Book Review: An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

Larks cover

Title: An Exaltation of Larks
Author: Suanne Laqueur @suannelqr
Reviewer: Grace
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 550 pages
Rating: 5 Stars


September 11, 1973: Eleven-year-old Alejandro Penda watches from his apartment window as Santiago, Chile falls to a military coup, destroying his family and his childhood. Arriving alone in America, he’s taken in by the Larks: a prominent family in the town of Guelisten. Though burdened by unresolved grief for his disappeared parents, he becomes fiercely loyal to the Larks, eventually marrying one of their daughters, Valerie.

September 11, 2001: Javier Landes watches from his apartment window as New York City falls to terrorism. As one of Manhattan’s top-paid male escorts, this professional lover has never lacked for company and is loyal only to himself. But in the wake of 9/11, Jav is named guardian for an orphaned nephew in Guelisten and must open his carefully-guarded heart to pain he’s long suppressed.

Alex, Valerie and Jav meet first in their twenties, with a sudden attraction each finds strange and compelling. When they meet again in their forties, they discover not only is their bond still strong, but their life experiences are strangely similar. All have been shaped by separate 9/11’s, and their unfinished business from the past will change everything they know about love, loyalty and friendship.

“Life has rules. You cannot come in the middle of the night and take what we agreed isn’t yours.”

Across three decades and two continents, Suanne Laqueur’s fifth novel explores the unpredictability of sexual attraction, how family ties are forged, torn and mended, and how love’s downfall can turn to exaltation.

Grace Review

A beautifully woven story of love and loss, spanning two world tragedies and the impact of those events on three individuals. The depth of emotion so detailed, you feel the pain each suffers, and as a reader you’ll seek out the love that allows them to heal. This is a book that will stay with you, and fair warning, is likely you give you a book hangover.

“Wanting isn’t having.  Wanting isn’t doing.  Wanting isn’t making come to fruition.  Everyone wants.  I  want.  It’s the human condition.”

Just reading the synopsis, I knew this was going to be a powerful book. Initially I planned to hold off reading, as I wasn’t ready for this type of book. But then I saw chatter on my FB feed about this being “Best of” material, and with the year coming to a close, I knew I had to make the time for this story. And that’s exactly what I did. I did not rush reading this – it took me about 5 days to read (my average being about 2-3 days) and that not a bad thing. There are parts of this story that are so emotional, that I had to step away at times to avoid being overwhelmed with emotion. Most everyone has their memories of that horrific day in September, so reliving it all through a character’s POV, definitely is not easy. But let me back track a bit.

I had him in my hands and I let him go.  Why did I let him go?

This book spans decades, beginning in 1973. A young boy named Alejandro Penda (later known as Alex), if forced to grow up quickly when tragedy strikes. This is not the first time he will suffer. It seems that for Alex, life just keeps knocking him down, taking one person after another from him. The pain of that loss festers for years, until the second tragedy strikes. Only this time, he has someone to help him deep with that pain.

Then there is Javier Gil deSoto. His story, while not as tragic as Alex’s, is just as heartbreaking, when family breaks the bonds that should last a lifetime. He too is forced to grow up quickly, but unlike Alex, doesn’t receive the love a child deserves as they grow up. On top of that, when a chance at love does appear, it is quickly snatched away before it has time to break down the walls around his heart.

He’d never turned inside – out like this when kissing his clients.  Peeled apart, folded back and drifting in a thick sea of desire.  Vulnerable, electric, and wanting.  Wide open to his bones, conscious of himself.  A lovee instead of a lover.

The woman who is there for both men, lucky girl, is Valerie Lark.

Where the lark went, the tiger longed to follow.

While the first half of this book gives you the foundation of the three characters, the pace of the story picks up when the three reunited, in what can only be described as fate.

“We’re so alike.  It’s no wonder.”
“No wonder what?”
“That we kept finding each other.  I’m having a hard time thinking it was coincidence.”

The relationships between the three are very complex. While things are pretty perfect for them individually in their current status, I felt myself wishing for something else. I’m not sure if the author intentionally created this curiosity within me – the “what if” this happened. How could that work out without destroying one of the three? To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into the details of what happens (feel free to message me if you need more information). What I can say is that I wasn’t surprised that it happened. And part of me wished that it was taken a step further.

Let me come in.  Let me stay.  Let me touch you.

This story shows you all types of love.
Blissful love.
Messy love.
Second (third) chances.
Unconditional love.
Familial love.

As the story builds, the bonds of love and the pain of the past, are put to the test. The author shows us the flaws of the human character, and how even the most seemingly perfect person, can make mistakes. What makes this story truly special is the author shows how the characters grow from each of those mistakes. How anger, forgiveness, and acceptance are all part of the process.

If you considering reading this book, be patient in allowing the story to build. This is a long book, and at times, the pace is slow. However, looking back I can’t think of any part that should be deleted. This author thoroughly develops each character, highlighting their past, their heartbreaks, their pain, so that you can better understand some of the decisions they make along the way.
I’m not sure if my review can do this story justice or adequately shows my love for it. Just know that this was one of the few books this year that gave me a book hangover. It is so good, in my opinion, that I, like other readers, have had to rearrange my Best of 2016 list.

– Grace

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