Cover Image: Relative Strangers

Relative Strangers

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Relative Strangers was a modern-day take on one of my FAVOURITE Jane Austen novels, Sense and Sensibility. This family drama featured two half Korean sisters and a myriad of secrets, affairs and personal challenges that swing the balance between a need for common sense and emotionality.

The book itself was a fun and easy read! We begin the book as Amelia’s (one of the central sisters) life crumbles around her. Inexplicably single and broke, she hitchhikes her way across California to be with her family after her mother was evicted from her home. The story is set at a holistic cancer retreat centre where we meet the rest of our cast of characters. The drama and humour kept the story feeling relatable and gave it a cozy feel.

I did find, though, that there were a few things that prevented me from thinking this was a “great” book. In general, I felt that I was not able to emotionally connect with the characters, which I was surprised at given the amount of character growth that the storylines would have led me to expect. There were certainly some great moments, but some key story aspects like the dissolution of Amelia and Hari’s relationship, the reconnection of Jett and his long-lost daughter felt like they were briefly introduced and then suddenly resolved a few chapters later. I did also think it was slightly tone-deaf to feature references to J.K. Rowling alongside the development of a trans character.

For a quick, fun, read, I’d definitely recommend, but for those who loved the detailed development of the original, it may fall slightly flat.

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This is a fun, feel-good retelling of Sense & Sensibility, but told from the perspective of Amelia (the "Marianne" character in the original) rather than Eleanor (Elinor). In this version, set in northern California in a Korean-American family, the mother and two sisters have been forced to flee their family estate after the father's death due to the arrival of an unknown son who claims the inheritance as his own. Banished to Arcadia, a cancer retreat center near Point Reyes, the women try to regroup. Eleanor, responsible older sister and sole remaining breadwinner, is also mourning a dead husband; Amelia left behind her beau of many years when their restaurant endeavor went south, and mom looks on bemusedly as Amelia gets quickly surrounded by several male suitors, even as she flails, not knowing what to do with her life.

There is a lot to love in this novel: mouth-watering food descriptions, intrigue surrounding the mysterious "son," ebbs and flows of the various love interests, and a nuanced sister relationship that feels true to the Austen inspiration. Fans of Jane Austen will devour this, as will any reader who enjoys contemporary, lighthearted women's fiction.

Thank you to Graydon House and Netgalley for the advanced review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Relative Strangers feels like reading a gossip column and while it isn’t a bad book, too much drama takes meaning away from the more mature content the author was trying to incorporate into her novel.

The book is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, but our Kitty, Amelia, is merely an odd shadow without any charm. “Ames” (why, oh why?) doesn’t get a redeeming character arc after we first meet her as a bald girl at the monastery where she cannot pay for her own upkeep. Amelia is lost on so many levels that she soon joins her evicted mother and overly practical sister at the cottage by the cancer retreat run by a family friend. I enjoyed the settings and quietly tense family build-up, but soon enough it was all about the galore of men around our helpless goose. The romance and flirting are poorly tackled, the author writes about abs and perfect physiques without any subtlety. The clumsiness of the language and word selection make it sound like a low quality reality tv show. And then we have family secrets and wounded pasts – my favourite part of the story. I wish those thoughtful moments weren’t ruined by unnecessary plot twists, but the novel had enough little pearls of enjoyment to keep me entertained.

Harlequin Trade Publishing is involved in the release of this book and it shows. At times it feels like the author was forced to put in her work mandated checkmarks of mindless romance. Amelia’s sister mentions many times if the swarms of men aren’t enough for her and it feels so bizarre. Some pleasant parts are a shining example of wisdom and what interesting things the author has learned in life, but when heart flutters step in, things get cringy. Many characters commit irrational choices, but maybe the author saw reason in this chaos. I couldn’t comprehend it. When all the twists and turns were untangled I was left bittersweet.

Reading went smoothly with lots of interesting food descriptions and when action focuses on cancer patient stories things get beautiful, but punches of “And how did that happen?” were merciless. It is an enjoyable thing if you like to play the guessing game of who is going to end up with whom. With less shock factor and more reflection on what really matters it could become something to be quite proud of, but for now, it remains Harlequin quality prejudice.

