A Smile in a Whisper is another all-consuming, gut-punch of a love story by Jacquelyn Middleton.
The story follows the second-chance romance between chronically ill island gal Evie and anxiety-ridden, teen-acting sensation Nick, both characters briefly met in Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye.
Told in split POV and using a dual timeline narrative, between the youthful happenings of the “then” teenage years and the reuniting events in the “now,” this story spans nearly 14 years of Evie and Nick’s relationship, and is filled with friendship and slow-burn passion, as well as youthful mistakes and misunderstandings that once led to those many years of heartbreak in-between for these two soulmates.
Dual timelines aren’t my usual preference, it’s true, and I worried early on that I’d become perplexed with the constant jumping back and forth, seeing first-hand how they fell in love as kids but knowing that some undisclosed event would soon lead to the end of their young love in the past, yet, I was so quickly engrossed in these characters and the depth of their big feelings for one another (then AND now), that I didn’t mind the back and forth nature of the storytelling as much as I feared I would.
Second-chance romances aren’t usually my thing either, like, at all—but Middleton is one of those authors I trust even the most troublesome of tropes in her capable hands. I still (always) have that horrible weighted feeling of unnecessary heartbreak and time lost when dealing with second-chance romances, like Evie and Nick’s, but thankfully their story swept me up and I became too carried away to worry about my usual thematic niggles.
What I enjoyed most, though, was the all-encompassing, mesmeric way that Middleton created such a deep sense of people and place within this story. I’ve never been to the Orkney Islands, never having ventured higher in Scotland than Inverness, but the way it was made real here, in the descriptions, in the people and in the language used, was wonderfully enveloping, and made me want to pack my bags and just GO!
Beyond the grand setting, I also adored the way Middleton represented mental health and chronic illness in her characters. It was an enriching experience, garnering a deeper understanding and eliciting the most empathetic responses I’m capable of. Battling my own form of chronic illness for a decade now, Evie’s experiences with Crohn’s disease was all too familiar in many, many ways. And as someone who was also diagnosed young with anxiety issues, Nick’s panic disorder was shockingly relatable and well-handled within. I’m always gracious to see this type of rep in my reading and Middleton has quickly become an author I can trust to handle these types of themes candidly and respectfully, and a boatload of personal experience and topical knowledge that is so very obvious and remarkable.
This may only be my second time reading a book by Jacquelyn Middleton but she stands out to me as a very authentic and original voice in the romance community and I honestly wouldn’t hesitate to read more of her works, given the time and opportunity.
I adore a really great small town, second chance romance and this book fit all the checklists for me. A wonderful story of young love, loss and second chances. This book takes place Scotland’s picturesque Orkney Islands. It is told in a dual point of view but also dual timeline flashing between present day and Nick and Evie’s childhood. I love how the dual timeline helps us fold the way they are who they are in present day. It slowly tells their story and events that happened in the past. The book does a really great job including very tough topics such as mental illness and Chrons disease. Many thanks to Kirkwall Books and NetGalley for the digital review copy of this novel. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
This is not my first book by this author, but I think it's my new favourite! What I've come to expect from her writing is a strong sense of setting (she does this so we'll and it is very clear she has visited these places herself and done her research), emotional journeys for the characters, and a sweeping love story. Evie and Nick in A Smile in a Whisper were no exception. This is a second chance romance told in alternating timelines (teenage years and late 20s/early 30s approx!) and while I'm usually drawn to one of these timelines more than the other, I loved both here! Their teenage love story was adorable and sweet and heartbreaking (second chance for a reason) and the present timeline was relatable and full of fierce female friendship and maturity.
Evie is also battling Crohn's disease in both timelines and flares of that while Nick has anxiety in relation to his acting career and journey. It was so well done and again, Jacquelyn clearly has first hand experience with this (which she has said) and has done her research well.
These pages flew by and I couldn't put it down after about halfway. I'd definitely recommend this to fans of second chance romance such as Every Summer After with the added bonus of a celebrity main character.
This is a beautiful book and it is so amazing, the story is so lovely and very enjoyable to read. i loved everything about this book and i would recommend to anyone who loves reading to give this book a go. it is a lovely book and i will read other books from this author.
This Scottish second chance romance is so good. I read this quickly and I loved every word of it.
