Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: The Devoted

Summary: From wartime Italy to the American West, Jonathan Hull takes readers on a heartrending passage through the lives of three families torn by history and bound by an unshakeable -- and at times forbidden -- devotion.

Ryan Brooks never forgot the powerful hands that pulled him from the wreckage of his parents' station wagon that summer in 1960 when he was ten and his childhood came to a fiery end during a family vacation. Thirty years later, Ryan returns to Wyoming to thank the dying rancher for saving the life he is still trying to be worthy of. The chilling sight of Mike O'Donnell's deeply scarred hands is just the beginning of Ryan's journey as he soon finds himself caught between the rancher's captivating -- and married -- daughter, Shannon, and his mysterious Italian wife, Alessandra.

When Mike's deathbed confession sets Ryan on a search for the truth of what really happened the day his parents died, he unearths a long-buried secret that leads to a mountain cave in Northern Italy and Alessandra's dangerous love affair with a haunted young German soldier. As past and present collide in an intricately woven story of love and redemption across generations and continents, Ryan discovers that the answers he seeks are inscribed deep in the hearts of those whose lives -- and courage -- he must measure against his own. -- Dancing Muse Press

If I'm being entirely honest, there were a couple of reasons that I normally wouldn't have picked up THE DEVOTED: A LOVE STORY by Jonathan Hull. First is that the title calls it a "love story," and I'm not exactly the biggest fan of romance books. Another major reason is that the book is published through the author's own imprint, and I'm always a little leery of self-published books. However, I was assured that this book was good -- really good and that I should give it a try.

I have to say that I'm very glad I took a chance on THE DEVOTED. I really liked this book and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing. I probably shouldn't say "surprised" because Mr. Hull is a former Time Magazine bureau chief and has had a book published through traditional channels in the past. He actually created his own press to re-release his novel LOSING JULIA and to publish his new one. It was evident to me very early on that Mr. Hull is a talented storyteller. I should also add that I guess THE DEVOTED is a love story of sorts, but not what I normally think of when I hear a book called a love story!

THE DEVOTED tells the story of Ryan, a man who is forever troubled by his past. When Ryan was a young boy, he and his parents were in a horrific car wreck. His parents perished, but Ryan was saved by Mike O'Donnell, a rancher who just happened to be nearby when the accident occurred. Throughout the years, Ryan loosely kept in touch with Mike; however, he decided that he needs to visit Mike and thank him before Mike dies.

While visiting Mike, Ryan finds himself intrigued by Mike's daughter Shannon and his Italian wife Alessandra. He is romantically drawn to Shannon despite knowing that she married to another man, and he also finds himself spending much time with Alessandra and learning about her past. However, it's Mike's deathbed confession that really give Ryan a great deal to think about. As he tries to make sense of the accident and Mike's role in it, he begins to uncover some secrets that threaten to tear apart everyone's lives.

I enjoyed THE DEVOTED and it really did have something for everyone. There was lots of drama and some brutal war stories. There were even some aspects of a love story in this novel (but they were very well done.) In addition, there was almost a mystery/suspense angle to the novel, not in the way you traditionally think of a mystery/suspense book, but more like I knew the characters were living with secrets and, as a reader, I couldn't wait to find out what they were. And I have to say, that some were pretty darn shocking and I didn't see them coming at all!

I was definitely impressed with Mr. Hull's writing, especially his character development. I felt as if Ryan were a very honest character, and I was incredibly interested in figuring out Mike. However, it was Alessandra's story that really captured my attention. I loved how the author used flashbacks to tell Alessandra's story about her life in Italy during the war, and I felt as if his portrayal of the war was very realistic. As I learned more about Alessandra, my opinion of her changed drastically; and I think Mr. Hull did a fantastic job of exploring her character and her motivations.

THE DEVOTED would make an excellent book club discussion choice. The characters are fascinating and their actions are certainly worthy of discussion. In addition, the book delves into some universal themes about love, loss, and family. In addition, the topics of honestly, secrets, forgiveness, and redemption are certainly ripe for discussion. I wasn't able to find a formal reader's guide, but don't let that deter you from considering this book for your next meeting. Trust me when I say there are loads of things to discuss.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed THE DEVOTED and recommend it to fans of literary fiction and especially family sagas.

Thanks to for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I think there's a difference between a love story and a romance and I've found that I do enjoy love stories. Glad to see this is a good one.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree with Kathy about the difference!

Beth F said...

What Kathy said! And good to know that the writing was good -- I too am hesitant to read self-published books.

Serena said...

Sounds like a book that really won you over. There are differences between romance and love story books, like Kathy noted. I love well written love stories, but don't love romances.

Beth Hoffman said...

This one sounds good to me!

I totally agree with the others - I don't like romance at all, but a well written love story can add nice dimension to a book.

Sandy Nawrot said...

The thing about GOOD love stories is that they aren't always about sex scenes and high drama, and not even necessarily about romantic love. I think it is great that you reviewed this because I know a lot of us wouldn't touch a self-published book otherwise.