Where Love Leads, by Erin McKenzie
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Sarah O’Shaughnessy, a high school counselor, is very good at taking care of others. What she hasn’t mastered is how to take better care of herself. Four years after the death of her wife, Sarah’s life has settled into a safe, solitary rut. That is, until the arrival of a new student and her mom.
Lauren Emerson and her teen daughter, Kat, move back to Lauren’s hometown in Central New York, fleeing her unsupportive husband and Kat’s traumatic bullying experience. Lauren is determined to create a better life for them both. She soon discovers that the compassionate Ms. O’Shaughnessy is someone in whom she can confide.
The newly forged friendship between Sarah and Lauren provides support and encouragement, yet neither is prepared for the undeniable attraction that ignites between them. When the future looks like nothing they had planned, will they find the courage to go where love leads?
Friends to Lovers
Mentions of bullying, cutting, anxiety, rape, abuse,
drugs, drinking, suicide, death
I wrote a tweet after finishing this book, saying “My notes for my latest book review include “yes,” “YAAAAAY,” And “saaame.””
I could leave it there, but I won’t.
This book. Oh man. So many feelings. I read most of it on a long bus ride, where I felt everything from heartbreak to smitten to, well, hot and bothered. Not gonna lie. Oops!
In June’s Top of the Stack post, I wrote that I was hopeful for this book because there aren’t many out there like it – about older women finding love. I’m happy to say my feelings were right. I loved it.
We learn a little bit about the main characters, Sarah and Lauren, before their paths cross in a unique way – at Lauren’s daughter Kat’s high school – where they both used to go. Sarah is her counselor, who introduces her to a punky and optimistic girl Bridget. The two become fast friends.
Meanwhile, Sarah finds herself trying to deny her growing feelings for Lauren. Not only does she find it in bad taste because of her relationship with Kat, but she’s still dealing with the death of her wife. Not many books deal with something like this, so it was nice to see in a sad way.
We also learn why Lauren and Kat moved back to Lauren’s hometown in New York, and it broke my heart. Lauren’s parents died soon after she graduated high school, so she moved to Alabama with her high school sweetheart, Trent. They married after she got pregnant with Kat, but things got worse when he began to emotionally abuse the two. After Trent wrongly accuses Kat of starting a controversy to impact some athletes, Lauren decides she’s had enough.
Later on, after a panic attack, we learn Kat was raped. It was tough but I loved her scenes about it with Bridget (because surprise! They get together!). Kat eventually gets the strength to say the word rape (shoutout to therapy!). “I need to talk about it so you’ll know,” she tells Bridget. “Nothing about that experience comes to mind when I’m with you. Everything about you makes me feel safe, happy, and loved. … Together we have to let it go, you know?” As a survivor of sexual assault myself, with a partner who makes me equally as happy, those scenes hit home.
But let’s get to my favorite thing about the book – all of the flipping cuteness. At times it seemed like Lauren and Kat were living the same life; both were trying to hide their feelings for their eventual partners but eventually giving them some of the overabundance of love they have. There are also some sex scenes in the book that were very descriptive… in a good way. 😉
I do have some small issues with the book. I wish it delved more into some of the backstories, including Kat’s love of art and what happened to her and Bridget. However, let’s just say the end of the book is worth it.
I hope Erin McKenzie keeps writing. If it’s anything like this important but adorable debut novel, she’ll go places.
Erin McKenzie has been a lover of words since she first learned her ABCs, sparking a lifelong passion for reading, writing, and of course, word games! She is a professional school counselor, mom to her three young children, partner to her wife of fifteen years, chief dishwasher and laundry folder, soccer mom and homework checker. She and her family live in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and share their home with several furry friends.
Where Love Leads, Erin’s debut novel, has been a long-time labor of love. She hopes you enjoy the story!
You can purchase Where Love Leads from:
Bold Strokes Books
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.