While women have cornered the market of romantic fiction as authors and consumers since the days of English novelist Jane Austen, it is true that men may not be so thin on the ground of the romance industry as we normally think. Either writing under female pseudonyms (as in the case of Leigh Greenwood) or preserving their gender identity and writing openly about matters of the heart without fear of showing their most sensitive side (Nicholas Sparks above all others), male authors of mainstream romance represent a refreshing novelty in an ever-changing and yet unoriginal publishing world. One of the most recent examples of exquisitely romantic tales penned by a man is Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love by indie Rhode Island author Sebastian Cole.
Far from being a mellow romance novel, the author deepened and enriched the shadows of widely exploited tropes (lost love and second chances) with more introspective tones, dramatic twists, and a mind-blowing ending. Although frequently referred to as a romantic fantasy, Cole’s soulful debut novel doesn’t fall into that clear-cut category. The otherworldly element is not a dominant feature throughout the narration, rather an imaginative touch that the author used very lightly and that culminates only at the end of the book.
Lying in a hospital bed, eighty year old Noah Hartman offers to a compassionate medical orderly a bitter-sweet recount of his love life. As past events and present-time regretful considerations unfold in front of our eyes with the fluidity, accuracy and comfortable pace of a movie script, Noah takes us for an emotional trip down memory lane, leading the readers through his heartbreaking quest for love and the countless obstacles that external forces, prejudices, and twists of fate placed on his path to happiness. What makes this story of undying love so poignant and inspiring is the combination of two very fragile and vibrant characters and the incredible resiliency of their mutual feelings. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of compassion for Noah and his love interest, Robin. Their back-stories may be marked by environmental and genetic traits that will act as invisible and sometimes unexplained forces against the fulfillment of their love (Noah’s Jewish background and family’s hostility to Robin, Robin’s tragic past and lack of emotional stability), but true love has a way to reveal itself in a moment of truth and clarity. It leads two soul mates through the storms and the rough seas of life, like a compass to its true north.
The Verdict: Keep a tissue box close by while reading this evocative novel. Sand Dollar, a novel utterly heart-wrenching in its tragedy and absolutely gratifying in its resolution, won’t leave your soul and your eyes dry.
Date released: April 11, 2012
Publisher: Sebastian Cole, LLC
Author: Sebastian Cole