Title: The Art of My Life
Author: Ann Lee Miller
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Grade/Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Art of My Life, is a love story. If you’re looking for a messed up kinky billionaire sweeping the beautiful girl off her feet, plying her with expensive presents, and kinky sex then this isn’t the book for you. This book by Ann Lee Miller is a powerful inspiring story about love, hope, failure, forgiveness, and redemption. The story has so many facets that it sparkles and shines like a beautiful diamond.
We first meet Cal as he walks out of the Volusia county jail, after doing a couple of months time for marijuana possession with the intent to sell. He’s a 25 year old artist and a college dropout. He’s also a habitual marijuana smoker, one hell of a nice guy, and on probation. Yes, he screwed up, but he has a plan to get his life in order and get the girl, Aly, he’s loved since he was a teen. She’s on his mind as he walks out of jail and he’s decided that she’s his future and has always been the one. Cal comes from a straight laced conservative family; he’s the son of a minister and his mother, Starr, is a dance teacher. He’s the middle child and the one who never fit in. All his life, his mother has been incapable of giving him the unconditional love that he needed because of her own past and passed judgment of him.
Both Cal and his mother are both introduced in the first chapter. Rather than being concerned about her son, Starr is more worried about what the locals will think about Cal and him messing up his life. She has a plan to fix him; his grandmother Henna, has signed over her sail boat and Starr has come up with the idea of letting Cal start a charter boat business with a $40,000 loan co-signed by her husband and herself. The loan is for repairs and startup capital. They say the path to hell is paved with good intentions and Cal’s parents have very good intentions. We also find out the marijuana he was arrested for belonged to his grandparents and not to him. Yes the grandparents are both potheads, but they are also the only ones that gave Cal the unconditional love he so desperately needed. They also have enabled his addiction to marijuana as they are the growers. His grandparents have been lifelong users. Cal’s goal is to get the business up and running. His biggest concern is to become the type of person Aly would take a chance on.
Aly’s a bright wonderful loan officer in charge of Cal’s loan. She’s a college graduate with a degree in business and Cal believes that she’s out of his league. Cal’s been in love with her since he was seventeen, but for his own reasons, he’s never made a move. She too has been in love with him since she was a teen, but always sought out love in all the wrong places. Cal and Aly were also each other’s best friends. Their relationship is further complicated because they also are in-laws, as Ally’s sister is married to Cal’s brother. Ally finally admitted her love for Cal two years ago and we find out as the story unfolds, that he breaks her heart. Ally still has not recovered from that pain. In the last two years they have been polite, but distant with each other. Aly also deals with major emotional issues of abandonment and self esteem that are extremely relevant to her personality.
Another main character we meet is Cal’s best friend, Sean, and the two of them have been thick as thieves since they were boys. In fact during his senior year of high school Sean lived with Cal and his family because his family took off to Peru to start an orphanage and abandoned their son. I admit I never understood why his family did this and understood Sean’s intense anger and resentment at the abandonment. We also find out he got fired from his job because of Cal stashed joints in his work locker and that threatens his reignited political aspirations and law school. Sean has to deal with his abandonment issues, education, and his anger towards Cal. Sean also has to fight his attraction to Cal’s younger sister, Missy, who he has known all her life.
Missy is a 20 year old college student and she’s feisty, insightful, and speaks her mind. She’s also crushed on Sean since she was a kid. He’s ignored her for the past couple of years, which has bruised her heart. Missy wants the world and now that Sean has noticed her, she feels it’s too late and she’s moved on. Her brother, Cal, has disappeared from her life as he’s wrapped up in his own problems and drama. Missy has to decide what she wants out of life and may need to listen to her own advice about forgiveness.
The cast of characters is rounded out by Evie (Cal’s ex-girlfriend), Jesse (Cal’s older brother, a minister); Kallie (Jesse’s wife and Aly’s older sister) and Cal’s father. Sean’s family is also included in the book. The secondary characters with the exception of Evie, round out the family dynamics, but none of them play much of a role in the book.
The Art of My Life is a story of a family, not a picture perfect family, but a family that has its struggles and issues. What I enjoyed the most about this book is that the characters were very real. They all struggle with love and commitment, including responsibilities, spirituality, success, and failure. There were times I found myself screaming at Cal for his choices. I wanted him to get his head out of his kester and face reality. At some point along the way Cal began to self medicate with marijuana; it’s what he turns to when he’s stressed and his mother’s disapproval is a major stress point for him. I wondered why his parents thought that starting a business would be a good idea for someone newly released from jail, and evidentially had a problem with pressure and marijuana.
I then would rail against Starr for damaging her son’s self worth and at the same time I wanted to save the little girl she had been, from her own absentee parents. Physically her parents, Leaf and Henna, may have been in the house, but Starr raised herself.
I loved Aly and I wanted to track her father down for instilling her, the problems with self worth and the feelings that she was a slut. He damaged his daughter in such an unforgivable way at a very young age. Despite her choices in love, Aly is written as a girl everyone would love to have in their lives.
I liked the duel romances taking place in the book Cal/Aly and Sean/Missy, I never felt cheated that one was more developed than the other. Ms. Williams does an excellent job in outlining both of these relationships. The parent child relationship between Cal and his mother Starr and Starr and her mother Henna are both heartbreaking and in the end fulfilling. It is very realistic as neither are wrapped up in a neat package, but life is never tidy and neither are all the relationships in this book. The book is spiritual without being preachy. The name of God is invoked in prayer, but at no point does the author offer a sermon to the reader. This is not a fairy tale; these characters struggle and through their struggles they make changes and luckily they learn from their missteps. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it 4.5 stars.
Anyone who leaves a comment with their e-mail address will receive a free e-copy of prequel: Kicking Eternity. Or you may request your free copy at AnnLeeMiller.com.