By Ci’Monique Green
**** Believable characters and a great cozy novel
Ci’Monique Green has given us a true-to-life cozy romance/mystery with her novel Forever Dolls. Although just as with most of the books I read I try not to read too many blurbs beforehand about the book or rather much of anything that might give me any preconceived notions before I read it myself, I wasn't sure what to expect with this novel. However, I’m pleased to say I was delightfully surprised. This was one of those quick reads because I couldn't put it down.
In a cozy Gulf Coast town of Chatham Crest we meet our main character, Verona – often called Roni for short. She and her 14-year-old daughter, Rainer, are deeply rooted in this community. Verona is a business owner. Her doll shop – not quite what it seems by name alone – Forever Dolls, is nestled in the heart of the town right down the way from the beauty shop where the women cluck, cluck all day while they’re getting their hair done, and down the way from the local grocer, Mr. Reynolds’ place.
Based on the name alone and my calling it a doll shop, you probably don’t imagine that Roni makes special types of dolls that typically are bought to memorialize the passing of a loved one. People from all around the country contact her requesting a doll be made, many using the loved one’s own hair on the doll. It’s what Roni is known for and she stays pretty busy.
Other than the doll shop, this 40-something spends time with her daughter, who is a very gifted cello player. Oh wait!!! And the biggest thrill in Chatham Crest is reading the Man Wire in the local paper where "Brent" answers letters mostly written in to ask about men and the ever elusive “love” word. Work, Rainer, and Man Wire is Roni's life. That is until the handsome and almost mysterious, Bradford comes to town. Then begins a romance tailed by a mystery when many of the older single ladies in the community realize all their savings have been stolen.
Ms. Green’s writing is believable. The characters in Forever Dolls are real, true to life. It isn't often in a romance novel that a writer really identifies the vulnerability of the main character as she does with Verona. She writes Verona as a woman with insecurities in her appearance – which as a fluffy woman I can appreciate. And the reality of oftentimes as a single mother you don’t get too many chances to date. I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Verona, as well as her development throughout the novel.
I loved the style in which Ms. Green wrote. She obviously has a little knowledge about plants and birds, as she calls them by name often throughout the book. However, I would have loved to have been able to “see” the scenery, especially since she is, for the most part, so very gifted in allowing the reader to “see” what her characters see at other times. “…after unspoken pages of time pass, Bradford gradually drops his palms from his face. He keeps his body both rigid and fluid, swaying with my momentum like a melting statue." There are also beautiful passages like, "Silence doesn't have to wait for long because as I stand in confusion's wake, Bradford spills his remaining mystery like water."
Although I’d characterize this book as a romance/mystery novel, there isn't a heavy amount of sexual content as one might expect. Yes, there is some so I wouldn't recommend this for my younger readers without an adult reading it first and deciding what your young reader can handle. In my opinion, I’m not sure I’d let my 16-year-old daughter read it for a couple more years. It definitely isn't as much as you get with TV, but still.
In conclusion I have to say that I really enjoyed Forever Dolls. It was one of those lazy, easy reading novels that had moments where I couldn't wait to see what happened next. I, personally, am typically not a big romance fan so I was pleased that Ms. Green incorporated some mystery in this cozy novel. I definitely would recommend this to romance and/ or mystery readers, and definitely anyone who likes a bit of chick lit.