I just reviewed A Smile in a Whisper by Jacquelyn Middleton. #secondchanceromance #NetGalley
A Smile in a Whisper was so sweet. I really enjoy dual timeline and often enjoy second chance romance and this one was well done. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Orkney islands before now, so the map and guide to terms was very helpful. It was neat hearing the language and learning more about the culture! I’d love to visit one day.
The writing was wonderful and as this is my first book by Jacquelyn Middleton it was so exciting to add another great Canadian author to my list!
The Crohns rep was very well done and a rep I personally really appreciated as someone that suffers from bad IBS and regularly has flare ups. They aren’t the same obviously, but bowel pain and bowel movements isn’t a popular representation in books, and I found Evie super relatable. I too have lived periods in my life where I would choose staying home just because the bathroom is dependable. I found her character growth, attitude and everything she accomplished inspiring!! I enjoyed Nicks anxiety / panic attacks rep as well. I fell in love with Evie and Nick and I loved their slow burn over a long time build up romance!!
The second chance reveal was predictable to me, and none of this book surprised me… but I still really enjoyed it and would highly recommend!!
Thank you to NetGalley, Jacqueline and Kirkwall books for the arc. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Grab a good drink and a box of tissues as you are going to need them! A wonderful story of young love, loss and second chances. What makes this story particularly special and compelling is that the main female character, Evie, has Crohn's Disease. Is that what makes her first love walk away or was it just life pulling them apart? Is she worth loving or is the disease just too much for someone else to have to carry with her? This author obviously is well versed in chronic autoimmune disease or is a wonderful researcher as I can fully attest that as someone with multiple autoimmune conditions the feelings expressed, felt, shared and portrayed are very real. Being a child or teen and having to navigate chronic illness while trying to fit in is a disaster and if you don't believe kids are mean, then you were probably the mean kid that was making life hell for others, or you lived a very sheltered life. I absolutely applaud this author for not only bringing the light to the plight of someone with an autoimmune condition, but for making it such a massive focus for the main characters. I will absolutely be looking forward to more books from this author as she not only writes a wonderful romance, but she infuses it with realism that is impactful for so many of us suffering from autoimmune conditions in a manner that enhances the storyline while telling the truth!
Evie Sutherland, a hardworking woman on Scotland's Orkney Islands, embraces numerous roles, from managing her family's shop to researching genealogy and writing romance novels. However, love has always been a challenge due to her struggles with Crohn's disease and past heartbreak. Nikolai Balfour, a former teen star on British TV, now struggles with regrets, empty relationships, and guilt over leaving Evie. When fate brings them back together during a TV series shoot in Orkney, they must confront their past and buried secrets, and rediscover first love. A Smile in a Whisper is a poignant tale of first love, second chances, and the lasting impact of treasured summer memories, unfolding through alternating past and present timelines.
This book has a special place in my heart because the main character struggles with Crohn’s disease, something she and I have in common. Earlier this year, after many years of struggling with my health, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It was a bittersweet discovery because while Crohn’s is chronic and affects every aspect of my life, there are treatments for it.
Evie’s struggles with Crohn’s were all too relatable to me. I found myself constantly highlighting passages, feeling so seen. From constantly weighing every food decision to the fear that symptoms will deter plans, Middleton expertly navigates life with this often miserable chronic illness.
While I loved the chronic illness representation, I loved the romance even more! Second chance, childhood friends to lovers is by far my favorite trope, and this one did not disappoint.
While it has similar themes to other books in the trope, it has a refreshingly unique story set in a gorgeous and unique location. I loved getting to travel to Orkney. I was completely unaware of this magical archipelago, and now it has a special place on my list of must-visit locations!
If you are a fan of childhood friends to lovers romances, A Smile in a Whisper should not be missed!
I had a hard time with the way their teenage years were written. They're too high-school-y for me, and the fangirl stuff got on my nerves a bit. I have no patience for that.
This is personal preference, and I can see that many people are loving the book, so that's good.
Thank you to the publisher for the ARC via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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!!!
If you're familiar with Jacquelyn Middleton's books, you might have already came across Nick and Evie.
Nick, or Nikolai Balfour, is an actor known for a TV series he stared in during his teenage years.
Evie Sutherland lives with Crohn's disease since childhood and works at her mom's shop.
Both of them dated in the past before Nick left Evie behind without explanation.
But Nick has to come back thirteen years later to shot a series in the Scottish Islands as Evie, who's managing her family's shop, is the official set's catering.
