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Relative Strangers

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As this novel is a loose retelling of Sense and Sensibility, there is a lot going on - Amelia is at a point in her life where she is lost, newly single, homeless, jobless and hitchhiking to Arcadia, a cancer retreat where her mother and widowed sister Eleanor are staying. Her mother is temporarily residing there because she has been evicted from her estate by her late husband’s estranged son from a relationship the family did not even know about. While the women (along with Eleanor’s teenage daughter) live at Arcadia there are handsome men (including one cute chef), family drama and many misunderstandings. The novel itself deals with themes of grief, race, class and family.

I honestly don’t remember Sense and Sensibility as much as other Austen books but I really enjoyed this novel. As with most Austen retellings, the characters remained a bit superficial, but the mother/daughter/sister dynamics kept me engaged and of course wanting the romantic happy endings made me kept me reading to the end. The plot wasn’t too religiously stuck to the original and I thought the author made some very clever choices.

Thank you to NetGalley and Graydon House for the ARC to review

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Thanks to #partner @netgalley and @graydonhousebooks for the ARC of A. H. Kim’s Relative Strangers. The book is out today!

A. H. Kim’s Relative Strangers is a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility with some big—fun—twists. The focus in this version is on the Marianne character, Amelia Bae-Wood. She’s the unreliable sister, the one who hasn’t seen her family in ages and has to hitchhike back to her childhood home, just as her mother is being evicted from it. The villain? Their father’s illegitimate son, Chong Bae, who is vying to claim his inheritance in an effort that has embroiled them in a lengthy, painful court case.

Amelia arrives only to find that her sister, Eleanor, has already moved their mother to a small home at the cancer center where she volunteers. Amelia is still working through her own—secret—trauma and now has to face the resentment of her sister, who is convinced that Amelia’s lack of responsibility is a sign of her selfishness and her inability to be a stable part of her family.

The conflicts here abound. First, there’s the class conflict that is part of Austen’s original novel, fueled by one of Amelia’s past relationships, which put her in the media spotlight, and by a potential love match with a new wealthy suitor. Issues in response to Amelia and Eleanor’s heritage also arise: the sisters are half-Korean (their mother is a white Southern belle, and their father immigrated from Seoul).

Much of the novel is about recovering from loss: there’s the death of Amelia’s father, which—along with the loss of her home—has left their mother desolate. They’re also still dealing with the shadow of the death of Eleanor’s first husband, a loss that continues to haunt Eleanor and her daughter Maggie.

Of course, there’s plenty of romance, though the center of the novel, for me, is the sibling relationship between Amelia and Eleanor, whose approaches to the world vary greatly. Eleanor feels as if she has to keep a firm grasp on everything, fearful that a loss of control will result in chaos. Amelia, in contrast, has to bring herself back from a tendency to embrace the very chaos that her sister so fears. Despite their tensions, there’s a lovely connection between them, along with some fun touches (they often communicate in movie quotes that are perfect for any situation). And watching Amelia strive to figure out who she wants to be and how she wants to share her story and her hidden struggles is a satisfying journey.

I loved seeing both the ways that Kim chose to pay tribute to her source material and the places she chose to break away, to put a new spin on the classic tale. Relative Strangers is the best kind of retelling, one that relies on the strong center of the original but shows the ways that its tale is still all too relevant.

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Yet another book where the description grabbed me, but the writing and plot didn’t keep me.
Amelia is a lost soul. In her late thirties she is still drifting aimlessly when she receives a note that brings her home to her widowed mother, her widowed sister, and her niece. Due to an unforeseen circumstance, her mother has lost her house and Amelia learns they are now living in a cottage on the grounds of Arcadia, a retreat center for cancer patients. Amelia joins them and hopes in volunteering at Arcadia she’s able to finally get her life together.
I have to admit I ended up DNFing this book. I found the writing to be so lackluster that it just wasn’t holding my attention. This is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility and perhaps it’s because I am not a fan of Jane Austen but I didn’t find this book to be the least bit interesting. I found Amelia to be extremely annoying and honestly at 33% in I didn’t really get to know any of the other characters.
Please do not base your feelings about reading this on my review. Just because I wasn’t a fan doesn’t mean you won’t be! Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing for an advanced copy of this. Relative Strangers hits the shelves on April 2nd.

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This book moved very fast and it was kind of hard to keep up with the characters, but overall it was a pretty satisfying read! I probably won't read it again, but I don't feel like I wasted my time reading it, so that's good!

