Friday, May 10, 2019

Book Review: Only Ever Her

By Jami Deise

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s novel When We Were Worthy was one of my favorite books of 2017 (reviewed here), about the ramifications in a small Georgia town when a high school outcast causes a crash that kills a carload of cheerleaders. With its specific setting, strong character work, and ultimately uplifting message, the novel left me in tears. While Whalen’s follow-up, Only Ever Her, has many of these same elements, ultimately it is not as impactful as the earlier novel.

When Annie Taft was three years old, she was the only witness to her mother’s murder, and her testimony sent Cordell Lewis to prison for life. Now, twenty years later and two weeks before her wedding, Lewis’s lawyer writes Annie to say there’s evidence that Lewis did not kill Annie’s mother, and to ask for Annie’s support in reopening the case.

Four days before the wedding, Annie disappears.

With this set-up, I was expecting a strong mystery tying together past and present. Instead, Only Ever Her concentrates on the interior lives of certain people in the small South Carolina town where Annie’s mother was murdered and where she was raised: her Aunt Faye, who raised her and has romantic secrets of her own; her secret “best friend” Kenny, a town outcast; former high school rival turned newspaper reporter Laurel; and her cousin Clary, raised like a sister to Annie and who has a secret in her past as well.

While I enjoyed the setting and character work – the story reminded me somewhat of Steel Magnolias, and Annie is just as loved by the town as Shelby was – I did expect more mystery with my mystery, and a stronger connection between Annie’s mother’s murder to Annie’s disappearance. Instead, most folks were consumed with their own secrets or wondering about Annie’s fiancé Scott and her best friend Tracy.

Only Ever Her is a good story for fans of small sleepy southern towns. But for those who prefer tight, plot-driven mysteries, they may be left wanting.

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen:

1 comment:

techeditor said...

Thanks for the honest review.