I was a bit skeptical at first about the dual POV and alternation of different timelines as it isn't a style I usually enjoy, but compared to other books in which flashbacks can be messy and disorganized, it was really well integrated in the story from the first time they met to the day things took a turn for the worse. A big part of the book focuses on the teenage version of the characters, so if you're expecting to read about the characters in their thirties, hang on and be patient, it's worth it.
Another thing I loved was the representations of invisible health issues and social pressure that genuinely are accurate.
Crohn's disease is a major theme throughout the book. The name must be familiar and might be aware of certain symptoms or just the broad terms of the sickness but this book emphasis on the constraints it imposed in a person's life on an ongoing basis.
Panick attacks are also discussed with the side effects, the crisis manifestations, what could help to make someone feel better or how differently people who witness an attack can react.
During some flashbacks, we could read about some characters being sexually pressured or bullied... I wish more people could speak up about this social issue to warn teenagers that it's not a competition to sleep with someone else when you're 18 yo or even younger.
Some sex talks kind of bothered me a bit, the characters seemed too young to speak about what they do with their boyfriends so openly and there was something with the fact that some girls between 14 and 16 years old dated 18+yo guys, too (yes, it's not that big of an age difference but I don't know, I was not into it).
Let's talk a bit about the setting now! The Orkney Islands, in Scotland, are such a gorgeous and dreamy landscape for this romance. It gives a delighful small town trope vibe plus there's a lot of cultural and historical references or locations.
It's such a sweet second chance romance with steamy moments and it's great to have characters being 30something once in a while. Believe me, you'll be obsessed with Nick and Evie's story and will have a hard time putting your book down at the end of the chapter happening in the past. And there are so many positive/empowering quotes !! "Asking for help is a total power move".
Thanks Net Galley for the advance copy.
A wonderful second chance romance set in Orkney.
As Evie holds the fort at her family's store, an accident happens, and everything falls on her shoulders. Suddenly, she's manning the food truck for a crew filming nearby. The man in charge is none other than her first love, a former teen star with ties to the island.
Nick is back on the island with a period production, using historical homes and sites around Orkney for filming. Running into Evie means he needs to explain why he left suddenly all those years ago.
Working together on set starts off coolly, but eventually they make peace. Their feelings are unresolved, and there's still a spark, but a lot of baggage hangs in the midst.
With dual timelines which share the backstory and present day, we learn a lot about both Evie and Nick and their hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. Evie has battled with Crohn's Disease for most of her life and Nick has an anxiety disorder which leads to panic attacks.
As they slowly consider reconciliation, they must deal with the secrets from their past, and even a few surprises in the present day, accept one another as they are in order to move forward. The love is there, but is it enough?
This story is woven well with authenticity in the representation of Crohn's and panic attacks, and it gives the reader a satisfying romance which proves love can be stronger and enduring the second time around.
received an ARC from netgalley
I feel in love with the Orkney Islands while reading this story. This second chance, dual timelines love story has so much heart and love and friendship through all the pages! Evie has Chrohn's disease, Nick has Panic attacks. They dated as teenagers and get a second chance at love later in life. It's a beautifully written, well researched story that left me feeling all the feels! Just wanted to wrap the book in big hugs after finishing!
A Smile in a Whisper is a second chance romance. I felt the author did a phenomenal job with some difficult topics, including mental health.
While I struggled to relate to the characters and their past and present relationship, I thought it was very well written.
Thank you to Netgalley and the Jacqueline Middleton for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I feel very strongly that just because I didn’t like this book doesn’t mean others won’t. There are some great things about it and the things I didn’t like are personal opinion.
Evie and Nick were childhood sweethearts that have been separated for 13 years, when they are forced to work together and determine whether they’ll hold on to their hurt and anger or give each other a second chance.
The easiest way for me to organize my thoughts for this book was a “like/dislike” list.
- The setting: It was set in the Orkney Islands off of Scotland and included some fun insight to their culture and lingo that I really loved.
- The Crohn’s rep: Evie has Crohn’s Disease and it plays a VERY integral part in the story. I loved the insight the book showed in how it can affect the body and the emotional toll it can take.
- The actual writing was good; everything flowed, characters had decent depth and I didn’t notice anything funky with the POVs.
- Both of the MCs in the “now” timeline are over 30 which is more rare.
- I think I’ve learned that dual timeline isn’t a style I enjoy. I get easily frustrated with way the information is slowly revealed.
