Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ++
Before I can tell you about Fortuity, I have to begin with some background. To date, Jewel E. Ann’s Transcend Duet (Transcend and Epoch) is my favorite work from her. In general, there isn’t any book from Ann that I don’t like, but there was something about this duet that burrowed into my soul. To this day, these two books sit heavy in my soul, so much so, that I don’t think I can do a re-read of that duet any time soon. Part of this relates to the character of Nate. His journey in these books sat heavy with me. While I knew on some level he couldn’t be with (spoiler alert…but seriously, if you haven’t read those books by now, you deserve to have this spoiler ruined for you) Swayze, it didn’t sit right with me. It bothered me on some level. With the epilogue of Epoch, the story didn’t feel over; it was the definition of “bittersweet” at best. As a whole, it all felt unfinished. I believe at the time I asked Jewel E. Ann for more of Nate’s story because Nate’s happy ending hadn’t been realized in a way that felt finished. Now, you could say that I was being too reductive in my definition of a happy ending, but I can’t help my feelings.
When she announced a third book, one centered on Nathaniel Hunt, a part of me wept with joy. There was more to know about him; there was more story for him. And this third book, Fortuity, offers that replete conclusion. Fortuity is a beautifully wrought story of second chances, and its message is the perfect endnote to the Transcend stories: letting go and moving forward is part of the human experience, therefore, making it a necessary step in life.
If you are looking for a summary of Fortuity, you won’t find it here. Bits and pieces of the story will find its way into this review as I expound upon the reasons for you to read this story, but you can read Jewel E. Ann’s blurb for the general sense of the book. Also, it’s important to note that you can read Fortuity as a standalone. If you’ve never read the Transcend duet, Ann offers you a story that is all-encompassing in its own right. However, the emotional depth of this book will feel greater IF you have read the duet. I cannot encourage you enough to read the Transcend duet. Now, why is Fortuity worth your time and money and a necessary read? Here goes…
- For this reader, I love that Nate and Gracelyn, the heroine of this story, are in their forties. This is a time when people are getting a “second wind” so to speak. They are generally established in a career or family. Yet, both Nate and Gracelyn aren’t. Jewel E. Ann created these characters to “start again.” Nate and his daughter, Morgan, have traveled the world, living a transitory life. They are preparing to finally settle down. Similarly, Gracelyn is transitioning from the role of aunt to the role of mother in the face of a family tragedy. To date, she has lived somewhat of a solitary life. In these changes, the first message of letting go resides. Ann deftly points us to our need to sometimes move away from the expectations we’ve made about our life, embracing a new set of expectations. Gracelyn encounters this lesson more distinctly from Nate, as he’s chosen the path before him. Yet, he’s having to let go of some of the parts of the relationship he’s developed with his daughter, Morgan, before realizing their plan. At the ages of our hero and heroine, this is never simple, and the veil of middle age complicates Nate and Gracelyn’s journey. Their experiences connect with me as a forty-something reader. I understand these difficulties and found bits of myself in their characterization. That’s what initially connected me to this story, I think.
- Jewel E. Ann continues to show her literary prowess in pointing to the idea of “letting go” through the complication of parenting. And if you think that I connected the most with Gracelyn and Nate as forty-somethings, it is here where the message felt most profound for me. As parents, we set parameters for our children. Ultimately, many of us want to raise intelligent, socially conscious, hardworking, civically aware humans. With intentionality, careful plotting, some prayers, and creativity, we work hard to “hopefully” raise up amazing human beings. One of the most profound moments of “letting go” resides in Nathaniel’s experience with Morgan. He has offered her a dream life, traveling the world and exposing her to other cultures, making her a global citizen. She returns to the U.S. on the cusp of a new change, meets her neighbor friend, Gabe, and falls quickly into pre-teenhood. Everything Nate presumes for his daughter becomes upended. And in true parental fashion, Nate mourns this loss. Instead of seeing it as a transition, a necessary part of Morgan’s journey towards autonomy, he struggles initially. However, with the guidance of an intelligent and emotionally mature “friend,” Nate allows himself to “let go” of his prescription for Morgan’s life. He embraces her need for autonomy and the want to “fit in” with her peers. From a reader’s standpoint, I felt this message profoundly. This is where Jewel E. Ann is her best: using the real world to encapsulate tiny truths about the human experience.
