An Emotional Roller Coaster – Review of “Play On” by Samantha Young

Is Happiness Verboten?

Nora O’Brien was stuck! Stuck in a nothing job in nowheresville Indiana and she can’t wait to put it behind her when a charming Scot whisks her off to his homeland. Problem is she’s traded one bad situation for another. Oh Jim loves her and he is good to her only it’s the same humdrum life as before, just in a different country. About the time Nora decides to leave Jim, he dies unexpectedly. Now that she is free to pursue the life she wants, Nora is eaten up with guilt and has a bad case of the “what ifs”.

To help assuage her guilt Nora dresses up like Peter Pan and volunteers at a children’s hospital where she meets young Sylvie and her uncle, music producer Aidan Lennox. Sylvie is the center of Aidan’s world and Nora blends right into the nucleus of their little family, feeling more connected to them than to anyone. Aidan is older and more worldly but he’s also suffered more than his share of losses. They’re kindred spirits of a sort and the passion they share is off the charts. But when Aidan suffers another major loss he not only doesn’t turn to Nora, he does a disappearing act and vanishes from her life.

Working through the pain and grief of losing both Aidan and Sylvie, Nora comes out the other side stronger and more resolute than ever, finally deciding to pursue her dream of college and maybe even a career on the stage. To be successful Nora promises herself to carefully guard her heart which means avoiding any emotional entanglements. So far, her strategy is working, except that Aidan now mostly avoids her and Nora is horrified when she realizes Aidan actually hates her. She is clueless as to why. Not only is she mystified by his anger, Nora is determined to not let it deter her from her chosen path. But can she stay on the narrow road she’s chosen? Will it be enough?

In “Play On” author Samantha Young takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster of romance, tragedy, passion, love and loss. There’s also a measure of self-forgiveness but it’s nearly outdone by an overdose of angst. Throughout most of the book, Nora is an emotional wreck, berating herself anytime she seems to be heading in the direction of happiness. She doesn’t believe she deserves it and she subconsciously does everything in her power to guarantee that she won’t find it. In her mind, it’s better to be content than to suffer the ups and downs of a happy relationship. Aidan is only marginally better off in the self-flagellation department, although his character is somewhat more sympathetic. Notice the qualification here. I found both characters to be maddeningly self-absorbed. I would have enjoyed this book more with a lot less angst and the page count could’ve been drastically reduced without any loss in the storyline.

Before I forget, Samantha Young or her copy editor could make use of a dictionary and note the correct definition of the word  “repentance”. (“Drawn to Aidan, drawn to Sylvie, I think I’d known all along that these two people were my repentance for the mistakes I made with Jim and my family.”) I kept tripping over that sentence and the usage just isn’t right. The infinitive “to repent” is to ask forgiveness for past sins or misdeeds. “Repentance” is the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse. A better choice would’ve been either “penance” or “atonement”. That plus the repetitive use of redundancies such as “dropped down” are amateurish at best. I’m certain some people will think me picayunish and maybe I am. But if you can’t run with the big dogs, then stay on the porch. Three stars.

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