- I found myself annoyed with the teenager portion of the story. The way they talked to each other and talked about sex stressed me out! I also didn’t enjoy reading about 14/15 year olds being intimate and sometimes with teenagers over 18.
- The miscommunication trope abounded and I have a hard time with that one.
This book will definitely find the right people! It just wasn’t for me.
Thank you to Netgalley and Kirkwall Books for the advanced copy. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A Smile in a Whisper releases August 10, 2023.
Thank you to Jacquelyn Middleton and Kirkwall Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review! I would give this book 5/5 stars!!! Jacelyn's writing makes you feel like you are alongside the characters, living through the book events.
Evie is from a town in the Orkney Islands called Orkney. Evie has a medical condition called Crohn's Disease. This disease makes her daily life challenging and this book sheds insight on what having Crohn's can be like. The book also sheds light on depression, anxiety and panic attacks. As I read this book, I felt as if the author was trying to convey that it's okay to talk about our health whether it be physical, mental or emotional. There is such a large taboo about sharing such information with others so this book shed light on what not sharing with your friends, family or loved ones might be like.
Evie works at her family's business in Orkney called Marwick's, which is part café and part shop. Evie's mom and dad take a vacation. They leave the shop in the caring hands of Evie while they are gone. Marwick's wins the catering contract for a local movie production which includes 2 meals a day, 6 days a week until the end of production. Evie finds herself having to come to terms with working alongside an old flame that ghosted her when she was younger. Did he ghost her because her Crohn's was too much? Could he not handle being with her because she had a medical condition? Was he just going to ghost her again now that they are older?
A Smile in a Whisper is a second chance romance, but it's also so much more. It's a story with relatable, multi-dimensional characters, mental health and chronic illness rep, and realistic portrayals of the wonderful and sometimes difficult dynamics of familial relationships and friendships.
I loved Evie and Nick so much, and it was really nice getting their dual POV. They each had their own struggles and experiences that they brought to their relationship. So, I liked getting to see them both grow and work through their concerns to find their way back to one another. They fit so well together despite being from very different families and worlds.
I also thought it worked so well to have the chapters alternate between their past relationship and present. It allowed for me to get to know and understand them better and how what happened then informed their experiences now. I saw so much of myself in them, especially Evie with her initial fan girl crush and then trying to find her place in the world.
Orkney was such a wonderful setting for this story. It was described in wonderful detail that made me feel like I was right there with Evie and Nick, and the islands were almost a third main character of the story. I would love to travel there someday!
I have been a big fan of each of Jacquelyn's books, and I cannot recommend them enough. A Smile in a Whisper is her best book yet and one of my favorites this year!
A Smile in a Whisper is the sixth book I read by Jacquelyn Middleton. This time the author tells a story of second-chance love that is beautifully written.
From the moment I read the synopsis, I knew I needed to read this book. I am a big fan of the second-chance love trope and since the book depicts a character who struggles with an illness, it is a story I could feel connected to.
Evie is such amazing character; bold and brave but still fighting problems and having insecurities. It was very interesting to learn more about Chron’s and how a person diagnosed with it can struggle. Nick is a lovely character as well; it was nice to see again a very human side of a star. He also deals with panic attacks and that made me realize that so many people suffer from it without us knowing or realizing.
The secondary characters were interesting and added to the story, I think Fiona is my favorite. Sunita was also a good friend (although I kind of hated how she was with Nick at the beach). I loved Lily and hated Nick’s parents. It was awesome to know more or Tarquin and Leia (and even Rupert), I loved that. The Orkney setting was different and unique and made me want to travel there to witness such wonderful scenery.
I cannot say more without spoiling the book but the whole thing with Evie and Nick felt very close to my heart. It broke my heart and mended it again. I also loved the chemistry they had together.
Overall, it is a gripping story, a real page-turner that I am sure will captivate you from the very beginning.
I am not a big romance reader, but I adored this story for many reasons!! The storyline of a star-crossed love that gets lost in miscommunication and time but finds its way again was so refreshingly endearing and stole my heart.
The transparency of characters who feel so incredibly genuine to humankind with all of their flaws and imperfections and a realistic timeline of how long healing may take. There are so many beautiful moments of friendship, love, and growing into one's self that branch this romance off into an overall wholesome read; I hope this gets a screen adaptation because I would love to see it come to life visually!
I also enjoyed learning more about Orkney culture and language, and the setting gave all of the Taylor Swift August vibes for this Swiftie!
'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.