Monday, November 14, 2016

The Life She Wants - Review + Q and A with Robyn Carr

The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr (Amazon Link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description: In the aftermath of her financier husband's suicide, Emma Shay Compton's dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients' life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband's crimes. She is left with nothing.
Only one friend stands by her, a friend she's known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn't easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she'd rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan.

Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can't escape her husband's reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she'd ever ask for help—her former best friend. It's an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they've made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I loved the idea of the plot and Emma's character.  We watched a documentary on Bernie Madoff not too long ago and I was fascinated by what happened with his family.  This seemed like a great fictional way to explore that role - plus I've really enjoyed Robyn Carr's other books!

My Impression: I was really excited going into this book but was curious as to how Carr would handle a very complex issue.  This kind of fraud is not unfamiliar to most of us and while Bernie Madoff did seem to be the one that has gotten the most attention there were countless others.  The stories of the victims always made me so incredibly sad and it was impossible not to understand their anger as people realized that they or their parents had lost everything to further someone's greed.

Even before Emma Shay got tangled up with Richard she had a tough time of it with an at best uninterested and frequently vindictive stepmother and a betrayal from people she really thought she could trust.  I love that Emma is really beginning to understand herself as the book progresses.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for her but at the same time she isn't a character that reaches out for pity and I found myself admiring her way of just continuing on far more than I felt sorry for her.

The relationship between Emma and Riley and Emma and Adam felt very natural.  Things aren't easy but they're not overly angst-y either and there is always a touch of humor at just the right time.

While I haven't read nearly as many of Robyn Carr's books as I'd like I've really enjoyed what I've read and this I think was probably my favorite.  While there is a romance don't let that keep you from reading it if you tend to not enjoy books in that genre.  There is so much more here - strength, endurance, courage, and forgiveness all in an entertaining page turner of a book.  If you haven't read Robyn Carr yet I think this would be a great one to start with!

Q&A w/ Robyn Carr — THE LIFE SHE WANTS

(I Wish I Lived in a Library)

Q: On the surface, it seems like Emma Shay had the life that a lot of people would want—a rich husband, a beautiful home, expensive clothes, a full household staff. But we soon learn that her life was not the fairytale it appeared to be. What made you want to explore the darker side of that kind of monetary and material wealth, and what do you think it actually means to have a “rich life?”

A: Money can be fun but it’s a tool, nothing more. There are so many wise sayings that apply – “It is a wealthy man who knows he has enough.” Or one of my favorites, “If you marry for money you’ll earn every dime.” Why? Because money is a convenient tool but the love of money is soulless. When Emma is finally free of the burdens and complications of wealth, when she earns her money and simplifies her life she feels richer.
I think one has a rich life when one has people who love her, friends and hopefully family, or at least the family one collects, when one has health and a positive outlook on life. Some of the happiest people I’ve known didn’t have much material wealth. Real wealth comes from knowing who you can depend on, who you can trust, who will be there for you when you need someone – maybe just to talk.

I know that billionaire romances are very popular but I’ve never been enamored of them. I find the problems of the incredibly rich to be boring and lifeless. There’s joy in challenge and I take pride in hard work. In a job well done. People are not important to me if they’ve amassed wealth – they’re valuable to me if they’ve collected wisdom. Professor Cornel West said he didn’t necessarily admire intelligence – Hitler was brilliant after all. He admired wisdom.

Q: Throughout the novel, we see Riley thriving as a self-made businesswoman, while Emma finds a great deal of satisfaction and community in a job that she may have once considered menial. What role does meaningful work and self-sufficiency play in each woman finding the life she wants?
A: To me it’s obvious – you’ll never take pride in something given to you. You’ll take pride in earning something. You’ll take pride in deserving your wages. In fact, the harder the work the more meaningful the reward. You can positively ruin a child’s life by giving them everything – let them do the work so they feel accomplished. Bored children do poorly in school, that’s why they put them in gifted programs. They take money that’s given to them for granted and waste it, but if they build it they’ll protect it, save it and guard against its waste because it was challenging to achieve it!