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I'm first going to say that I have never read Sense & Sensibility. So, my ability to compare the two novels is non-existent. However, I can tell you about this book and my thoughts on it. The story begins with the focus on Amelia Bae-Woods trying to get home to her family. She's at a low in her life and has to hitchhike to get to her mom's home, only to find that her mom and sister are no longer there. She eventually makes her way to them, where they are staying in a small cottage at a cancer retreat center. The story continues to unfold focusing on the Bae-Woods family, their roles and interactions together, their newfound friendships, with just a touch of romantic interests blended throughout the novel.

I found the novel to be a quick and enjoyable read. It was easy to read and follow along and I found that I really enjoyed the character development of the Bae-Woods women in particular. I do think there are instances where more character development might have been nice, but overall, I felt that the depth fit the mood of the scene that was being portrayed.

There are only a couple of issues that kept this from being a 5 star read for me. One of them was the last chapter or so of the book. I can't really explain without providing a spoiler, but a part of the storyline definitely needed more development and focus. And the other was with outlier relationships that didn't get explained well and led to some confusion on my part.

Overall, this was still a great book and one I would recommend for a nice beach read or book club discussion.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.

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I love this cover! I love the Sense and Sensibility retelling! I love the diversity!

Thank you so much for the digital ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.

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I loved this book! I will definitely recommend it. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

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3.5. Enjoyed this story. Although I have not read Sense and Sensibility, I enjoyed the relationships and intrigues explored in this novel. I felt the ending was lacking. Seemed like everything was tied up in a neat bow without exploring the impact on the characters. Particularly unsatisfying was the love interest switch at the end of the novel without discussion of its impact on the jilted individual. Recommend with reservations.

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I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley. This was a lovely short read. I enjoyed the character development and the ending. I would recommend!
The story location is based on a cancer retreat but the story itself is nothing short of lighthearted and fun.

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Relatively Strange is a delightful contemporary spin on Jane Austen's classic masterpiece, Sense and Sensibility. In this enchanting tale, the charming Amelia finds herself in the aftermath of a series of unfortunate events – her father's passing, a romantic relationship gone awry, and the collapse of her culinary career right in the heart of the food glitterati. We've all been there – those moments of grief that turn us into the most self-absorbed versions of ourselves. Amelia kicks off the story in a self-indulgent funk that's both relatable and endearing.

But hold on, the real magic begins when Amelia takes the first step on her journey of self-discovery and healing, especially in her relationship with her sister. Ah, sisterhood – a tapestry of complexities expertly woven by Kim into a heartwarming and vivid tableau of love and forgiveness. Beyond the tasty pastries, the narrative dips into weightier themes like gender and racial identity with a deft touch of humor, creating a delicate balance that's as satisfying as a perfectly crafted dish.

For those well-versed in Austen's original, there's a comforting familiarity in the twists and turns, yet Kim weaves in fresh plot elements that are both of our time and timeless. As the story unfolds, it's hard not to root for a tidy, satisfying conclusion – and fear not, dear reader, for Relatively Strange delivers a positively joyful denouement that wraps everything up with a charming bow.

ALSO, I recommend eating before reading this!

Thank you to NetGalley and Graydon House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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If you are looking for a fun story filled with interesting character, this book is for you. If you are a foodie, you will love it even more! I found the premise very entertaining and the Sense and Sensibility vibes are real.

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It took me awhile to get into this book honestly. It did keep my attention because I was curious why the main character seemed to be running from something. Characters were well developed, but it took a long time until all the messy ends were wrapped up, but the story was very good and the book is well written.

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My mouth is still watering from all the food descriptions in Relative Stangers... but I wish more detail was given to developing the characters and the real romance/love of the main character, Amelia.

All-in-all, it is a beautiful book, enjoyable to read and delightful to imagine. Kim is a gifted writer but could use even more details all around.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Relative Strangers.

I'm not familiar with Sense and Sensibility since I'm more of a Charlotte Bronte fan than a Jane Austen fangirl.

But I appreciate a modern retelling as much as the next person.

I enjoyed the modern spin on Sense and Sensibility featured a mixed race family filled with plenty of drama-mama, love affairs, and everything in between.

What I loved the most about Relative Strangers was the relationship between Amelia and Eleanor.

I love stories featuring supportive siblings, especially sisters since I have a close relationship with mine.

I loved their inside jokes, their movie references (something my sister and I also do though not as often), and their close bond.

