Joint Review: Tanya by Rebecca Rogers Maher

tanya by rebecca rogers maherPublisher: Promised Land Books
How did we get the book: ebook provided by the author
Release date: Out now

Tanya—a recovering alcoholic—meets Jack at a roadside stop on the way to her sister’s wedding. Hoping to drown her sorrows in the company of a stranger, she brings him back to her motel room.

The next day, shaken by the intensity of the experience, Tanya joins her sister’s bridal party at an upscale mountain lodge. There, she meets the groom’s family for the first time, including his brother, Jack—just home from the Peace Corps and reeling from his night with the bold, beautiful woman he thought he’d never see again.

Both at a crossroads in their lives, Tanya and Jack collide for one explosive weekend. Will they choose the safety of past regrets, or will they be brave enough to embrace the present—together?
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

Meka: I discovered Rebecca Rogers Maher’s writings when I reviewed The Bridge. After giving it high praise and feeling as though the book had trounced all over my emotions, I could hardly wait to get my hands on Tanya. I went in to this story with very high expectations. Perhaps that was unfair of me, but I can’t always help the way that I feel. I wanted this story to wow me, to emotionally lay me open the way that The Bridge did. In some respects it succeeded, but somewhere it fell flat for me.

Marlene: I also found Rebecca Rogers Maher through reviewing The Bridge. In fact, in the promo copy they used to get us to pick the book, the review they are quoting is mine. Which is weird but awesome. The Bridge was heart-rending and gut-wrenching and kept my emotions set on puree long after I finished it. I was hoping for a similar kind of book hangover after reading Tanya, but instead, I ended with more of a ‘meh’ reaction.

Meka: The last line of the book dedication set the tone. You see, I am firmly entrenched in camp Nice Girl and when the heroine isn’t a nice person, it bugs me. I don’t expect them to be perfect paragons of virtue, but I do have to believe that there is something redeemable about them. I don’t even mind a snit or being snippy–these are human emotions and we all have them. I recognize it’s not fair, but I doubt I’m changing in that, either. I didn’t realize that Tanya and Jack were the siblings of Christa and Henry respectively. This made it equally difficult for me to connect to Tanya because she is presented as an alcoholic in the previous book. She couldn’t help her sister when she needed it the most and so there’s all these preconceived ideas that I had concerning the kind of person that she was and it bothered me a lot.

Marlene: Tanya’s introduction in The Bridge made her out to be an unrecovering and unrecoverable alcoholic. She thinks of herself as a terrible person, and she acts like one. She hasn’t healed or forgiven herself, and acts like dirt and expects to be treated like dirt. It’s hard to sympathize with a character who starts out hating herself and stays that way. That she is turning her life around is overwhelmed by her constant assertion that she kind of isn’t.

Meka: The book picks up about six months where The Bridge ends. Henry and Christa are getting married and it’s two days before the wedding. Tanya uses men for sex in order to cope with her own demons and that is how she meets Jack. She doesn’t realize that he is Henry’s brother at first, and they have a hookup in the hotel. The next day she realizes that it’s Jack and the wind is knocked out of her sails.

I really wanted to connect with Tanya, I truly did. I think that it is easier for me to connect with depression as that is something I deal with and understand as a struggle. I have a lot of baggage involving the destructiveness of alcoholism and what that can do to a family. It is clear that Tanya is trying to get her life back on track. It’s also very obvious that this is no walk in the park, and the author does not hold back on the struggles that she’s faced or is currently dealing with in her life.

Marlene: Tanya was the weak point in the story for me, too, and for some of the same reasons. Although the author does an excellent job of portraying Tanya’s struggle with alcoholism, it felt like it was because she does an excellent job of portraying people in deep trouble, whether it’s depression, cancer, or alcoholism. She’s good at getting inside her characters travails and making the reader feel how difficult things are for that character. But I couldn’t get inside Tanya’s head the way that I did with Henry and Christa, and that may be partly because it’s easy to sympathize with Christa’s plight, and I understood more of Henry’s struggle from the inside.

Tanya does too much to punish herself, long after everyone else has stopped even wanting to punish her.

Meka: I found it easier to get in to the head of Jack, Henry’s brother. He’s just returned from a stint in the Peace Corps and is now trying to figure out what to do with his future. He’s done so much in his past, but where does he fit in now? He does not know, but in Tanya he sees something that could spring open and bloom.

Their scenes together were charged with emotion, but I couldn’t help but feel a little hollow as well. It seemed they could only really connect in bed, when what I wanted for them was to connect romantically as well.

Marlene: I’ve known a few people who have served in the Peace Corps, and it can be a very hard re-entry. Jack’s temporary lack of direction made sense. Admittedly, some people probably don’t ever figure out what happens next after an experience like his, but Jack’s not there yet. He needs to find a new purpose in his life, and part of that purpose turns out to be figuring Tanya out.

There is an element of insta-lust turning into insta-love awfully damn fast. I couldn’t see why Jack fell for Tanya, unless helping her keep stable was another purpose. There were moments when this story felt like a tragedy plot bolted onto an erotic story. I didn’t feel the love.

Meka: Unfortunately, I was not convinced that Tanya and Jack’s happily-for-now was something that would stick. Maybe I was supposed to feel that way. Both of them had such tumultuous lives and it felt as though they were not given enough time to breach the maelstrom of emotion and issues that stood between them. I felt as though Jack was more capable of doing that than Tanya, and toward the end while she’d made some progress, I simply was not convinced that she could meet Jack halfway. I felt as though her progression was the weakest part of the book for me.

I found myself more invested in Henry and Christa’s progression than the main characters. There were some moments when I got teary-eyed, such as when Jack and Henry had a good talk, and Tanya’s gesture toward her sister, but it was not enough. I wanted to know more about how Henry and Christa were doing, what their struggles had been and how they’d managed. While this was talked about somewhat in the story, I wanted more. This made me sad because I felt as though I should be more invested in Jack and Tanya.

Marlene: I loved seeing Henry and Christa again. Their story in The Bridge was intensely beautiful, and it is so sweet to see that their happy-for-now is getting a longer “now”. (I only call their story happy-for-now because it’s unfortunate but obvious that Christa’s cancer means that they are living on borrowed time).

Tanya and Jack’s story seemed to be more about the sex than the romance, where Christa and Henry’s story felt completely romantic. Sad, but very romantic. Jack and Tanya don’t seem as solid together. He’s not just moving more than halfway, but he’s also found a purpose in his life. Tanya, although she makes positive progress at the end, still has so much negative self-talk that she needs to work through. You do have to love yourself at least a bit in order to be able to really partner with another person. Tanya’s still beating herself up.

Meka: Rebecca Rogers Maher’s writing is sharp and finely-honed. Her voice is refreshingly honest when it comes to difficult issues and tangled emotions. She never skims the surface or writes about an issue with anything less than blunt truth, and that can be a tough pill to swallow as a reader. Her writing is nuanced and she can keep me in the story, so I wish the book would have worked better for me overall.

I give Tanya a C.

Marlene: The author does a fantastic job of letting readers into the hearts and lives of people who are facing intense problems. She’s great at making you understand just how difficult a struggle her characters are facing, without turning everything into a downbeat. However, to make a story work as a romance, it helps to understand why the couple would fall for each other, and Tanya wasn’t there for me.

I also give Tanya a C.

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