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I spent the first half of the novel, "Vacation" by Santa Rosa author J.C. (Jeanne) Miller, frustrated with the main characters. William Koval, the protagonist of the story, has a hard time speaking his mind and standing up for himself. Annie Logan, the woman he ends up falling for, has no trouble speaking her mind by either running away or putting up an angry front – even when doing so seems completely heartless and over the top.

However, as the layers of their wounds began to unpeel, I began to see that these were, in fact, two very fragile people who had been brought together by their shared understanding of tragedy.

The story of "Vacation" introduces Dr. William Koval as a workaholic physician who is still mourning the loss of his late wife, Kathleen, three years after she was murdered. William still can't find it in him to move much beyond his loss, though he manages by holding a stony front to the outside world.

It wasn't until his supervisor urges him to take a much needed vacation that he takes a break from work and the mundane day-to-day. However, instead of finding some nice beach to lay on or other relaxing type of holiday, he decides to take the vacation his late wife had always wanted to take, ensuring her memory would compound the duration of his getaway.

William's journey takes him across the ocean for a walking tour of England. He is accompanied by a group of other vacationing tourists, all with their wide breadth of quirks and tendencies. I found Miller's way of painting a scene with varying characters refreshing; giving a distinct voice to each persona so that you could actually envision the way they walked and talked.

Of note was Annie Logan, a woman that slowly captures William's attention. She's sweet and smart, modest and lovely; and soon William discovers he can't keep his mind off of her. It doesn't hurt that she also lives close by to where he does, though they both traveled all the way to England to discover this truth.

That William would find love on a vacation dedicated to his late wife is not unusual. In fact, it was about time this widower stepped away from being chained to a memory, and found someone else who was worthy of his attention. What was strange, though, was how hard and fast he fell for someone he barely knew. I just felt like the author could have painted a more thorough picture of who Annie Logan was at this point, showing why she was worth more than just a passing crush. And when these feelings were discovered to be mutual, I felt like the author took a break from her descriptive prose to make a sprint over a moment that had been building up in William's mind.

I wanted romance. I wanted chocolate and wine. I wanted lingering kisses and whispers of mutual longings and heartfelt wishes. Instead, I got a "Hey, what just happened?"

Admittedly, it was the aforementioned scene that left me the most frustrated, followed immediately by an event that threatened this barely blooming love. I found Annie to be lacking in grace, and I questioned why William would fall for someone who could only focus on her own situation and was blind to the devastating nature of William's.

However, further reading made me wonder if this was, in fact, the author's intention. She had spent the first half of the story revealing the nature of William's grief, but not much is known about Annie's. Through William's persistence, the source of the angry front Annie puts on is revealed, as is the tenderness she carries underneath. And as more and more is learned about this mysterious love interest, it becomes so much more apparent why she reacts this way, and why William is drawn to her.

"Vacation" is a story of two people with much on their shoulders who come together under the most unconventional circumstances. J.C. Miller does a wonderful job of painting scenery and creating characters so that you feel like you're standing in the center of all the action. She managed to evoke strong emotions in me as I read – the art of a skilled storyteller. And by the time I reached the end, I felt like everything I'd been shaking my fist up at the sky about was wrapped up exactly as it should be.

J.C. Miller is also the author of novels "On the Brink of Nora", "The To-Do List", and "Believing in Bigfoot", and children's book "JellyBean and Friends". "Vacation" is her 5th book. Discover more info at <a href="http://jcmillerwriter.com">jcmillerwriter.com</a>.

<i>Crissi Langwell writes about families, books, and entertainment for the Press Democrat. Contact her at crissi.langwell@pressdemocrat.com.</i>