Cover Image: A Smile in a Whisper

A Smile in a Whisper

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'A top ten read of 2023 and of the decade! A Smile in a Whisper is by far one of the best books I've read. Ever. A must-read for ALL romance readers.' - The British Bibliophile

A Smile in a Whisper is a standalone and my latest read from the one and only, Jacquelyn Middleton. I first discovered this lovely lady via a pr company book promotion for her then upcoming release of A Certainty of Chance and I've not looked back from her work since. This includes reading one of her other now available reads, Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye. It's been far too long since I've dived into a JM read, but it feels good to be back with an author I adore for both her work and for who she is herself.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that her then newly-announced book was to take place once more on the shores of the United Kingdom. Specifically, Scotland's Orkney islands. Even before the ebook ARC was a glint in our bookish eyes, my spirits lifted at this change of scenery from the frequently used London. Orkney is one of the most beautiful places within the UK and Scotland, and is definitely a must-visit location for lovers of the quaint, cultural and the captivating.

So is a dual timeline if you are a reader who likes the switch-up of hero to heroine, and past and future. Jacquelyn gives us both in this read. Normally, that isn't me. This time, I found an exception and found myself enjoying the change of pace from a regular, linear timeline.

On a small island in Orkney, big things are set to happen. From little seeds to big things grown, and Evie & Nick's humble--and staggered--beginning certainly does grow into something bigger than the two of them ever could have imagined it would be. Well, one of them. Evie from her side of the fence has always held a special place for Nick in her heart, now fate has given her the chance to make her adolescent dreams become a reality. But is it forever? There's only one way to find out, and that's to pick up a copy of this book and see how it pans out.

Coming into a setting and surroundings in which he has no desire to be in for longer than he has to, Nick is the very definition of a 'fish out of water'. Joining the Orcadian residents on the island during his teenage years, Nick's story is far from the black and white celebrity life we're so often used to seeing in the media. His story and character is raw, real and we get to see and read the ins and outs, plus the behind the scenes of the not-so-glamourous of the celebrity life from a young age. What we get, ultimately in this story, is Nick. Nick the regular person, rather than Nick the celebrity. The scenery and atmosphere of Orkney grounds him--even if he doesn't realise it--and here he can truly be the him not everybody knows.

Evie, on the other hand, is as genuine and authentic as characters come. Her pages are open for all to read, and she's very open and honest about what she wants with her life and how she feels about their own little slice of Orkney heaven. She's very black-and-white in nature, which in this circumstance is not a bad thing as she very much compliments all the grey areas that she'll come in to contact with Nick. Living with Chron's Disease comes with its own challanges--which were highlighted, explained and treated with great dignity by Jacquelyn--, so she not only has to navigate Nick but life with (and without) him and her condition. She has managed to balance the multiple jobs in her life, her family and school, but is Nick one dish too many to carry to the table? We'll soon find out after they say hello after the longest farewell.

A television show brings Nick back to Orkney--and to Evie--several years later after their 'farewell', though not in the capacity with Nick that she is expecting him to be. Still, he's here nonetheless and when faced with no choice but to be around him and to see him every day until the project's competition. The choices they both face are to either ignore one another and carry on their days as if neither are even there, or confront their painful past and the demons and secrets that are to come with it. Take your guess as to which option Nick and Evie pick.

A Smile in a Whisper by Jacquelyn is by far and large one of the best books I've ever had the pleasure of reading for a very long time. Stripping away again the usual setting as I previously mentioned that romance novels tend to be set in, we're left with a true small town romance that's ten time as romantic--among the raw realness of reality. This is very much a 'must read' novel for lovers of books. Not just romance books. All books.

Evie and Nick, despite not being childhood sweethearts, give that essence in the sense that they literally do grow up together over the course of knowing one another in their adolescence. The two of them have time to mature and to navigate life and its very unpredictable, sometimes cruel nature. The series of events--and there are plenty of them--that happen in this small town community, coupled with Jacquelyn's injection of realism of Evie's health condition, it has created a story which is more than just that. Times in which we can feel the author through the page truly elevate the story further for me, rather than just a writer putting a story out there for the sake of publishing a book. A Smile in a Whisper in all of its senses is one-hundred-per-cent Jacquelyn and the story she wants to be told.

It's become such a beloved book to me in such a short time, and I can't help but humbly request...more Orkney please!!!!

This novel is not only one of my favourite reads of this year, but of all time and as thus deserves only one rating. Five stars.

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Sixteen years ago, Edie's just a girl from the Orkney Islands, while Nick is a famous actor, most well known for his lead role in a popular teen drama. Now, she's managing the family shop and catering business, which is providing meals for a new BBC production, which Nick is working on as a producer. Alternating between the past and present, we follow along with Edie, from her first meeting with Nick, to their developing relationship, and today, where they seem to be virtual strangers.

Edie and Nick's health issues were discussed in a very believable manner,, but the jumps from these very real problems to spicy scenes was slightly jarring at times. I also really disliked the character of Edie's brother, Sam, as he didn't really seem to have a purpose other than acting as her protector. One minor complaint I had was that everyone has "very fancy" jobs: actor, journalist, archaeologist, author, which I feel like is a lot for one small island. Especially Edie - when is she finding time to do all of these jobs?!

The split timelines worked nicely here, moving at a pace that kept me informed, while providing a little mystery as to why Edie and Nick broke up. The parallels between the past and present were very evident, especially with Edie and Nick essentially switching roles between who's able to fully commit to a relationship. I haven't read any of the other books in this universe, but I didn't feel as though I was missing anything important about the side characters - I now want to go read the book about Fiona and Rupert's relationship! Overall, a cute story with a happy ending, and no one had to compromise on their beliefs or goals, which I greatly appreciated.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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"A Smile in a Whisper" is a beautiful and touching novel by author Jacquelyn Middleton that takes place on Scotland's picturesque Orkney Islands. The story follows Evie Sutherland, a young woman who works multiple jobs and writes romance novels. Evie has Crohn's disease and a difficult dating history, which has led her to believe that no one will ever truly love her. She blames her first love, Nikolai Balfour, for this belief because he left her behind to pursue his acting career in London.

Nikolai, on the other hand, has had a successful acting career, but he is racked with regret over how he left Evie behind and the mistakes he has made in his personal life. When a television series brings him back to Orkney, he is forced to confront his past and old secrets that have been kept for too long.

The novel unfolds in alternating past and present timelines, highlighting the enduring memories of first love and the power of second chances. Through Evie and Nikolai's journey, the author explores themes of regret, forgiveness, and the healing power of love. The setting of the Orkney Islands is beautifully described, and the characters are deeply drawn and relatable. "A Smile in a Whisper" is a poignant and heartwarming novel that will leave readers feeling uplifted!

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