I really struggle with this review. This is a very ordinary romance, predictable, and somewhat unbelievable. I winced quite a few times reading the conversations, mostly at what the heroine, Anne, said. The internal dialogues from the hero, Simon, are sometimes....., I don't take much pride in saying this, womanly. This book is like an itch that is just barely out of your reach. It had its moments, where my heart tightened reading the passages. For that I almost gave 4 stars. Those passages where Simon showed his feelings were written very well and very touching. But everything else.......Anne is almost good. I really like how she was portrayed in the first half of the book. She was witty, smart, strong but not fierce. I liked her a lot. Then she started pining for Simon too much, wanting him to love her, trying to seduce him and becomin upset when Simon would not open up anywhere outside of the bedroom. It is all very normal and to be expected, I mean her reactions. But how it was written, it made me feel that she was just one pathetic woman waiting for her husband to love her and she would go as far as standing naked in front of him (just metaphorically speaking, she did not do that). My early positive feelings quickly turned sour.
I cannot say that I "understand" Simon's struggles. His predicament is indeed dire. Losing 3 cloest people in his life, I think his struggles were only natural for anyone who has suffered such huge losses. But I am not sure what that did for the book. To have a hero who is so love with his dead wife, throw in other "conditions" imposed by the writer (celibacy, mastrubation, so on and so forth), Simon's relationship with Anne feels really cheap.
Ah I cannot say that I have done well in writing this review. I feel that some parts of the story (maybe 20%) really touched me (mostly something that Simon did or said). The rest was a bad novel with all the cliches stuffed in it. I sometimes find that the heros talk and think as if they were women. I don't mean that they must stick to the traditional gender roles but there are things such men do not bother with. "Overanalyze" for example. They would drink, brood, get mad and do stupid crxp. But they will not think things over again and again and again and again or nicely tell us readers exactly what they are thinking at a particular tender moment. I sometimes feel that it is the writer behind those male characters. Most unattractive.
Same thing goes for the heroines too. Sometimes they say things that are so pathetic that even as a woman I cringe too. Have you no pride or self respect, woman? But that is my problem. As I learned from ex boyfriends, I have too much pride. So it is a personal preference.
After much deliberation I decided on 3 stars. Again those parts where I really felt touched are indeed precious. But the rest of the story really was not impressive. I find it difficult to overlook that. Maybe Ms. James evolved as a writer and I would be curious to read more from her if she has. I do think she has something good going.