***This book was reviewed for the Manhattan Book Review and for Harlequin/MIRA via Netgalley.
Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone is a story of broken dreams, fractured family, and the power of belief. One lonely night, Benedict Stone is woken by banging on his door. On the other side is a young woman named Gemma, who claims to be his niece from America. Gemma is traveling alone, and says her purse with phone and passport were stolen at the airport. Grudgingly, Benedict lets Gemma stay with him, while he attempts to reach his estranged brother Charlie. He also digs out his father’s gemstone journal so that Gemma can learn more of her English side of the family.
As the days turn to first one week, then another, Benedict begins to change under Gemma’s influence. He begins to eat healthier, exercise more, and do spontaneous things. She drags several of his earliest jewelry-crafting pieces to his jewelry shop, where he’s long since settled into a boring routine of crafting plain jewelry on autopilot. As Gemma begins to recommend custom designed pieces to customers who come in, trying to find gemstones that will be most beneficial to them, Benedict begins designing and crafting again. In doing so, he wakens his dormant creative passion.
Through all of this, Gemma also helps her uncle try to win his wife’s heart back. For so long, Benedict has wanted children, though time and trying have proven he and Estelle cannot have natural children. He would be happy to adopt, but Estelle is dead set against it. Serious introspection helps Benedict figure out the underlying needs behind his desire for children, since it is his pushing for adoption that drove his wife away.
A chance discovery that Gemma has been, in part, lying to him prompts Benedict to finally track down Charlie’s number and let him know where Gemma is. It also leads to Benedict sharing with Estelle the reason the brothers are estranged, and to Charlie showing up in sleepy little Noon Sun. Gemma flees her father and it takes Benedict, Charlie, and Estelle working together to find her, setting into motion healing on all fronts.
This was an amazing story, at times funny, and at others poignantly sad. Above all, it is relatable. Who doesn’t have secrets in their families, or familial strife? Who wouldn’t benefit from being shaken out of a rut in some aspect of their life? I love how the thread of magickal/emotional uses of gemstones is threaded all throughout the novel, especially with chapter headings. Gemma serves as a catalyst, jumpstarting Benedict’s personal and creative transformation, leading him to create beautiful pieces of magickal jewelry. As he frees from his lifelong ruts, beneficial change begins to overtake Benedict. As it does, his changes influence Gemma herself, allowing her to begin transforming in turn.
This is a story of family, and the many ways ‘family’ can be defined. Despite being estranged for nearly two decades, Benedict and Charlie are brought back together by a mutual love for Gemma. Benedict learns that he doesn’t need children of his own to have a family. He and Estelle can become a great aunt and uncle instead of great parents. He even learns that Cecil and Puss are part of his family, and that the village of Noon Sun creates a unique version of family as well.
????? Highly recommended