If you have enjoyed Penelope Janu’s earlier novels, then “Shelter From the Storm” will definitely appeal. It revisits a familiar setting, themes that Janu has explored before, and characters from previous novels. Despite that, this isn’t repetitive and will be enjoyed by fans.
Patience Cartwright joined the navy in part to escape her hometown, and in part to indulge her love of the water. She’s had a reasonably successful career but regularly clashes with senior officers. After the latest conflict, she’s forced to accept a secondment on land as a way of working her way back to the kind of work she wants to be doing.
She’s not comfortable with the secondment. She’ll be working with an environmental team near the town where she grew up. She’s not happy that she’s been asked to quietly investigate certain things about the team. She doesn’t want to revisit the area where she grew up unhappily. Nor is she thrilled that one of the members of the team is Hugo Halstead, who broke her heart when she was a teenager.
But Patience has little choice. A life-threatening illness forces her to spend still more time where she grew up, and with Hugo and his family. Their complicated feelings for each other are impossible to ignore, and Patience becomes aware of the community in a way she never has before. However, Patience has a good deal of past trauma to work through before she can make a decision about the future.
The novel is set in and around Horseshoe Hill, a fictional town that has been featured in many of Janu’s novels. The setting is vivid and lovingly drawn. New readers will have no trouble picturing it; past readers will likely find their perception of it deepened.
Patience is a character mentioned in other novels, including “Clouds on the Horizon”. Hugo appears briefly in “Starting from Scratch”. Janu uses this latest novel as a subtle way to give readers updates on many characters they’ve met in earlier novels. Many readers will appreciate knowing what happened to them after they achieved their “happy ever after”, and will feel that this too deepens the background of this novel.
The cross-overs are obvious to continuing readers, but subtle enough not to cause any problems for new readers. Each of Janu’s novels works perfectly well as a stand-alone.
There are strong themes that run through Janu’s work. One is that her books feature characters who are passionate about the environment, often working in areas focused on preserving and improving the environment. Janu writes these aspects of the characters and novels with passion and commitment, and it’s easy to engage with this theme.
Another common theme is women who’ve experienced deep trauma in their childhood or young adulthood, and the need to overcome that. Janu depicts the trauma sensitively and realistically. However, I don’t always find her depiction of the recovery process to be convincing. Possibly that can be attributed to the length limitations of a romance novel.
Other aspects of the novel work well – the familiarity with which characters talk to each other is particularly notable. Janu avoids having her characters talk like soap opera characters who have to recap everything for viewers all the time. Instead, they assume each other knows and remembers things, while the narrative provides any prompts needed for readers.
Overall, this is a pleasant romance that will be a hit with Janu’s fans. I didn’t feel it was her strongest novel, so new readers may prefer to start with one of the earlier ones. Despite the heavy themes, this is a fairly light read written in an easy reading style.
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I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .