From the BLURB:
'Will you marry me?' I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes. 'Lily?' he prompts. It's been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak...
Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn't have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can't forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart - and the heart of at least one of the men who love her.
‘Pictures of Lily’ is the fourth book from contemporary romance author, Paige Toon.
Lily came to Australia when she was fifteen. She and her mum moved halfway around the world (and took a 24-hour plane trip!) to come and live in Adelaide with her mum’s new fella she met on the internet.
Lily was initially reluctant. Not even her sexy quasi-stepbrother, Josh, could sweeten the deal . . . and then she met the kangaroos, and koalas. Lily’s sort-of-stepfather, Michael, worked at a local conservation park, and Lily found herself enthralled. She discovered a love for nature photography, and developed a special bond with a joey koala. And then Lily met Ben. A fellow ranger at the conservation park, Lily and Ben soon became good friends. It didn’t matter that he was 28 to her 16. They connected, and Lily soon fell in love . . . and then Ben admitted to having a fiancée. A fiancée who lived in England, where he soon moved.
Ten years passed, with Lily constantly pining for what could have been. But she eventually, slowly, moved on. Moved on to Richard, her lovely boyfriend (née, fiancée). Moved on to Sydney and forgetting about Ben.
Until the day he reappears to turn her life upside down.
If ‘Pictures of Lily’ was a packet of chips, it would be plain flavour. Never have I read a more scintillating blurb (underage romance and love triangles!) with a more tepid execution.
I'm not sure what readership Toon is aiming for, whether adult or young adult? The romance is so PG13 that it reads like a thirteen-year-olds diary entry for all the “his arm brushed against mine, his eyes are blue like water” prostrating that Lily keeps up (even into her late twenties). The romance is so innocently dull that I was somewhat disturbed by Ben’s interest in sixteen-year-old Lily. It would have been one thing if Lily had acted older than she was – if she and Ben had partaken of some canoodling or serious flirting – but Lily is so innocent, and she reads so much into the most nonsensical gestures that she does come across as very naive.
The believability of Ben and Lily’s love affair is further hampered by the quick time-frame – from Lily’s arrival in Adelaide to Ben’s leaving for England, the entirety of their ‘romance’ spans a few weeks. It’s not nearly enough time (and nothing really actually happens . . . outside of Lily’s imagining) to warrant her ten-year-pining for the man who supposedly broke her heart.
Even if I didn’t love Lily and Ben’s ‘older man, younger woman’ love affair, I kept reading. I do appreciate a good love triangle, and I wanted to at least see if Toon could turn up the heat when a third wheel was added into the mix.
I slogged through 172-pages of Lily’s girlish infatuation in the hopes that her twenty-six-year-old self would be a bit more scintillating. Skip ahead ten years and Lily is engaged to Richard, a fairly nice bloke who is unaware of the affection Lily still carries for the one who got away. Poor Richard is even more clueless when Lily bumps into Ben (now divorced, how convenient!) and starts an affair that will end in tears for all three.
This isn’t fair. I love them both.Somewhere deep inside me the chasm that cracked and broke open when Ben left splits even further apart. I can’t lose Ben again. But I don’t want to lose Richard, either.
I'm really amazed that between an older-man/younger-woman storyline and a love triangle, ‘Pictures of Lily’ remains determinedly tepid throughout. I could have handled the lukewarm romances if Lily at least had a bit of charisma to carry the narrative. Once again, sadly not. Lily is as tedious as her love life. She’s not funny – though Toon had plenty of opportunity for funny stories about a Pom assimilating across the pond.
I guess the majority of my frustration stems from the ambiguousness of the target audience for ‘Pictures of Lily’. If it’s meant to be a young adult read, then that explains the PG13 romance, but not why the novel skips ahead to twenty-six-year-old Lily coping with an adulterous affair? If this is meant to be for older readers, then why the kid-gloves with the romance?
It feels like ‘Pictures of Lily’ is two different books, mashed together. And as a result, the young-adult half feels unfinished while the adult second-half feels like it was holding back. And what a shame, because the bones of each storyline are scintillating and interesting enough.