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Don't worry if you haven't read or don't remember all the details of Sense and Sensibility- this makes a fine read on its own. Sisters Amelia and Eleanor are very different in outlook and personality but they are united behind their mother Tabitha, whose life has recently been turned upside down. The appearance of a half brother sets up a real tangle. While this has nice diversions into the lives of the residents of Arcadia and elsewhere, it all comes back to the sisters. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. A good read.

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She has nowhere to go but home….

….but then she discovers that her family home no longer belongs to her family. In this modern-day twist on Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, Amelia Bae-Wood finds herself without any money and with an arrest record. She hitchhikes her way to her family’s home in California, partly in response to her older sister Eleanor’s plea to return for the sake of their widowed mother, and arrives to find only a note on the gate. It seems that their recently deceased father had a son outside of wedlock who, as the eldest child, is claiming that he is the rightful heir to the estate and the courts have agreed. Eleanor has taken their mother to a place called Arcadia, where her friend Leo runs a cancer retreat center and has offered them the use of a cottage on the grounds. Amelia joins them there, as does Eleanor’s teenage daughter Maggie, making for a tight fit in the small living space. Each of the Bae-Wood women are at a juncture in their lives that requires some soul-searching and focus; mistakes will be made and tears shed before they can move ahead.
As in the original Austen novel, in Relative Strangers we have the sensible sister Eleanor who works hard, puts the welfare of others before her own, and is the one keeping the family afloat. We also have the artistic, sensitive sister Amelia who lets her emotions dictate her decisions, which generally doesn’t end well for her. There are several men circulating in their vicinity….the handsome and seemingly kind Jett who has some complications from the past mucking up his present; Leo, the warm and generous friend; Leo’s friend Brandon, the somewhat stuffy but also kind and helpful gentleman; and Hari, the charming and good looking heartbreaker. It is hard as the reader not to imagine which individuals would make the best match, and the characters themselves wonder along those same lines. But there are secrets in everyone’s past, and those who seem well-suited on the surface may in fact not be. Do the characters have the same destinies as the Austen characters with which they align? You won’t hear that from me, you’ll have to read the novel to discover the answer to that question. Along the way, you will enjoy getting to know the different characters with all of their talents and quirks, salivate at the descriptions of the food coming out of Jett’s kitchen, and discover the natural surroundings along the Northern Californian coast where the various dramas unfold. A lighthearted, romantic story that explores the bonds of family, sisterhood, and surviving losses, Relative Strangers is a fun read that will appeal to readers of Julia Sonneborn and Curtis Sittenfeld as well as to those who enjoyed watching Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless”. Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing/Graydon House for allowing me access to an early copy of the novel.

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4.25 Stars. I had high expectations going into this after seeing it was a modern take on Sense and Sensibility, and I was not let down. I think this was true to the original but the changes that were made allowed the book to not be predictable. I can’t actually put a description on why I enjoyed the writing style of this novel, except that I did really enjoy it. I found myself looking forward to when I could sit down and read this, which hey, that’s why we all love to read, right? We simply enjoy it. I think I could recommend this to a wide range of audiences because it has a little something in it for everyone.

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Rating: 3.75 stars

At first, I wasn't really sure what I thought about this book. It kind of had a slow start. But as it went on, I got more and more invested into the story and I ended up enjoying it. This has great family drama. It was a little bit of romance, and it is divided into seasons of the year. Overall, I ended up enjoying this one even though it took about 200 pages for me to really get into the story. If you love books with family drama, then check this one out.

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This is just okay, it reads fast but I didn’t find myself really compelled to keep reading. There were a lot of characters to keep track of and I sometimes got lost on who was who or who liked who.

For Austen fans this is a modern retelling of sense and sensibility.

Thank you netgalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing | Graydon House for the advanced reader copy

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Touted as an homage to Sense and Sensibility, Relative Strangers is the story of Amelia Bae-Wood and her sister Eleanor, along with their mom and Eleanor's daughter, Maggie. The tale begins with some significant losses and life challenges for them all, with the drama and stress that all entails. They all come together at the Arcadia, a cancer retreat center owned by one of Eleanor's friends, each needing healing in some way. A dramatic yet funny story of family, friendship, love, and laughter -- highly recommended!

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This is a new to me author. I haven't read the full novel Sense and Sensibility yet, only skimmed it and watched a few brief scenes from the 1995 movie adaption with Emma Thompson. I do feel like reading that novel is a must-read prior to reading Relative Strangers in order to understand where this novel was trying to go.

I enjoyed Relative Strangers, but I'm left feeling a little discombobulated over all the things happening in this story. It bounced around all over the place. Maybe I like my stories to focus on one or two main characters with a glimpse into a few side characters. This story, I feel, had many side characters and never truly focused on a main character.

