California Thyme delves deeply into how past disappointments and hurt can shape us, but also shows the reader how to overcome the fear and take a risk again.
The most important message in California Thyme, for me at least, is that a loving family can give us a firm basis for a happy life, and when we don’t get to experience that as children, the hurt follows us long into adulthood. It takes a special sort of love to help us overcome the barriers that we set up. This is exactly what James does for Mandy in Dawes’s romance.
I think how Lola and Dana’s shadows follow Mandy everywhere is something that the novel really excels in showing. Perhaps even too much, as Mandy’s indecision towards the end gets slightly cumbersome. She is hurting and insecure, but maybe obsessing a little bit too much about her parents and the way they failed her. James brings his own share of baggage to the first meeting with Mandy at Costanoa Grill. His portrayal seems more and more convincing as we get to glimpse details from his past.
I wished for more immediacy in the descriptions of the fast paced film world. I feel there was a lot of talk about how intense and wild Hollywood was, but I got to see little of that in the descriptions of the film shootings. Even with the sabotage subplot there was no real suspense or mystery, and the discovery of the perpetrator was no real surprise to me.
While the scenes between James and Mandy were sweet and told us much about them as individual characters, I never really felt any chemistry between them. Despite the ‘should they or shouldn’t they’ atmosphere throughout their romance, I didn’t feel any tension nor any physical attraction. Perhaps they should’ve both been a bit more active in the budding relationship and not take everything so passively; I think that would have helped make them seem more involved and ‘passionate’.
This is a sweet romance that puts a lot of emphasis on family values, honesty and loyalty. It makes true love sound like something everyone can gain, if only they’re willing to take that risk.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.