Usually in any experience with reading one of Megan Hart's novels, she always manages to surprise or immerse me in the tales she narrates. I didn't think I'd end up connecting to Stella's character in "Flying" and the whole scenario from the blurb, but I was pleasantly surprised. That's not to say that there weren't moments I disconnected from the narrative, but I was impressed with the storytelling, the insight into the characters, the steamy love scenes, as well as the eye to the flaws and hardships with the cast of "Flying."
Stella is a woman searching for an escape from her life, probably made even more notable by the fact that she used to be a flight attendant. She finds her escape through frequently taking trips and engaging in no-strings hookups under the guises of alter-egos. It was interesting for me to see more of Stella's life aside from (maybe in addition to) that factor - considering she's raising a 16 year old son (Tristan) and still in contact with her ex-husband (Jeff, who really comes across as a jerk in more ways than one when the narrative begins - they notably had a huge falling out, and it did have to do with some cheating scenarios). Stella's usual "love and leave" pattern is broken when she meets Matthew, a man at a bar with whom she finds a connection with, but matters within his own life complicate their being together and somehow the two of them have to overcome those things (and their own apparent flaws).
I just, on the whole, loved the way this novel did the characterizations. It's a slow burn, but I read this book over the course of two weeks during my commutes to work and lunch breaks. I could put it down, pick it back up, and feel like I knew what these characters were thinking and feeling in their encounters with appropriately articulated tensions. I knew who Stella was - I recognized her insecurities with her protectiveness over her only son remaining, the loss she felt with the accident, and even the broken relationship she had with her husband. I understood her need, her implied longing for a connection, but I also understood her reactive distancing (even when it was annoying as all heck). I understood Matthew's character - his need for connection with Stella, his ex-wife and family, his indecisiveness/unwillingness to let go (even when it made me want to rage), but perhaps that was even further punctuated by his own insecurities revealed with an incident that ties to the thematic of the novel (and ultimately the book's title).
I loved Jen, even with the little times we see her in the novel (she gives the novel some good points of humor). Tristan I thought felt like a real 16-year old boy with his own insecurities, briefly noted through the narrative. Cynthia's characterization was strong for being Jeff's new wife, and I thought she came across as well rounded, even with her brief focus. Caroline and the kids (Matthew's ex-wife and children) had brief focus, but even for the momentary glimpse, I could see how they fit into the larger part of this story. I just - it's like having a lens into all of these characters lives and seeing how they interact. It's handled maturely, and the development is there, even if the scenarios themselves and the way you feel about the characters may be hit or miss. I actually think the third-person narration worked really well for it, though there are times, when the narrative hits the flashbacks to give a greater eye, it may come across a bit jarring/awkward.
I'm glad that I had the chance to savor the story for what it offered. Strong writing, strong development, maybe some parts of it I was a little at odds about the progression/transition and character responses, but I still liked the story and experience it provided. It did give me feels, and even a few chuckles for humored moments, but all felt like a real glimpse into Stella's experiences for what they provided.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from Harlequin MIRA, but I also bought a copy of the book as well.