Luke…The Second in a Love Story by Sandra Fitzgerald

Published: 11th October 2015Goodreads badge
Pages: 346
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

We met Luke in ‘Maggie’s Five’. This is his story.

Lemons are a curious fruit. Add enough sugar and they’re sweet, but not enough…

When I was fifteen, my best friend introduced me to his brother’s girlfriend.
She stole my ability to see anyone other than her.
She stole my ability to want anyone other than her.
She stole me.

When I was eighteen, I finally got to kiss that girl.
Two days later my family and I left Australia to live in America.

When I was nineteen, I met Sophie, and everything changed.
My perfectly constructed life, the life I’ve worked hard to create and maintain, started to crack.
Then crumble… then collapse.
I don’t want to be attracted to her… I don’t.
She’s disorganised and impulsive and messy… Shit she’s messy.
And beautiful.
God, she’s beautiful…
And mind-consuming and heart kicking and blood racing.
And gone.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

Reading a sequel that is kind of a prequel is a curious but rewarding experience. Luke is a character first introduced in Maggie’s Five and while we are given brief references to his past, these are explored in much more detail in this second book.

Fitzgerald brings you into the novel right from the start, not because it’s shocking or intense, but because from the first pages it’s fun. We are first introduced to Luke when he is in his final days of high school, filled with Muck Up days, mischievous teenage boys, attractive teenage girls, chaotic hormones, and looking forward to life after school.

The strong Australian teenage mateship is in full force as Luke interacts with his high school friends. This remains throughout, albeit to a slightly lesser extent, but the friendships are solid and include nicknames, insults, and all the things only a real friend can say to you. The relationships in Luke are some of the best parts. Seeing Luke with his new friends, old friends, family, and girlfriend are all so different, but it shows off the variety of relationships really well.

Fitzgerald mimics the voice of a teenage boy, and one in his early twenties in a way that feels realistic and honest. Luke’s thoughts and feelings about being young and away from friends, thoughts about girls, plus finding a place in a new country, are all explored honestly and believably. As a narrator Luke is honest but a bit blunt at times which takes some getting used to, especially about his wants and needs, but it doesn’t feel forced or unrealistic, nor over the top which makes it ring true. To generalise, he is a young Australian bloke and his language reflects that, but overall he is a sweetie and a nice guy with a cheeky side who you can’t help but find endearing.

Other characters are just as enjoyable. Sophie is funny and quirky and takes what she wants from life. She is passionate and bubbly, not perfect but does her best. Secondary characters like Marty and Jon balance the story from Sophie and Luke, and add dramas and stories of their own. The great thing is each character and life is intertwined, nothing really feels like a background story or a side plot. It’s messy and involved and Fitzgerald has packed so much history into these characters that little references can tell you so much about a person without having to explain it.

Being the “Second in a Love story”, there are the obvious connections to Maggie’s Five. There are scattered references to Maggie, both her teenage years and older self, this acts in a small way as Maggie’s history too, her own mini origin story seamlessly integrated without overshadowing Luke’s. More importantly, despite know where Luke ends up, it is wonderful to see where he has been and it adds extra dimensions to his character. Naturally with so much back story provided this novel makes the events in Maggie’s Five even more emotional and if you haven’t read it I insist you must. And if you have, after reading Luke I assure you a second read of Maggie’s Five makes the whole thing so much more beautiful because you know the history and relationships more deeply.

The best part about Luke is how real it feels. There are messy relationships, love at the wrong time and with the wrong people, and the best laid plans that just don’t work out. The writing is light but filled with importance and the love Luke has for Sophie is evident and the friendships he has are strong. Fitzgerald makes this love at first sight romance much more than that, there are problems and there are highlights, pushy friends and overbearing parents, everything real love and life can involve.

The second best part of this is Fitzgerald’s writing. She certainly knows how to end a story in style (!!), and she knows how to surprise you and keep you on your toes. When you think you know what will happen suddenly it doesn’t, and when you have suspicions she leaves you hanging until you become complacent then she pounces. Even for the littlest things you are never sure where the story will go, but the journey is an absolute delight to take, not to mention all the things you only realise once you have finished that make even more of an impact.

