Reviewed by M.S. Ocampo
Emily Kowalski and Daniel Malone are both jaded about love due to being burned from past
relationships. When they first meet, Daniel is immediately attracted to her, but it’s not until they meet
again in the spring that a friendship starts to form between the two of them. Unfortunately for them, the course of true love never doth run smooth, with Daniel sending Emily mixed signals and fate
conspiring to keep them in each other’s paths.
In contrast to your typical Hallmark movie, Ornamental Graces isn’t a story that only takes place
around Christmastime. Instead, the romance between Emily and Daniel develops throughout a few
years. Initially, Daniel doesn’t think that he deserves to have an authentic love with her. Emily works as a substitute teacher and helps her brother and sister-in-law take care of their five kids, but she still feels lonely. One misunderstanding and mistake after another puts these two in a cycle of trying to be just
friends, fighting their feelings, and falling apart. It’s reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally.
One thing I liked about this book is the way that Daniel’s grandmother and Emily’s family are both part of their growing friendship. Emily’s brother and Daniel’s grandmother also try playing matchmaker,
encouraging a relationship between the two of them. I also like that it avoids some of the typical
romantic drama cliches. Instead of Daniel chasing through the airport to declare his love to Emily when she signs up for an au pair job in France, the two of them have a long distance friendship. Even after
that, though, a new series of mistakes and misunderstandings keep Daniel from establishing a
relationship with Emily.
There are a few criticisms that I have for this book. First of all, the book paints Daniel’s previous
relationship with him as a victim, getting into a toxic, unhealthy relationship with a materialistic
narcissistic woman. While it’s true that men can be victims of abusive relationships as much as women, it would have been more interesting to see Daniel take responsibility for the mistakes he made in his
previous relationship instead of just putting all the blame on a woman who’s only mentioned and is
never seen “in person” until the third act of the book. Speaking of which, the third act drags out the
drama, keeping Emily and Dan apart until he finally gets his act together. If anything, several chapters
in the last act of the book could serve as a sequel.
Regardless of the novel’s flaws, I still recommend Ornamental Graces as a great romantic drama about how authentic love can restore life to two people who have been hurt in the past. If there’s one thing
that this novel teaches it’s that grace isn’t something we deserve, but a gift that we should cherish. It
would make for a good serial drama.
Author’s Website: http://www.carolynastfalk.com/
Genre: Contemporary romance, Women’s Fiction
Themes: Authentic love, drugs and alcohol, the nature of grace, healthy relationships, family, forgiveness, codependence, narcissism, self-destruction
Author’s Worldview: Catholic