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What if the only way to move forward was to look back? In her latest romance, The Corey Effect, author Casey Dembowski teaches us the value of closure and what it truly means to earn a second chance.
Andi Scott is stuck. And she knows it. Not only is her career as a part-time assistant at a stalemate, but her relationship with her soon-to-be-divorced boyfriend is…complicated. Still, even though Andi has decisions to make, she’s more than happy not making them. That is, until her mother calls with the news that her estranged father has died and forces her to make the one decision, she never imagined she’d have to make.
Returning to Fairford for her father’s funeral means unearthing memories Andi hasn’t recalled in ten years, and not the warm fuzzy kind. She goes anyway, convinced that the trip will provide her with much needed closure, and the chance to see the half-sister with whom she’s lost touch. But closure is a concept that seems further out of reach the longer she spends in town. Not only is the town actually grieving the abusive, alcoholic man that shared Andi’s name, but despite knowing what Ryan Scott did to her, Corey Johnson, Andi’s first love, became her father’s business partner.
When Corey asks her to stay in town until after the reading of her father’s will, Andi doesn’t know what to think. Especially when she discovers Ryan sent her letters, letters she never received, explaining himself. Andi stays because she wants an explanation, even if getting close to Corey again poses a serious risk to her heart and forces her to question choices she made a decade ago. Can Andi reconcile the man her father became with the one she knew? If so, is she capable of forging new relationships with the people she left behind, including Corey?
The struggle is real. Dembowski tells her story from Andi’s point of view, allowing the reader the chance to intimately connect with her character. Andi is strong, but broken, vulnerable in a way the reader can understand. The poignancy of Andi’s inner turmoil and conflicting emotions, as well as the post-traumatic stress she suffers because of her father’s abuse, bring Andi to life. Even the way Andi chooses to deflect or avoid rather than feel are real symptoms that any reader can relate to.
By alternating between Then and Now, Dembowski invites us on Corey’s and Andi’s journey, so we get a sense of their relationship, from the beginning. Sometimes backstory can be distracting, but here Dembowski expertly weaves past and present together in a way that only highlights the characters’ bond and provides a glimpse into their motivations.
Corey is the consummate hero – supportive, caring and patient – exactly what Andi needs to help her navigate through her grief. But, if you’re thinking Corey is one of those heroes that only exists for his heroine, you’d be wrong. Dare I say that I loved him more than Andi? It’s a testament to Dembowski’s skill that she’s able to create a complex character without once giving him center stage. Corey not only has depth and breadth but also, limits, and you’ll respect him for staying true to them.
This is a story about love, forgiveness, acceptance, letting go and moving on. Sometimes, the only way we can find the answers we’re looking for is by looking inside ourselves. In her novel, Dembowski shows us what can happen when we choose to remain open and rise to the challenge.