Note: If you’ve read Twelve Days, you’ll probably catch on pretty quickly what’s going on in The Edge of Heaven. But if you haven’t, the book opens with a mysterious element that’s spoiled by this review.
If you haven’t already read Twelve Days, The Edge of Heaven works on its own — however if you think you’d want to read both, I do recommend reading Twelve Days first.
What tickled my fancy: Takes serious issues seriously.
What ticked me off: He got the coal mine, she got the shaft.
Who might like it: Readers who enjoy family-centered romance and/or realistic drama.
Trigger warnings: Violence against women. (And men.) Not super intense or graphic, but scary at times.
In Twelve Nights Sam McRae told his wife about a hidden tragedy in his life, the loss of his younger brother:
“He was so much littler. He didn’t have any memory of our parents. I think they liked that. I think they believed they could erase any memories he had of any other home but theirs, and I was the only thing standing in their way. I was… angry. I was so angry, Rachel. And Robbie… he was mine. I was supposed to take care of him. I was all he had left.”
“Anyway, they wanted him, and they didn’t want me. And in the end, they got him. I got into trouble at school one too many times, and before long I was seeing a counselor and labeled a troublemaker. They told everyone all kinds of stuff about me, and I was so mad by then. I knew what they were after. They adopted Robbie, and they gave me to social services. To a foster home. I didn’t care about anything then. Not after they took my brother from me.”
“I had to know what happened to him.
“And he was okay?”
“Sure. Had a great life. Had no idea who I was.”
“Oh, Sam,” she gasped.
He shrugged his nothing-can-hurt-me shrug. What a crock.
“You left it at that?” Rachel asked. “With him not knowing?”
“He didn’t even recognize me. He introduced himself to me using their last name and asked if he was supposed to know me.” Sam winced at the way that hurt, even now. “What was there to say to him? I told him I thought I knew him, asked him about his family. He was happy, Rachel. They’d never even told him about me or our parents. He was only about four when they got rid of me. I guess it’s not that surprising he wouldn’t remember.”
“And you just let it go? You let him go?”
“Think about it. He missed all the crap. Losing his parents and getting passed around from place to place. I wouldn’t give that back to him for anything in this world. As far as he knew, he just had two parents who’d always loved him and wanted him. The truth was that his so-called parents had been lying to him his whole life and had neatly disposed of me. Do you think he would have thanked me for telling him that? It would have destroyed his whole life, and I know what that feels like. I wouldn’t do it to him.”
That story seemed a little off to me when I read it. People who would heartlessly separate two brothers like that just didn’t seem like prime parent material. And as we learn in this book, that was indeed the case. Anyway, when I started The Edge of Heaven and realized that a mysterious stranger with secrets has come to town looking for Sam McRae, I hoped it would be connected to Sam’s missing brother, and was thrilled that it was.
A loner with a painful past, Rye has been looking for his brother for years, ever since he discovered who that intense man he briefly met when he was 14 was. He doesn’t expect much joy to come out of finding the guy he believes deserted him, but he can’t seem to stop. But when he arrives at the latest Sam’s house, he finds Sam is out of town — and his sweet and beautiful adopted daughter Emma is holed up there, trying to recover from the shock of being hit by her college boyfriend.
Emma, whose own mother was essentially beaten to death by her biological father, can’t believe what’s happened to her. She’s always been the responsible one who held everything together: “Strong, capable, smart. She’d been so sure she was all of those things. Until this.” The assault triggers her memories of the past and leaves her ashamed and frightened.
When Emma’s ex refuses to stop calling and leave her alone, Rye feels compelled to stick around and help her, even though he’s increasingly dubious that this upright pillar of the community Sam could be his wastrel brother — and increasingly hoping he isn’t, since that makes Emma his sort-of niece. And in classic tormented bad-boy fashion, he is strongly drawn to her: “you’re just about the most tempting thing I’ve ever seen. Must have awakened every good-girl fantasy I never even knew I had.”
How Emma’s personality was shaped by her past, and the effect of her boyfriend’s attack on her, seemed really well done to me. The fact that she had some anger towards her biological mother for having married the wrong guy, leading to her shock and shame at finding herself in the same situation, rang very true:
He must think she was a basket case, a crazy person who let her boyfriend hit her. A wimp. Someone with lousy judgment in men. Someone who couldn’t be trusted to look out for herself. There were so many things she’d always though about women who let this happen to them.
Emma frowned. There it was again. Let this happen.
So Emma reaches some enlightenment, and later goes on to take self-defense classes and study counseling. All good. Yet I was put off by how the story treats her overall. Although I don’t expect her to turn into SuperWoman overnight, I would really have liked it if she could have participated even a tiny bit in her own defense, instead of being juggled from the protection of Rye to that of her father. She is given so little dignity by the story.
My bad feelings for Emma were just intensified by the romance parts of the book. At first it’s handled very well. Emma intelligently points out that the family relationship is essentially a non-issue, since not only are they not blood-related but Sam and Rye haven’t seen each other in 30 years. The significant age difference between them is more of a problem, she realizes.
It was so odd. Most of her life, she’d felt old already. People had always said that about her. That child was born old. And that’s how she’d always felt.
She’d never been too young for anything.
Although the issue is handled well in some respects, once again I thought Emma was stripped of her dignity as she’s treated like a child by the most important men in her life. She suffers so much and is constantly reaching out only to be rebuffed. It’s not that she and Rye aren’t good together or that I didn’t believe in his feelings for her — a romance killer for sure — but I wish there had been more balance between them. Hill aims for suspense and uncertainty at Emma’s expense and it backfired for me.
I was also disappointed that Sam and Rye barely process what happened to their relationship, and that the issue of Rye’s sometimes uncontrolled violence is kind of swept under the rug. On the plus side, the book had fewer traditional romance double standards than I initially thought — once again, Hill saves some information for surprises at the end.
I was very engaged by this and think it’s well written on the whole. (It’s self-published and there are one or two proofreading errors.) But my grade has to come down a bit for poor Emma, who is even given this awesomely stupid line:
He was so big. She’d never understood how this could work. She knew her own body. There was no space inside of her that was big enough to accommodate him…
You have two siblings and a college degree, Emma, I think you could figure it out. B-.