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, who’s a hoot btw, Joey. He also carries high hopes for his show and half his wish for syndication is to help his brother and sister-in-law.
Two wonderful people meet and almost-woo. Lucas and Rachel go “on the road” together. Their slow-burn attraction is made of occasional touches, warm smiles, eyes only for the other, whispers of bodily awareness, and flashes of fierce physical need to experience physical closeness, intimacy, and tenderness. With characters in their 30s, this adds a lovely poignancy. But there is pain too, of their past, of the caution that makes them hesitant to get to know another person. There are also secrets that can and will explode. Rachel’s “double-life” to a man who makes deception his no-fly-relationship-zone is bound to bring up emotional and judgemental walls. A woman who’s lost confidence, who’s bowed down by obligation and a deep sense of not living an authentic life is bound to find a man’s anger and judgement insurmountable.
Lucas and Rachel arrive at each other and God with tiny, soft steps of possibility. What I loved about them is their journey to trust, especially for Rachel to trust she can love and deserves love in return. And for Lucas to learn to forgive and trust the other. Their conversion is a “still, small voice”, not a road to Damascus lightning bolt. Their HEA is confession and avowal. It reduced me to tears with its beauty and insight.
A few things about One Thing I Know jarred, struck wrong notes. When Lucas and Rachel are in LA, they attend parties and events. The women come onto Lucas and his judgement of them smacked too much of slut-shaming. At least to me. Lucas also has a possible syndication deal with a Hollywood producer, Brad Shipman, whose portrayal left me uncomfortable, not absolutely sure why, but I don’t want to ignore my spidey-sense.
What I couldn’t resist was Isaac’s writing, her sparkles of humour, her turn for gentle, droll banter, her characters’ humility, and her thematic love for the human potential in how the truth sets you free, the necessity for authenticity before love can flourish. I leave you with a few snippets of why I loved the writing: “Lucas looked down to see Brad ogling. He wanted to rip his eyes out and use them to play marbles … Who was this girl who scattered his senses like dandelion tufts on the wind? … his eyes. They crinkled at the corners, like messy sheets on an unmade bed … It was more nuts than a Snickers bar.” Kara Isaac’s One Thing I Know is better than a Snickers bar. It’s Lindt, sea salt for the tears, caramel for the sweetness of an HEA hard-earned, hard-won, well-deserved, most joyous. With Miss Austen, we say Isaac’s One Thing I Know is evidence of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Kara Isaac’s One Thing I Know is published by Howard Books. It was released on February 19th and may be found at your preferred vendors. I received an e-galley from Howard Books, via Netgalley.