High school sweethearts turned successful power couple. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? In the case of Julia and Michael, you’d be wrong. When Julia and Michael met years before, they fell in love when Michael saved Julia from a skeevy ex-con near the train tracks of their West Virginia hometown. From that day on, they were a team; they worked their way through college together and settled in for what they hoped would be a long and happy life.
But the success they both so badly wanted tore them apart. Julia, an event planner and Michael, a rich and powerful founder and CEO of a beverage company, DrnkUp. At some point in their relationship, Michael began to pay more attention to his company than his wife, and slowly, their marriage began to unravel.
When Julia received a call at one of her biggest events of the year that Michael is in the hospital, she is shocked. Michael had a heart attack and died. But, miraculously, a portable defibrillator jump starts Michael’s heart and he lives…but he is no longer the man Julia once knew. This man is strange…different. Michael announces he is giving up his company, and all of his fortunes, for the chance to re-connect with Julia. But Julia’s not sure she wants to get to know the man she once loved for a second time.
I devoured half of this book on a plane ride to Arizona, and finished the second half on my plane ride home. And if you know me, I don’t sit still during plane rides, so this book was really something special. Kind of interesting that I read and loved Pekkanen’s first book THE OPPOSITE OF ME during a flight to Chicago in the summer. What can I say? Pekkanen makes for some good travel reading (or anywhere reading, really).
I was extremely impressed by the plot of SKIPPING A BEAT. It’s definitely unique and made me think throughout the entire book. I love the concept that Julia has this intense and important decision to make. The burdens of her past and her relationship with her mom and dad weigh heavily on her, all impacting the decision she ultimately makes.
Pekkanen expertly weaves backstory into the present day, slowly giving readers all of the information they need to fully understand Michael and Julia’s personalities and relationship. I was seriously impressed by how well the different flashbacks and backstories fit into the main story. The little snippets left me wanting more, but also gave me a clearer view into the present day.
I completely fell for Julia as a main character. She’s very easy to connect with, and throughout the book, I yearned to learn more about her. Although I didn’t like who Michael became after he struck gold, through backstory, I enjoyed learning about what drove him to become as intense as he did. The unraveling of their marriage happened slowly and simply; in the moment, it didn’t seem like either partner knew what was happening or how to stop it.
In addition to completely loving the storyline between Julia and Michael, I also adored the secondary plot about the friendship between Julia and Isabelle. Isabelle was an interesting character because she grew up rich, but still had an extremely down to earth attitude and fiercely cared for Julia. While Julia agonized over her decision, Isabelle was there every step of the way. I appreciated that Isabelle even got her own unique storyline regarding the daughter she had put up for adoption. This just added another wonderful layer to an already interesting and detailed story; a layer that once again all pushed towards Julia and Michael and their ultimate decisions.
One of my favorite parts of this book was Julia’s obsession with operas. Not knowing much about opera music myself, I felt like this book actually taught me a lot about different operas and the conflict and story behind them. I also love how Pekkanen was able to make such intricate and spot-on connections between specific operas and what was going on in Julia’s life. I thought this added element made the book unlike any other I’ve read.
While I loved Julia as a main character, I did have one small issue with her. At times throughout the book, I struggled with whether I liked her or not. I felt conflicted because at certain points in the story, I thought she seemed selfish and as if all she cared about was money, and if she could continue her lavish lifestyle. But on the other hand, I understand her fears about beginning a new life, after being so used to always being taken care of. I think Pekkanen purposefully created this conflict to make readers stop and think and put themselves into Julia’s shoes. When I put myself in her shoes, I was definitely more easily able to understand her worries.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that I was definitely swiping away tears on the plane. This book will stay with you for days. Pekkanen writes an absolutely stunning book that readers won’t be able to put down.
Review copy provided by author and publisher.