Marnie Wittier has made many mistakes in her life, but she has left those behind and has tried to move forward by starting Books and Brew, a bookstore\coffee shop combo. But her old life has found her in the form of Emmit, the Downs syndrome teenage son of her dead sister. Social services has named her next of kin, forcing Taylor Cole, her ex-boyfriend, to relinquish custody of Emmit to her. But Marnie does not want to raise a child, especially not a stubborn Downs syndrome boy who's always finding objects from her past in her house to show her. Marnie does not understand why she is being forced to remember all her mistakes, and Taylor does not understand why the boy had to be taken from him. The answers to their dilemnas lie only in their reconciliation with their past together.
Marlo Schalesky once again crafts an interesting plot built on well-developed characters that makes the reader think she's going to write another five star book. However, she seems to be obsessed with love stories with a "twist", and these twists are ruining perfectly fine plots. As she did in If Tomorrow Never Comes, she invents an outlandish twist that is supposed to be surprising, yet only creates plot holes and causes the reader to scratch his head. If she would only return to the type of twist she used in Beyond the Night, she could be writing five star plots over and over again.
Marnie, Taylor, and several other characters are very well-developed with imperfections-past and present. Marlo subtly brings each character up to the present, exposing and developing personalities along the way. Marlo has always done this, and there is nothing wrong with it. She has also always created few characters, allowing her to give each one special attention. There is no villain, since the main characters are their own worst enemies. There is nothing wrong with the character department, proving that Marlo needs no help developing characters; she merely needs to be consistent as she has been.
There is an obvious romantic subplot between Taylor and Marnie, yet it is not cheesy at first. It is quite realistic in the past, yet this trend deteriorates in the present. However, this is not a cheap romance that there seems to be an overabundance of on the market. There is a key character death, naturally. The biggest and most blaring problem with the entire book is the strange end. As was the case with If Tomorrow Never Comes, Marlo's "twist" creates more questions than it answers. This twist is no plausible, probable, or explained. It is slightly more possible than the twist in her previous novel, yet no explination is given for how it was accomplished. This end makes the reader go back and read several sections near the beginning of the book in order to discover an answer, yet there is no answer.
Shades of Morning is not the disaster If Tomorrow Never Comes was, yet Marlo is damaging her reputation as an author by writing such strange ends. These ends make her appear unintelligent or ignorant. She has all the potential in the world if she will only be more realistic with her twists.
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