Once you find true love, life is supposed to lead into a happily ever after—at least that’s what the fairy tales promise. But real life and love come with the risk of real loss, as Holly Jefferson learns just six months after her wedding. Since You’ve Been Gone is a truly bittersweet story about a second chance at love, a novel by turns charming, funny, inexpressibly sad and finally, hopeful.
Two years after her husband Charlie’s death in an accident, Holly Jefferson is still dreaming about him—vivid, intimate dreams that become painful when she wakes to remember she’s alone. She’s carrying on as well as she can, running her bake shop, Cake, but everyone in Holly’s life agrees “as well as she can” isn’t really well enough. When she’s not working, she’s hiding out in the house she and Charlie never got to finish renovating, with their dog, Dave. The cottage is half-completed—whole rooms abandoned, undecorated and even unheated—a sad testament to the state of her life.
A single order changes everything unexpectedly. In one of the novel’s many funny scenes, Holly delivers a cake shaped like a certain part of the male anatomy to the wealthy, eccentric property baron Fergal Argyll. As infamous as Fergal’s hard-drinking, kilt-wearing antics are, his son Ciaran’s reputation as a ladies’ man is even more celebrated. Unless you’re Holly, of course, and have very little idea who either man is.
Knight’s novel explores the tender, often uncomfortable territory of life post-loss.
Knight paints a comfortably realistic picture of Holly’s life. Like any woman reeling from a loss, she’s happier replaying her own memories than she is reading the local gossip pages, but she’s also a survivor who accepts her responsibilities. Her sister is about to have her first child, which Holly is genuinely excited about, and her business partner—and her continually on-the-fritz delivery van—provide necessary reminders of life beyond her home. But Holly is uncertain that she will ever venture beyond the small world she’s managed to reconstruct. That is, until gorgeous, unattached Ciaran takes an interest in her.
Less of an “opposites attract” story than one about the very real scars most people carry in the name of love, Knight’s novel explores the tender, often uncomfortable territory of life post-loss. Is falling in love again OK—Or even possible? Can you learn to trust again when you’ve been betrayed in the most painful way? How do you honor someone’s memory without getting stuck in the past? Ciaran is the last man Holly would expect to find her attractive, but Holly is everything Ciaran’s been looking for, even if he didn’t realize it—honest, sensible, realistic, yet undoubtedly romantic about the idea of two people joining their lives forever.
Knight’s characters are all nicely rounded—Holly’s sister Martha and business partner Jesse have their own agendas even in their devotion to Holly, and Ciaran’s father is developed with remarkable sympathy and insight. As Holly begins to understand that her happiness doesn’t have to end with Charlie’s death, her struggle to accept what she wants from Ciaran—and from her life—is deftly rendered. More than a romance, Since You’ve Been Gone is a novel about loss and letting go, but also about the way love can live on when you let it.
Amy Garvey is a freelance editor and the author of several romances and two novels for young adults.