Title: Making it Last
Author: Ruthie Knox
Rating: 5 stars
Making It Last by Ruthie Knox is the fourth book in the Camelot series, which follows the stories of the Clark siblings in the fictional town of Camelot, Ohio. It continues the story of Amber Clark and Tony Mazzara that began in book one, the novella (or short story, as my Nook tells me) How to Misbehave. For fans of the series, it’s a must-read. As the author herself points out in her note at the end, romance novels tend to end at or around the wedding, and readers are to assume that together they will have a happy ever after which readers don’t have to read to believe. This novella, though, takes place almost fourteen years after the characters’ first one ended, so we get a chance to see what comes after “the end”. Did they get their HEA? Amber and Tony are married with three boys aged ten, eight, and six. Tony’s building houses as he’d always wanted to do–in fact, he built their house–and Amber’s a stay-at-home mom whose youngest is finally in school. The story begins as the family is ready to leave Jamaica, where they’ve gone to witness the wedding of Amber’s brother Caleb to Ellen Callahan–the couple who star in book two of the series, Along Came Trouble.
Just after the beachfront ceremony, Amber’s mother and aunt found her crumpled against a palm tree trunk, crying uncontrollably. She’s feeling lost and afraid inside her own marriage, and Tony is working so hard to keep his company going that he’s almost never home. To try and give the couple a chance to “fix” their problems, Amber’s aunt gives them her room, which she’d reserved until the end of the week but then decided not to use. Amber’s family will take the boys back home to Ohio and watch them. The only problem? Tony has to work, so only Amber will stay behind in so-called paradise. Alone.
Tony, of course, will be persuaded by his slightly scary mother-in-law to come back for her, and the two will have to acknowledge and confront their problems head-on. For me, this novella was satisfying on so many levels. First, it was a very realistic look into what comes after–many years after–the “I do”s. It is heartbreaking in its honesty; for goodness’ sake, even the author’s note had me tearing up–let’s not even discuss my mindset while reading the book itself! Oh, Amber. Oh, Tony. I just wanted to reach inside my e-reader and give them both huge hugs. And then smack them upside the head. And then another hug…or ten. The story ends on an optimistic note, but there’s no quick fixes and easy answers there–again, wonderfully realistic. Amber and Tony’s kids are delightfully demonic (hooray for the absence of perfect fictional children!)–and I loved seeing them both as parents. The novella manages to fill in many of the blanks in Amber and Tony’s lives that don’t show up in the other books, which was only fair since they didn’t get their own full-length novel. And we get to see snippets of Caleb and Ellen’s wedding (a very small one, but one nonetheless) and a few gratifying glimpses of Katie and Sean, who I adored in book three, Flirting with Disaster. Seriously, how Ruthie Knox can pack so much into such a relatively short piece of text continues to amaze me.
I finished this story with a great big happy sigh.
And then cued up How to Misbehave. Because clearly, I needed to refresh my six-month memory of how awesome the beginning of Amber and Tony’s story was. Yep, it was still awesome.
In a nutshell: fans of the series need to read this to bring the Clark siblings’ stories to its finale. For those less familiar with the series, it’s still a powerful story about how to survive the best and worst that marriage brings. Five stars.
(I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)