Review: The In-Between Hour, by Barbara Claypole White

About the author, Barbara Claypole White

Barbara Claypole White

Barbara Claypole White writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. English born and educated, she’s married to an internationally-acclaimed academic. Their son, an award-winning poet / musician, attends college in the Midwest. His battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have inspired her to write love stories about damaged people. The Unfinished Garden, Barbara’s debut novel, won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. The In-Between Hour is her second novel.

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My Thoughts

“Hannah sank down in front of him and eased his head onto her chest. In the distance, bottles and cans clunked into the recycling truck. Their world was imploding, and it was recycling day.”
~Barbara Claypole White, The In-Between Hour

That paragraph, from near the end of The In-Between Hour (but no spoilers, I promise), is one of the perfect human moments that made me fall in love with Barbara Claypole White’s second novel. She has these moments all through the story, and every time, they make me nod or smile, not necessarily because they’re funny, but because they come from a place of truth.

I confess I was a bit leery when I realized this was technically a Harlequin novel. Okay, it’s Harlequin/MIRA, but still…they do have a reputation for being more than a little bit, well, fluffy.

But In-Between Hour, while a romance, is anything but fluffy.

Instead, it’s a lovingly constructed glimpse at a man grieving for his lost child and coping with a father who is showing signs of either Alzheimer’s or dementia, and a woman who gives as much time and energy to saving animals as she does to caring for her (adult) children, one of whom is quite broken. It’s also the story of an aging father trying to save his memories of love and loss while still being a parent (because you never quite stop) and another woman, who is a friend to all but doesn’t always love herself as much as she should.

It’s a story about real hearts, all of which are slightly cracked or dented, as happens in this journey we call life, and it’s a story about how if we’re supremely lucky we can find a person – or people – whose damage doesn’t clash too much with our own.

Author White handles everything with finesse and an attention to detail that is both elegant and entrancing. Her dialogue feels real, and her characters feel like people you might encounter – funny, flawed and fabulously three-dimensional.

I like that she sets up a possible “perfect ending,” but leaves things loose enough that free will still plays a part, and I like that all of her characters have their own intelligence, even though some of them aren’t necessarily well-educated.

Most of all, though, I liked that even though this was a conventional romance in many ways, The In-Between Hour was unconventional enough to keep me interested from the first page to the last.

Goes well with coffee with a touch of egg nog instead of cream, and chocolate gingerbread with candycane frosting.

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