Work is one of the most meaningful parts of living. It doesn’t matter what kind of work, it just means effort and accomplishment. You don’t have to be a surgeon to be valued by society! I really appreciated a clean public restroom and it’s pretty easy to tell if the person responsible took pride in their work. I grew up being told no job was too menial. I raised my children to find work they loved, something they could take pride in. They both did hard jobs from young ages. It’s good for us.

Q: The concept of forgiveness is important throughout the book, and several of the characters struggle to find ways to forgive each other and themselves for past mistakes. Why do you think forgiveness is so crucial to happiness, and why do you think it sometimes takes people such a long time to forgive?

A: I think the idea of forgiving is not only crucial, asking for forgiveness is even moreso! Who among us won’t forgive if someone makes sincere amends? Most of what has to happen to patch up a tattered relationship is admitting you’re wrong and asking to be forgiven. Forgiving in a vacuum doesn’t change much but what everyone wants to hear from someone we think wronged us is a real apology. We can say we forgive a hateful person, we can say that gives us peace of mind, but if that person goes on being hateful, we’ll keep experiencing the pain of it.

In the case of Emma and Riley, they both made serious mistakes. I knew what it was going to take for them to get each other back. What I didn’t know until the whole story played out was whether they would do it.

Q: You’re known for your fantastic book series—at every event you do people beg you to write more Virgin River and Thunder Point books! Does this novel have any characters that you want to explore in future books? If not, what was it like working on a self-contained story like this, and how does writing a standalone novel differ from, say, writing the first book of a planned series?

A: I love both – the stand alone and the series. In the stand alone novel there is a beginning, middle and end and there’s no continuing story. There’s a reason I don’t write about these same people up to their death. Novels are about conflict. A reunion story, as so many of my readers suggest, is about a lot of people in the process of living happily ever after and it’s very sweet, and very boring. Once my characters have reached their satisfactory happily ever after, we should be able to imagine them living contentedly, without great conflict. We don’t really want to see these beloved characters who have become friends struggle endlessly – that becomes frustrating and we’ll ask ourselves “Why can’t they get a handle on their lives?”

What I love about the standalone is that a specific set of challenges has been overcome and there should be satisfaction. Now the rest of their lives belongs to the reader and the reader’s imagination.

Q: We have to ask, what’s next for you? What are you working on right now?

A: I’m at work on the second Sullivan’s Crossing novel, no title yet. It should be ready soon and out the beginning of April 2017.


  1. I have seen this cover around a lot but never stopped to see what it was about. The concept sounds really interesting and looks like it was all done well. Great review and Q&A!!

    1. Thanks! I enjoyed this one and it seemed a little out of the box for her.

  2. I've never read anything by Robyn Carr. I'm really glad you enjoyed this. Definitely a complicated issue.

    1. I think you'd enjoy her books Quinn. They can be a little heavy but I love her characters!

  3. Fantastic interview. I wasn't sure this one was for me, although you know how I adore her small-town series. You've convinced me to try it.

    1. I think you'd like it. Even though there is a connection to NYC the main setting has a small town feel overall.

  4. Great review! I haven't read anything but her Virgin River series but I think I might have to give this one a try though it's not my usual type of read. Sounds like a bit of an emotional read and we all need those sometimes :)
    Thanks for stopping by my blog today :)

  5. I loved it too and always enjoy her books. Actually I always like seeing a woman recover from the horrible deeds meted out by the husband, it is a fairly popular book theme and always enjoyed.

  6. I'm glad it was a good book. I had it on hold but wasn't in the mood to read it just now. Another time.

  7. I enjoyed the book and your review, and loved the interview! Good questions, insightful answers. :-)

  8. I do need to get back into her books. I still have a bunch of the Virgin River ones to get tackled. Ee!

  9. I haven't read as many of her books as I would like to either. I have only read the first few in the Virgin River Series. I love the manly men, and the feminine woman who still project strength. Her answers make me see her as beautiful as I imagined her to be. Isn't is so true that asking for forgiveness is so very important?