REVIEW: The Enemy of Love is Us
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
A Review of Flickering Heart by Tricia LaRochelle
Like all good romance stories, Tricia LaRochelle's debut novel pits the happiness of the lovers against an array of obstacles. Our real-life romances must overcome troubles, of course, but in romance fiction the stakes are higher for dramatic effect. Flickering Heart throws a solid handful of standard-issue hand grenades at the sweethearts, like jealous rivals, bumbling if well-meaning friends and outright criminals, but the real villain that threatens the bond between Sara Browne and Scott Williams is the hardest to beat: their own past pain.
Newly arrived at college, Sara Browne is younger in experience and maturity than her eighteen years. At the tender age of twelve, she survived a car crash that killed her parents and the trauma led her to hide away from the world and relationships as best she could manage. She spent six years in boarding school and lived her adolescence in a self-enforced exile: keeping to herself, avoiding friendships and extra-curricular activities, unable to rid herself of the effects of trauma on her sensitive soul.
"When your world crumbles into nothingness" she muses, "the only family you’ve ever known gone forever, how do you rebuild? When you construct walls so high around your heart that no one can get in, how do you relate to people again?"
Arriving for her first year at Virginia's Commonwealth University, she vows to open herself to life, love, and adventure. When she meets Scott Williams, a blond Adonis and worldly upperclassman, she gets a healthy dose of all three. The two are drawn together as magnetically as any storybook princess and prince. From the beginning however, things conspire to keep them apart. Scott has a past that Sara does not, and old girlfriends play their mean girl roles well. Every slight possibility for Scott's infidelity catches Sara's attention like a smoking gun, and so, for chapter after chapter, she never really lets him into her heart. Likewise, Scott is harboring demons of his own that lead him to quick anger and awkward evasion, and it is their unresolved character flaws that threaten their happiness, much more than any of the external obstacles.
This theme goes more deeply into the nature of trauma on our ability to see clearly and act rightly. As such it marks this novel as something more than a simple love story.
And so, Flickering Heart is a romance novel that uses the standard tropes of the genre to touch on a more intimate aspect of love - our tendency toward self-sabotage. Sara's pain leads her to not trust Scott, and Scott's pain leads him to behave as if he is untrustworthy. They struggle against the world to realize their passion, but they triumph over the most difficult barrier to love: their own unresolved trauma. Tricia LaRochelle has established an excellent beginning to this series, which will certainly continue to delve into these deeper mysteries of our hearts and what it takes to heal them.
The worst enemy of love is us. Likewise, we can be love's strongest ally.
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