A Smile in a Whisper
by Jacquelyn Middleton
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Pub Date 10 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023
A SMILE IN A WHISPER is a dual timeline love story ideal for fans of Christina Lauren's Love & Other Words, Carley Fortune's Every Summer After, and Chloe Liese’s With You Forever.
Not All Farewells Are Forever
Evie Sutherland throws herself into everything. Like many on Scotland’s picturesque Orkney Islands, she works several jobs: managing her family’s shop, researching genealogy for tourists, and writing historical romance novels. Evie aces most challenges—except love. With a childhood diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and a disastrous dating history, Evie has convinced herself that guys won’t date the “sick girl” and the blame falls on the shoulders of her first love, a famous boy from London who spent his summers on her island.
To the outside world, Nikolai Balfour lives a charmed life. Starring in a popular British TV series as a teen, young Nick stole fans’ hearts from the Isle of Wight to Shetland. However, that was a lifetime ago, and the years since have been filled with “Didn’t you used to be…” moments, career wrong-turns, and empty relationships. Now finding success behind the cameras, Nick is still racked with regret and guilt over how things ended with the Orcadian girl he’d loved and left behind.
But when a television series filming in Orkney blows Nick back into Evie’s quiet life, they’re forced to face their heartbreaking past and revisit old secrets that should never have been kept.
Unfolding in alternating past and present timelines, A Smile in a Whisper is a touching story of first love and second chances, and the enduring summer memories that shape us.
A Note From the Publisher
Middleton (author of The Certainty of Chance) spices this dual-timeline teen and second-chance romance with heaps of Scottish character and a deeply compassionate approach to challenges in physical and mental health.
Middleton does a lovely job blending romance beats with the vividly realized setting, enticing readers with memorable local dialect and charming traditions like the annual Christmas ‘Ba game, all captured in brisk, buoyant prose that lights up the characters’ inner lives: “He strolled past the window, framing the sunset’s sherbet glow, and picked up the stuffed Loch Ness Monster from Evie’s desk.” She also rousingly dramatizes teen life for an adult audience, with aspects like the coveting of magazine centerfolds, group meetups at local events, rapid-fire changes in social dynamics, and lack of adult supervision all hitting a nostalgic sweet spot. Evie’s Crohn’s diagnosis is treated realistically in terms of teen embarrassment and implications for her social life, and nicely balanced with Nick’s secrecy about his own panic attacks.
Takeaway: Buoyant second-chance romance with Scottish flavor.
~ Publishers Weekly Booklife (EDITOR'S PICK)
“…the dual timeline narrative moves with purpose, rejecting ornamental scenes for rich moments that shed light on inner conflicts and the dynamics between the main characters. The couple’s young romance crackles with breathless wonderment and is shaped by tenderness, and their journey to reconciliation in adulthood leads to a well-deserved happily ever after that showcases the power of forgiveness.
Mental health struggles are depicted with realism and empathy; Nick’s experiences with panic attacks are portrayed without judgment; and Evie’s health issues are not written as examples of her weaknesses but rather demonstrate her inner strength and self-compassion.
Romance fans will fall hard over heels for this layered, second-chance love story that delivers frank emotional vulnerability, optimistic triumph, and all the feelings genre readers relish.”
~ BlueInk Review (STARRED REVIEW)
"In Middleton’s novel, an old romance is rekindled when two ex-lovers face their past… The story is told through Evie’s and Nick’s third-person perspectives in different chapters and takes place in two different timelines. The earlier narrative unfolds mostly over teenage summers; Evie is 13 the first time she meets 16-year-old Nick and 18 when they break up.
Middleton shows a real knack for creating realistic and deeply developed characters. Secondary players, such as Evie’s childhood friends Sunita Kumari and Fiona Groundwater, are vibrant, stable parts of her life, but are well developed in their own right. Nick’s private struggles with panic attacks, career mishaps, and a complicated relationship with his mother ground him as a character and make him sympathetic, as well. When the pair are reunited in the present day, it’s clear they both still have feelings for each other, and readers will want to what happened between them more than a decade ago—and hope to see them back together again.