- Fortuity presents us wth compelling characterizations. There is seemingly “a type” for everyone. Nathaniel Hunt in this book is NOT the Nathaniel Hunt of the Transcend duet, and thank goodness for that. He was mournful and overwhelmed and unable to find himself fully yet in that duet. Eight years later, he is purposeful, insightful, self-assured, and resolved. He’s also $exually fierce in a way that we weren’t treated to in the Transcend duet. He exudes a compelling masculinity that peeked at us in the duet, but it’s a force of nature in Fortuity. Gracelyn has no chance against this “Jamie Frasier-like” Nathaniel Hunt, and it’s delightful.
In some ways, Gracelyn is the “Transcend-Nate” of this story. Through her, Jewel E. Ann crafts the most obvious idea of letting go. Gracelyn’s past is holding her back, and she’s constructed a life that protects her from moving forward. As she encounters Nate and undertakes a summer relationship with him, she becomes more intuitive about her role with her nephew, Gabriel, she begins to find a new normal for them, and she finds a hidden depth of character. Of all of the characters, Gracelyn’s is the most exciting journey, as her evolution is the most profound. Her elaboration becomes the emotional center for Fortuity.
Morgan is a tour de force. One of Jewel E. Ann’s readers said that she would love to have a daughter like Morgan. I don’t know that I would agree with that because Morgan is the epitome of precociousness. However, on some level, she is the definition of an academic’s daughter. Nathaniel has poured so much into her that she’s knowledgeable and cultural. She knows quite a bit about the world, but she lacks an understanding of her peer group. She also is deficient in emotional maturity as a control for her verbal thinking. It’s here where Jewel points us to her need for other influences in her life. Her character represents a younger generation where the parents have protected and nurtured without allowing the space for personal growth. She isn’t a warning; she’s an exemplification of a type.
To a certain extent, Gabriel, Gracelyn’s nephew, is a foil to Morgan. He represents the peer group that Morgan is vying for entry. He acts as a representation of what Morgan would be had Nate and Morgan lived a more traditional life without traveling the world. He is also a representation of a preteen boy and the difficulties of articulating grief for them. His growth comes later in Fortuity, and it’s one of the moments that touched my heart, as Nate becomes more important in his life.
Mr. Hans, along with Nathaniel and Gracelyn’s parents, acts as the voice of wisdom. He does provide some levity to a story that can sometimes grow heavy, as Nathaniel and Gracelyn’s situation is complicated. He also whispers truth to the both of them at times when it feels needed. He’s a perfect balance to a potentially soul-crushing story.
- The final reason for reading Fortuity is Jewel E. Ann’s storytelling. Before writing this review, I pondered over my obsession with her books. Why am I so drawn to her storytelling? Why is she at the top of my favorite authors’ list? And I think it comes down to something as simple as her ability to present stories that feel heavy with story. That might seem confusing, so let me explain. When you open a book such as Fortuity, it is the story and its characters that drive you deep into Jewel E. Ann’s brand of romance. To be clear, that can sometimes be tortuous because she invests you in the emotions and world of her characters. She makes them believable enough that you can envision yourself in their shoes, pulling you in deep. It’s the story that isn’t always replete with heavy $ex or bedroom fun that engages you. It is Ann’s ability to craft a story that is full of life and love and pain and humanity. Her words whisper and shout and sing to you, forcing you through the highs and lows…because isn’t this life? You are entertained, titillated, engaged, challenged, exorcised, and avenged all in the space of a Jewel E. Ann romance. And Fortuity is no different. Every moment falls into place, creating a space to travel, a space to encounter the message of “letting go” and celebrating life. Right. Now. Every turn of Gracelyn to look over her shoulder is a step forward with a nod to the past. Those moments are intentionally crafted as images to remind us of her message. It’s that intentionality that provokes me time and time again to dive deep into the waters of a Jewel E. Ann romance even when I know I will probably hit my head and feel some pain. At the very least, her skill as a writer is worthy of a read of Fortuity.
So, in the end, did Fortuity give me peace for the conclusion of Nathaniel Hunt’s story? Yes. Did it upend or complicate the Transcend duet for me? No. Will his spirit and Morgan’s spirit live on? Yes, but so will Gracelyn’s and Gabe’s and his daughter, Morgan’s, because Jewel E. Ann has proffered a story that is timeless. She took the loose ends of Nate’s story and she entwined them with Gracelyn’s story as an admonition that we can live here in the now and flourish. All we have to do is let go of our fear and live. And that message is devout and perfect.
In love and romance,