Bodice Rippers & Erotica Book Reviews: Tracey Garvis Graves

On The Island

Uncharted by Tracey Garvis GravesBook Cover of Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves

Read by Natalie July 2013

Natalie recommends as a great companion novella to On the Island

I absolutely adored Tracey's first novel, On the Island and was excited when I discovered an ebook companion novella was being release. And it did not disappoint. Told mainly from Owen Sparks' POV we learn the back story to the island, including how the hut, with it's bag and guitar came to be in the woods on the island, the identity of the bones that Anna and TJ found in the cave and most heartbreakingly of all, why Anna and TJ weren't rescued straight away like might have been expected.

Owen is a successful CEO of a huge dot-com company he started with three friends from college. Struggling with the increasing work hours, the family who seem to expect him to supply them with a constant source of income and business partners who no longer share his vision, Owen decides to pack it all in and escape. But he doesn't just want to get away, he wants to disappear, so he organises a flight out to an isolated island in the Maldives where he can spend his days alone and try to decide what he wants to do with his future. Aided in his plan by Mick, the sea plane pilot who regularly flies supplies out to him, gives him a heads up on incoming weather and occasionally takes him back to Male for a dose of the modern world, Owen is finally starting to feel relieved of all his burdens. However, a year into his plan, when his hut has been built and he's finally free of the stress of his job, Owen starts to feel lonely. And a chance meeting with an English woman named Calia sets in motion a chain of events that will forever tie themselves to Anna and TJ.

Initially unhappy at Calia and her younger brother James, joining him on the island, Owen quickly develops a friendship with them both. As the weeks pass by however, neither Calia nor Owen can deny their growing attraction to each other, and with James' blessing, the two jump in a beautiful relationship. Although Calia is about to head to Africa and volunteer at an orphanage, and James is heading back to England for university, Owen and Calia make plans to reunite in 6 months time. Until tragedy strikes, changing everything. I don't want to describe any more of the story except to say that Owen's story was just as heartbreaking and beautiful as Anna and TJ's. As he recants his tale to them, having finally decided to seek them out, years after he first left the island, you get a real feeling of the guilt that Owen feels for his role in Anna and TJ's isolation on the island. Interspersed with both Anna and TJ's POVs not only gives the reader a glimpse into their gorgeously happy life, but shows us the acceptance they have for what happened to them both. Neither blame Owen for what happened and while TJ takes a trip back to the island to help Owen recover the bones, all the characters get some form of closure for the things they've been through.

As with On the Island, Uncharted is a beautifully written story, that immediately captivated me such that I finished it in one sitting. I adored revisiting Anna and TJ and their happy life, but I also enjoyed meeting Owen, Calia and JamesÉI could have read about all of them for much longer. Tracey has a real way with words and her simple, no nonsense writing can be incredibly engaging and beautifully romantic without any effort. One scene, told from TJ's POV really had me melting, just with three words that he said to Anna. A gorgeous companion novel to the equally gorgeous On the Island, this is a must read!

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On the Island by Garvis GravesBook Cover of On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Read by Natalie September 2012

Natalie recommends as a great read with two wonderful characters

Sixteen year old TJ is currently in remission from cancer. About to go on a forced holiday in the Maldives with his parents and tutor, all TJ wants is to get back to the life and friends he had before he got sick. Thirty year old English teacher, Anna is in a relationship that’s going nowhere with a man who refuses to commit. Yearning for marriage and a baby, Anna thinks taking a couple of months off to tutor TJ in an exotic location, will help her sort out what she really wants in life. Enroute to join TJ’s family however, Anna and TJ’s seaplane’s pilot suffers a fatal heart attack over the Maldives 1500 islands, crashing their plane somewhere in shark-infested ocean. After Anna is knocked unconscious, TJ desperately tries to save them both, anxious to find land and avoid drowning or worse yet, sharks. When they eventually wash up on the beach of a tiny, inhabited island, Anna and TJ think it will only be a matter of hours before their rescue shows up, despite the fact that no one actually knows exactly where they are. However, as the hours turn to days, Anna and TJ must resign themselves to the fact that no one is coming to rescue them at all.

Initially fighting just to survive as they struggle to find water and food, their luck changes when some of their belongings and the plane’s life raft finally wash up on shore. Although missing the radio beacon they had hoped for, at least they now have clothes, toiletries, some shelter, a water collection container and most importantly, a first aid kit. As the months pass, both TJ and Anna must not only learn to accept that no one is coming to rescue them, they must also work together to find food and water, survive tropical storms, injury and illness (including the return of TJ's cancer) and somehow maintain a “normal life”. As the months turn to years however and TJ turns from a boy into a man, their increasingly close friendship starts to turn into something more. Struggling with the implications of what this could mean, Anna initially fights her feelings and growing desire. TJ on the other hand, is not so subtle, and Anna can’t help but start to see him for the man he has become. When one of their regular fishing trips turns life threatening by the presence of a shark, TJ and Anna take their biggest risk yet in order to get their food. When their plan succeeds, this paves the way for them to finally give in to the feelings they both have. Despite TJ now being 18, Anna knows their relationship will be questioned if they are ever rescued. However, TJ’s maturity and feelings for her, finally allow Anna to embrace her own feelings for him. As Anna and TJ find solace in their new relationship, they struggle with the ever increasing isolation and knowledge that their time is running out. Now suffering from the effects of malnutrition and possibly depression, they are both desperate to get off the island. And three and a half years after they first arrived, Mother Nature finds an unusual way to give them that.

Taken back to Male and then finally home to Chicago, Anna and TJ are happy to be home and more in love than ever. Yet they both struggle with the attention they receive, most of which is directed at their relationship and the 13 year age gap. Trying to ignore all the gossip, Anna and TJ must now find a way to get on with life. But as Anna struggles to find a new job and TJ is unsure about what he wants to do with his life, the cracks start to show. As Anna wrestles with the idea that she might be holding TJ back from all of the life experiences he’s missed out on, TJ can't understand how Anna doesn't see that he only wants to be with her and none of the other stuff matters to him. When Anna, in a bid to protect herself, pushes TJ away, their relationship implodes as both of them are unable to communicate how they really feel. As the months pass by and each grows more and more depressed by their separation, they slowly find some direction in life, landing jobs and getting used to being back amongst friends and family. When their first Christmas back home rolls around, Anna receives an unexpected surprise from TJ who is determined to keep the promise he made to her back on the island. In the six months they have spent apart, both Anna and TJ have grown, and both of them now know exactly what they want – each other. Finally admitting that, they set out to start their new life together - with a few little surprises on the way.

I really enjoyed this book, devouring it in one night and finally switching off the light at 5am! Although narrated in short sentences that quickly take us on the four year journey, the growing relationship between TJ and Anna felt so real and so sweet and the 13 year age gap never once felt like an issue. The way they cared for each other, opened up to each other and ultimately were always there for each other, was truly sweet. The story is told alternate POV and really allows the reader to connect with both characters and understand their feelings and fears. While it may seem unusual that TJ at his age would act so mature, having faced all the obstacles he has in life makes it understandable. His love for Anna was really, really sweet, and this was particularly so at the end of the book. The epilogue is gorgeous and never once borders on cheesy. This is a great book with two wonderful characters that leaves you hoping they will find a way off their island and into a new life back home. Definitely pick it up.

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