This story starts with the Bae-wood family, mother, deceased father, two sisters, & granddaughter Maggie. The oldest sister (Eleanor) has her life semi together while her younger sister Amelia's life has quite literally fell apart. Eleanor isn't quite as put together as it seems since she's dealing with her own grief of her own spouse, Edward, in addition to the death of her father. One would think this would be the story of putting the pieces of their lives back together and learning to be a family again, but there's family secrets, sibling rivalry, control, and anger issues.

There's just so much to unpack, and then you enter the characters from Arcadia, the cancer center Eleanor volunteers at, and there's an entire other story among those characters.

All of that to say, I guess I just feel that this could have been two separate books. There just wasn't enough backstory to any of the characters, in my opinion. I was left more confused than satisfied. Again, maybe it would have helped if I'd read Sense and Sensibility first.

Thank you to Netgalley and Graydon House for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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This was a fun reworking of Sense and Sensibility and I am HERE for it! It was just enjoyable and a delight.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The setting: Family drama. Two sisters: Eleanor, widowed, has a teenage daughter, Maggie. Amelia Bae-Wood, formerly a trend-setting restauranteur is fresh out of a long-term relationship. Their mother, Tabitha Bae-Wood, also widowed--has been kicked out of her famiy house [mansion]. Add in a cast of other characters--primarily from from Arcadia, the cancer retreat where Eleanor volunteers [she also is employed as a nurse elsewhere] and Amelia and Tabitha end up staying. Everyone has issues and no money. And so it begins. Note: Tabitha is American, her late husband, Korean.

I was taken in immediately by this book. Supposedly a modern day retelling of Austen's Sense and Sensibility--well, maybe, but... There is humor, DRAMA, secrets, bachelors, societal expectations, inheritance and more--and ultimately healing [though no detailed spoiler from me]. I wonder about the title: Relative Strangers--they are relatives and in some ways the sisters are strangers--although they frequently exchange movie references--one bond they share without issues.

A fast read. Many side stories thrown in--particularly with Leo and the half-brother, Chong Bae who shows up. Besides Eleanor people who work at Arcadia have their own stories [and relatives]. I was pretty sure there was going to be a lot of neat and tidy in this book and I was correct--only one trajectory with a slight derailment.

A few chuckles:

"exhales in relief when she's finally released from her Spandex straightjacket."
"It's been so long since her last Botox treatment that her brow actually crinkles."
"watching the conversations volley back and forth between Mom and Eleanor like a Grand Slam tennis match."

My opinion--an elevated beach read. Well written [BUT NOT LITERARY FICTION], easy breezy, but the cancer center throws in some seriousness.

3.5 but rounding up because I enjoyed the ride.

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I love Jane Austen, but I'm not particularly attached to Sense and Sensibility, which made me think I may be more open to a modern retelling. In a lot of ways, I struggled with Relative Strangers in the same way I struggled with Sense and Sensibility - there are too many main-ish characters to track, and I didn't feel particularly close to the main sisters. I wish that we had gotten Eleanor's perspective to round out the book more. I enjoyed A.H. Kim's writing and am curious to check out her first book.

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Reading this book as a non-Sense and Sensibility fan (not against, just not familiar) was fun! I enjoyed the complex family and relational dynamics, and the plot wove together really well throughout. I loved the setting, and the relationship with Chloe was really compelling to me. A very thoughtful treatment of individuals with cancer, especially.

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Relative Strangers is a ray of warm sunshine…and I’m one hundred percent certain Austen would smile at this delightful and modern take on Sense and Sensibility as much as I did. The characters are warm and lovable. The relationships, character arcs, and pacing are on point. And don’t get me started on the food descriptions. Warning: do not read this book on an empty stomach. Have a crush on Colin Firth? You might picture him like I did when reading, but I won’t spoil which character I’m talking about. You’ll have to read Kim’s novel yourself. Looking for a feel good book? Look no further.

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3.5 stars. This is an adorable re-telling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility with a Korean twist. I love when authors put a contemporary spin on a regency fictional novel.

*Special thanks to NetGalley and Graydon House for this e-arc.*

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I enjoyed this reimagining of the sisters and their struggles from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I thought the setting of a cancer recovery center was unique and not something I ever would have imagined would make for a location for a novel. I also liked how Amelia's and Eleanor's personalities were so well written and defined.

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A. H. Kim writes of family, friends, love and loss in an engaging and entertaining book. I loved the diversity included in the characters, the complicated relationships, the drama and the romances. Thanks #NetGalley #HarlequinTrade

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I received this from Netgalley.com.

A very contemporary read, Amelia kept ping-ponging
relationships and I felt empathy for her inability to stop the cycle.

3☆

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