Valerie Comer’s romances tackle realistic situations that can fall under the “truth is stranger than fiction” banner because some character types are rare in romance. Memories of Mist is a better example of this last than most through Myles, the main male character.
Many people see changes of opinion as weak regardless of the reason, and master conflict avoiders like Myles are why change gets a bad name. He’s not unlikeable, and I understood how his background set him up to be this way, but he acts on impulse, counter to his decisions, and then seems surprised by the repercussions. This made him hard to relate to at first. At the same time, it made him very human even as it raised stumbling blocks into mountains. It also gave him real room to grow.
The novel premise is simple, though far from easy. What if a teacher falls in love with one of his students’ parents? It certainly raises concerns about special treatment, power balance, and propriety.
This is why I enjoy these books so much. They drive you to look at a situation closely, to see where you would stand if you were involved, and to explore the possible solutions available. One of the triggers is a jealous parent who reports them to the principal in the early part of the novel, before they have even acted on their feelings. This is a rarely recognized type of bullying in a society that handles such behavior poorly.
In a very real way, the basis for all the conflicts is created by a principal, teacher, and parent allowing another parent to manipulate them by using gossip and supposition to undermine a budding connection. It’s also a reminder that an active community is not always a good thing, nor can the community be trusted to balance of gossip and truth every time.
The problems of a small school certainly inflated the issues, but this was a case of the appearance of impropriety driving actions rather than the reality. It’s not a great lesson for the students, nor did it make the curiosity of an earning relationship manageable when they’re told to wait until the end of the school year. Basically, the principal told her friend and a new teacher it would be better to sneak around, lie to Adriana’s children, and deceive the whole, close-knit community than model a healthy relationship in complicated circumstances. All this to appease a jealous mother who was pushing herself at the teacher.
Is there any wonder why things blew up? How they collapsed under the weight of deception, though, pulled in Adriana’s fear of losing someone again and Myles’ history with broken families along with other aspects of each of their characters. I trust the author to provide interesting lessons and thinking points. This novel is no different as Myles and Adriana have to fight instincts of self-preservation and pride, and learn to follow their hearts before they can accept this gift of love. Theirs is not an easy road, and I shed a few tears here and there as well as some chuckles, but it’s certainly a compelling one.
I’m also a big fan of found-family novels. In romance, this usually means one or both main characters have kids. Adriana, a firefighter’s widow, not only has two kids, but one of them is a crisis waiting to happen. Violet is slow to adapt and quick to turn every conflict into a meltdown. She left the terrible twos behind years ago, but still acts that way, and everyone tiptoes around her to a degree. This might be because her last five years have been spent in the shadow of her mother’s grief for a father she barely remembers, but it’s still not healthy.
This situation creates a strong theme about how to handle a problem child without letting the child gain unreasonable control. The difficulties, and solutions, came across as both realistic and hard, something I consider a strength. Violet also adds another complication to the secret relationship because her reactions cannot be predicted easily.
I’ve mentioned community already in a negative light, but this author shows how community members support each other as much or more than the downsides. In Memories of Mist you have pushy–but wise–friends, help from odd quarters, and things I can’t mention because they come too late. The questions of faith were subtle because both Myles and Adriana believed themselves strong in faith, but they had to figure out they’d been leaning more on their own will than God’s in reflection. Therefore, the faith questions could not be overt and yet faith is an ever-present, underlying theme throughout the story.
Local food culture raises its hand, too, their first encounter not a pleasant one. Myles, fully ignorant of the local food movement, discovers he’s expected to introduce second graders to where food comes from as part of a community-supported project to build the school a greenhouse. Since Adriana is a leading force in the local food movement, she’s quick to make it clear he has no option. She’s also willing to educate him when he needs help first against his will and through his stomach then through advice. I’d be happy to sit at those tables.
Memories of Mist is a romance novel that offers a lot to chew on. It maintains the themes of the series–community, faith, and food–while bringing in new conflicts and characters to build on the ones I have come to know and love. It speaks well that I recognized most of the repeat characters even with some time lapsing since I read the previous novel in this series. Myles might not be your typical hero, but Adriana is certainly not a damsel in distress either. I enjoyed coming to know complex characters who may not have always shown themselves in the best light, but they learned from their mistakes and grew in faith, love, and happiness.