Feathers and Stone Publishing, Australia, 2021
The Alice Equation is the first in a planned series by this West Australian based author, who was a finalist in the 2020 Valerie Parv Award – praise indeed. The story follows the many ups and owns of the relationship of Alice and Aaron as it moves from a rather one-sided long-standing crush by Alice to something much more satisfactorily equal.
Alice is a bookish lass who works in her mother’s book-store and relishes sourcing hard to find editions or suitable reads for her clients.
For years she’s held a candle for Aaron and they have been friends – she has no doubt contributed more to the friendship as a stalwart safe place to land. Aaron has led a playboyesque existence, unable to commit to any love relationship. Both characters nurture a layer of insecurity due to issues with lost or missing parents.
An opportunity for Aaron to join a high-powered law firm which espouses family values means that he has to be able to produce a solid romantic partnership and he asks Alice to pretend to be his girlfriend to fit the bill. After initially rejecting this idea, Alice is convinced that it may indeed provide benefits and a path to what she believes she wants in life. Many missteps and misunderstandings ensue and it is indeed a rocky road to true love.
However, this romance story is not solely focused on love, sex and marriage. The author interests herself in the importance of family and of self development. She explores different ways that families support and nurture each other and the ways individuals sometimes work at cross purposes to their own best interests.
Love takes many forms and decisions are made for what people believe is best at the time. In the end everyone has to work his or her own way through trauma, loss and the way to true self-belief and happiness.
Communication is also key and it is in learning to speak truthfully, to bare the soul and expose the vulnerabilities that our main characters find a way through. The support of their true friends, foils though they are in every way, is a nicely developed side to this story. Surely most of us can identify with bits of both these main and secondary characters and with elements of their experiences. Davina Stone has made these folk and their foibles relatable.
And that’s the thing about genre – it is all too easy for people to box stories into romance, crime, chick lit, horror, literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy…. when of course story telling in its best form doesn’t need to be categorised.
One of the things people are looking for in times of challenge is escape, the hope that happiness, serenity and lightness of heart are reachable. Go where you find that, I say.
Thank you to Feathers and Stone Publishing for the review copy.