Luke is a fantastic story that is filled with romance and sex and falling in love, but there are also friendships and laughter, important self discoveries, and just the pure enjoyment of being young. Fitzgerald balances every element beautifully and seeing Luke’s timeline unfold over the years alongside friends and family can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

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Maggie’s Five (#1) by Sandra Fitzgerald

Published: 5th July 2014
Goodreads badgePublisher: Self Published
Pages: 266
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

I had a great life. Not perfect, but really good. I was happy. 
I had a husband and two children. But now I’ve got Red. 
He’s using me but, that’s okay, because I’m using him too, only for a different reason. 
He wants sex and leverage. I want numb. 
But then Luke came back. 
Don’t be stupid. Luke’s not my husband. My husband is dead, like my children. 
Luke came back and things have started changing. And I think, maybe, that I’m okay with change, but I’m worried it’s too late, that I might be too far down the Rabbit Hole. 
I’m Maggie Cartwright, and this is my story. But be warned, it may not be the happy ever after you dream of.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

It took me a couple of days to read this book and each time I had to stop or was interrupted I found myself continually thinking about it. The first book in the Five series, the story is about Maggie, a woman who tragically loses her family in a freak accident and tries her best at dealing with the aftermath The story drags you in to Maggie’s world almost right away, a world that starts off as being about family, love, and great memories and is replaced by one that is filled with pain and loss.

The way Fitzgerald has constructed Maggie is wonderful. She isn’t anything too special, she is a mum and a wife, and she is a regular person who has a tragedy in her life and must find a way of dealing with it. This makes her real and someone who was never expecting to have to deal with something like this.

I really liked how Fitzgerald depicted Maggie’s grief and how she was coping. She makes it clear that there is no overnight downfall, nor is there an overnight recovery. People do not succumb to temptations and bad situations in one week and we see this slow decline in Maggie and in how she acts and how she feels as the days pass on.

By telling the story through Maggie it allows you to see the reasons and justifications for her actions and really get a deep sense of the emotions and the hollowness she is feeling. I loved that Fitzgerald doesn’t even make it terribly complex, but the emptiness is evident and it is clearly portrayed that Maggie is at a loss of what to do and shuts herself down and becomes a shell of herself.

Fitzgerald demonstrates her grief and her decent gradually; from the initial shock and pain you can see where things start to slip away from her and it takes over her life. One of the heartbreaking things to read is when you see how each knock adds another blow to her torment and watch as she tries to convince the world she is fine, covering her pain with a smile and a laugh before retreating to the safety of solitude once more.

There is a wonderful use of subtle references to show how Maggie is not coping with her loss, how she is eating less and wasting her days doing nothing. With Maggie’s perspective we see how these things sneak up on her, she doesn’t realise she is losing weight, and doesn’t realise that she is being consumed by grief. Fitzgerald never takes the reader’s sympathy away from Maggie, even when she gets worse, because we understand it so well from her point of view and we know what she is feeling and why she does what she does. There is no third party judgement, and even other characters like Luke do not judge, he lets her go through what she needs to go through without making her recover too quickly.

As Maggie begins to lose control of her pain she turns to drinking and bad company to numb it but it still isn’t something that you judge. You pity her and hope she won’t go too far but it isn’t stereotypical behaviour either. While it may seem that way, the way Fitzgerald has written it doesn’t come across as a cliché reaction. Instead, we see the pain and torment Maggie goes through and the reasons why she goes down this path and it is entirely justified, and as it continues it’s clear how it gets out of control which, in a way, is through no fault of her own. Influenced and controlled by the company she has sought comfort in rather than her own destructive forces.

Maggie pushes away her family and convinces them she is fine, but she is also in part, abandoned by her friends as well because they believe her when she says she is fine, and Luke is the only person who really cements himself in her life to make sure she is as fine as she says she is. Luke is an interesting character, he seems like he is imposing and it seems odd he is staying with Maggie but his reasons are soon made clear and he is someone that is there for Maggie even when she believes she doesn’t need him.

What Maggie does and feels remains real in my opinion, is never becomes too extreme or unbelievable. It is clear she doesn’t know how to handle what has happened and her toxic relationship with Red is more about his actions than hers which highlights her emotional state and vulnerability, not to mention her intense need to escape from everything.

By the end of the book it feels like you have been through as much of a journey as Maggie, one that is never certain there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Fitzgerald offers a chance of hope and redemption but she makes sure that it is worked for and not freely given which is something that makes this book that much better and unforgettable.

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