(Book 5 in the Sweet Home Series)
By Tillie Cole
My experience with Tillie Cole’s books is that she subscribes to the “go big or go home” philosophy. I’ve read 6 of her books in the last few months and each one has shown her characters dealing with some heavy emotional (and sometimes physical) baggage. You don’t start a Tillie Cole novel unless you’ve got tissue nearby. Sweet Soul is no different, yet I found this sweet story more balanced than anything else I’ve read from her.
Sweet Soul is, I’m guessing, the last book in the Sweet Home series. I read the first book, Sweet Home, right before receiving the ARC for Sweet Soul. Honestly, I wasn’t too crazy about it. It’s one of Cole’s earlier works, and quite frankly, you could tell. Even knowing the 5th book in the series was headed my way, I didn’t read the others (one big reason is I didn’t have the time, Cole is a prolific writer and the books in this series run about 450 pages each). So, I started Sweet Soul with only a rudimentary knowledge of the overall journey of these characters. It wasn’t an issue.
Even if you’ve not read a single book in this series, you can easily pick up Sweet Soul and enjoy it without being confused. This book features Levi Carillo, the youngest of the Carillo brothers that starred in books 3 & 4. Levi is the title character, a sweet soul right down to his toes. Orphaned at a young age and drawn into a life of violence he never had the heart for, Levi is now 20-years-old, playing college football, and the poster boy for shyness. Rarely speaking, he keeps to himself, never socializing with his classmates or teammates. Despite inheriting the handsome Carillo looks, he’s never even kissed a girl, let alone been on a date, even though the local girls try hard to change that. When his wallet, which held his beloved mother’s rosary in it, is stolen, Levi is devastated and, if possible, withdraws more from the world.
Elsie Hall is mostly deaf and homeless. Raised on the streets by an addict mother, she ended up in a group home after an overdose kills her only parent. Terrorized to the brink of suicide by a relentless bully, Elsie takes off, believing living on the streets had to be better. One cold, rainy night Levi finds her on the streets, minutes away from being assaulted. His generous heart goes out to her, even as he recognizes her as the thief who stole his wallet. Even though he tries to help, Elsie runs away, but their paths cross again leading to Levi’s family taking her in.
As I said before, this is by far Cole’s most balanced book. Levi and Elsie have had rough lives, ones that they acknowledge they need time to overcome. Both shy and quiet, they quickly find that they can open up to each other, something neither has ever had. What separates this book from Cole’s others is that the love that builds between Levi and Elsie reflects their personalities, and so the reader is treated to a slow, quiet build as these two fall in love. And, though it’s not unusual for one or both of the characters to be virgins in Cole’s books, Levi and Elsie’s progression towards making love felt more natural than any other couple I’ve read by her.
The depiction of her characters was nicely done as well. Levi is believable as a shy, quiet young man despite the fact that he’s a football hero on his college campus. Elsie shines as a bullied poet who lives in (mostly) silence. For those that have read the Sweet Home series no doubt you’ll enjoy revisiting all of your favorite characters, especially Lexi Carillo, the heroine of book 3.
As the story builds to its conclusion the pace stays steady keeping this story realistic as well as enjoyable. If I had one complaint, it’s a personal one and is going to sound like a big fat contradiction. The natural pace of the story didn’t appeal to me as much as I would’ve hoped, probably because at this point I’m totally jaded… No, honestly, for me as a woman with children older than Levi and Elsie (who are playing out a story appropriate for their ages) it was harder for me to connect with them. Two things: One, whereas I wasn’t interested in reading the rest of the Sweet Home series before I started Sweet Soul, now I definitely want to and, two, if you enjoy Tillie Cole books, this one will not disappoint!
3.5 stars. Heat level: 3.5 Keep scrolling to enter to win the Kindle HD7 provided by Tillie Cole!
Sweet Soul was published by Tillie Cole Ltd. in December 2015
Click on the book covers to add any of the Sweet Home series to your library.