The narrative was light hearted, perhaps too much for me since I'm accustomed to reading thrillers and domestic dramas with heavy, serious themes.

I found all the messy love affairs confusing and sometimes got the names of the men mixed up, Jett, Hari, Brandon, Chong Bae, and who wanted to be with who and who was related to who.

Is Sense and Sensibility this melodramatic?

I liked the writing, the flow of the narrative, the characters, especially Maggie and Eleanor, and the purpose of the cancer wellness center.

Amelia was a bit too doormat-y for me, but Eleanor's personality and demeanor is similar to mine which may be why I identified with her.

I didn't read the author's first book but I enjoyed the author's writing style and tone, though the story is too romance-y and Lifetime-y for me.

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I voluntarily read and reviewed an eARC of this book via NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Publishing: April 2, 2024
Series: N/A
Pages: 320

Loving all things regent, this story reminded me so much of Sense and Sensibility, a novel I totally loved. A.H. Kim, is a new author to this reader and her story “Relative Strangers” was enjoyable and very entertaining. I loved the pace of the story as it flowed from page to page. It is a well-written novel and the author is an excellent storyteller…bringing her character’s complicated lives to a meaningful relationship and sisterhood. I also loved the descriptive parts of the book that made your formulate pictures in your mind with every word…especially the descriptions of the pastries. There is family secrets and bit of mystery with a modern-day twist of Jane Austen’s classic. Insightful, delightful, and enjoyable read that I totally loved. Recommended read.

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This book made me smile! I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future. And I will definitely recommend this book to my library for purchase. I can see this being popular among my patrons.

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Thank you @netgalley for my ARC of Relative Strangers by A.H. Kim.

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of her books. Relative Strangers is a modern day retelling of Sense and Sensibility. I loved Kim's take on it. It was light hearted, but engaging.

Amelia's life is falling apart. She and her sister Eleanor, along with their mom and Eleanor's daughter go to a cancer retreat center. There is a long list half brother, who is trying to make claims on their estate. At the cancer center, various love triangles for with the sisters and the people working at the center. This was a great book about family relationships and romance.

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Amelia's life is falling apart. Her mom is being evicted from the family estate. A strange man claims to be her half brother, supposedly a love child from her father's youth. Her sister Eleanor has SO MUCH on her plate.

This is a lighthearted and entertaining retelling of the classic Sense and Sensibility. (I haven't read the original.) The plot was a little slow in a few places, but overall this was a wonderful read. Loved Amelia and Eleanor and reading about the family dynamics. Sisters are always my favorite! Modern story, relatively light, but still thought provoking. Beautiful!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

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There comes a time in every voracious reader's life when they need a retelling of a beloved Jane Austen classic but situated in a cancer care retreat facility in the hills of Northern California with a Korean-American family. A.H. Kim's first novel was a huge favourite for me and this second novel does not disappoint. Clever and wry, you will enjoy getting to know and rooting for the Bae-Woods women as much as a I did. Thanks to Harlequin Trade Publishing, Grayden House and NetGalley for the ARC.

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Sense and Sensibility is not my favorite Jane Austen novel, but in some ways, I think the behaviors of the characters makes it the most ripe for a contemporary adaptation. Relative Strangers is relatively (pun intended) well-plotted, although certain sequences feel very compressed. In many ways, my slight issues with the pace of the book owe themselves to the source material. But overall, this is a faithful adaptation of a timeless family drama, and one that will leave the reader fully satisfied. If you're familiar with the original, you'll see many of the twists coming, but there are some new plot points that feel both authentic and contemporary.

3.5 stars rounded up. Thanks to NetGalley and Graydon House for the ARC.

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I am not a fan of Jane Austen but really enjoyed this apparently modern take on Sense and Sensibility.

To summarize briefly the main character Amelia after years of working and being away from her family is forced to return home. However, due to the death of her father and other complications her mother, sister and niece are living at a retreat for cancer patients.

The cast of characters expands and the novel contains great descriptions of relationships, locations all along the Northern California coast and food!

I did feel sympathy from Amelia’s sister Eleanor who seemed to carry all the burdens and responsibilities of her family. In the end after some bumps along the way it was a satisfying conclusion.

Thanks for NetGalley for opportunity to read this book and now I may give Sense and Sensibility another try.

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