An often charming tale of youth, forgiveness, and second chances."
~ Kirkus Reviews
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 25 members
This is the first book I read by author Jacquelyn Middleton and I believe it's part of a series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone.
"A Smile in a Whisper" is a mesmerizing romance novel that unfolds against the breathtaking backdrop of the enchanting Orkney Islands. Evie, a tenacious protagonist with a turbulent history, and Nikolai, a former teen heartthrob haunted by his own mistakes, find their paths intertwined once again during the filming of a television series in Orkney. Through skillful storytelling, the book seamlessly transitions between past and present, delving into their poignant shared history, long-held secrets, and the potential for newfound hope.
I loved everything about this book, from the setting to the author's fantastic writing skills, the protagonists, as well as the various supporting characters. I also appreciate how well it portrays both mental health issues and the challenges that come with living with chronic illnesses. The dual POV add so much to the story, and I'm sure will only further captivate readers, preventing them from putting this book down. I will definitely read more from this author.
Thank you to NetGalley and Kirkwall Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review! I will also post this review on Amazon on the release day.
I've been loving Jacquelyns books for 6 years now and it all started because of my love for London. She has the talent to make the location of her novels feel like a character in itself and I shouldn't have been surprised when Orkney was treated in the same way. This dual perspective second chance romance follows Evie and Nick throughout 17 years of their lives. As we are reading about their past romance, they've been reunited in present day and we see them reconnect while slowly uncovering what happened to dissolve their relationship in the first place.
The novel is set in the Scottish Islands of Orkney- a place that is now on my travel bucket list. The coziness of this windswept island and the familiarity with which it was described make it the third main character of the novel.
The support system Evie has especially when dealing with Crohns flare ups, the cameos of characters from past novels and the timeless relationship between Evie and Nick are just a few other stand out parts of the novel.
A five star read for sure.
**As a lover of Xanadu I have never seen it get the pop culture references it deserves. So thank you Jacquelyn!
I am admittedly a sucker for dual viewpoint or dual timeline, so imagine my excitement when Jacquelyn announced she would be including both in this second chance romance. I was already sold and this book only went up from there.
The descriptions of Orkney in this story not only transport you to the islands, they also paint a vivid portrait of the authors love for the location and its history.
More than anything, I love how we continue to see character overlap so we never have to miss our favourites. It's like returning home to a group of your best friends.
Where do I even start with this latest from a much beloved (but new to me) Canadian Indie romance author?? I LOVED absolutely EVERYTHING about this book from the setting (the Orkneys) to the characters, to the dual timeline, second chance romance and the AMAZING disability rep!!!
Everything was just done to absolute perfection as far as I was concerned. A dual POV, childhood friends to lovers, second chance, celebrity romance, told in alternating timelines. We get to know Evie and Nico and their complicated love story as they grow up, fall in love and grow apart after a disastrous series of misunderstandings.
Forced together in the present when Nico returns to the Orkneys to produce his latest film and Evie is in charge of catering for the film crew. Slowly they learn to put past hurts aside and figure out if they can start over after years of miscommunication.
The Crohn's rep (her) and the anxiety and panic attacks/depression (him) were so well done! The author is intimately familiar with both conditions and it definitely showed. I also appreciated how authentic and integral they were to the story and never felt like an add-on for the sake of boosting disability rep. Plus I loved that these characters were unapologetically child-free by choice!!
HIGHLY recommended, especially if you enjoyed books like Meet me at the lake by Carly Fortune (another book with a MMC with panic attacks and depression) or either of With you forever by Chloe Liese and Managing the Matthews by Haleigh Wenger (two books with a FMC with Crohn's/IBD).
I am officially a Jacqueline Middleton fan club member and will immediately be diving into her backlist, starting with Say hello, kiss goodbye, which features Nico's brother Tarquin! The millennial in my also REALLY enjoyed all the throwback touches, from analog cell phones, to early aughts music and movie references.
Seriously I could keep gushing about this book FOREVER but you really just need to pick it up and experience the wonderfulness for yourselves. Many thanks to NetGalley, the author and Tandem Collective Global for early digital and finished copies in exchange for my honest review!!!