'On the Island' a sweet, endearing romance tale
The Cinderella story of Tracey Garvis Graves and her romance novel, "On the Island," is definitely a writer's dream.
She wrote the book while working full time, then decided to self-publish it. Then the novel took off — and Penguin Group, LLC, offered her a traditional contract and released "On the Island" under their Plume imprint.
In the new edition, Graves thanks her readers who propelled her on to the bestseller list by word of mouth.
"On the Island" is the story of two people stranded on an island. In summer 2001, Anna, who is an attractive 30-year-old teacher, decides to spend the summer tutoring T.J., a 16-year-old cancer survivor. T.J.'s parents have planned to vacation on an island in the Maldives, and they want T.J. to catch up on schoolwork he missed during the year with Anna's help.
Anna and T.J. are flying separately from the rest of the family; and on their flight, the plane crashes, thus sending them to a very small, remote island in the Indian Ocean, where they are stranded. Everyone presumes they are dead, which they soon figure out when no rescue planes come. So they start their plans for survival until hopefully one day a plane will fly over and rescue them. The novel is told from both Anna's and T.J.'s points of view in alternating chapters.
Readers can assume that because this is a romance and there are two people — male and female — stranded on an island, this is where the romantic part of the story occurs.
Readers may also worry how the author will handle the fact that T.J. is 16 when the plane goes down, and Anna is 14 years older as well as his teacher. It's apparent that Graves thought about this while writing her book and handles the compromising situation with grace and love.
When the relationship between the two finally develops into romance, T.J. is "almost 19." Anna also worries constantly about how their relationship will appear to people when they are rescued.
The romance between these two endearing characters, especially T.J., is sweet and keeps the book moving. Readers will finish this novel quickly, trying to discover if the two get rescued and stay together. Does T.J.'s cancer come back? Will Anna ever have a baby?
Some readers will find a few of the events that help Anna and T.J. survive on the island a little too convenient.
Because this is a romance novel set in contemporary times, it's hard to suspend disbelief as you might with a fantasy novel. Let's just say that although being stranded on a desert island is not lucky, the rest of what happens to the two is pretty lucky, including suitcases full of medication and toiletries washing up on shore and dolphins and a chicken that befriend them and save their lives.
However, the characters and their relationship drive the book; and if you like them, you will love "On the Island."
Since the novel has been picked up by Penguin, Graves also has written "Unchartered: An On the Island Novella," which is a 144-page book that tells the story of a character mentioned in "On the Island" and brings in T.J. and Anna, too.
The author also has a new novel out, "Covet," about a woman in a disconnected marriage who befriends a police officer and starts to fall in love with him.
"On the Island" is an enjoyable read and not a typical romance novel, which will appeal to fans of women's fiction, too.
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). She lives in St. Louis with her family.