What is the true meaning of love?  Undoubtedly, the answer you get to this question will depend greatly upon whom you ask.  Some will focus on attraction while others may target affection in their interpretation.  Be that as it may, one thing is consistent in every definition of love I have ever come across.  It is all about a bond and depth of wide-ranging emotions.  From happiness to sadness.  Anger to joy.  Each case is different and will inevitably encounter peaks and valleys.  In S.S. Bazinet’s novel Traces of Home (Open My Heart Book 1), we are given a front row seat to witness the ebb and flow of relationships- and ultimately the love that anchors them.  A beautiful piece of romantic fiction which clearly illustrates that sometimes you need to hit rock bottom before you have a chance to rise to the top.

Essentially the novel follows the path of Lea who is the main protagonist.  Despite her efforts she is uncontrollably sinking into the depths of despair.  Quite possibly due to an abusive past, she finds herself in a very dark place emotionally, with little hope of escape.  Not wanting to constantly take out her torment on her fiance’, Dr. Matthew Howell, Lea flees her home in Chicago and lands in Baltimore. Once there, she encounters Dr. Eric Lloyd and his mother.  They kindly offer her a place to stay after Lea is struck by Eric’s car and suffers amnesia.  It is here where Lea begins to understand what love and caring are all about as she is welcomed into their family.  However, she soon finds out the the Lloyds are carrying their own secrets and internal trauma.  When Lea is eventually found by Matthew and Lea’s family, things begin to come to a head.  They soon all come together at Lea’s family mansion and with the help of a top rated psychiatrist, we begin to see how deep pain is really buried… in all the participants!  Do they have what it takes to overcome such anguish?  Or will love be extinguished, ultimately leaving a trail of misery behind?

This novel reminds me of the quote “You cannot truly appreciate the top if you have never hit rock bottom.”  At its core, it is really a story about self-discovery, strength and true love.  The author also sends us a very strong message to not be so quick to judge people- good or bad.  You really just never know what lies behind their external facade.  That is a lot to take in, but the story events are presented in such a way that they mesh beautifully.  The readers will constantly find themselves guessing about what will come next.  Just when it seems as if all the issues are resolved and lovers will reunite… we are quickly taken into an entirely different direction.  The action is wholly engaging, captivating and emotionally charged.

While the plot of Traces of Home, is fascinating, it is undoubtedly a character driven novel.  As the main protagonist, Lea grows and develops in the most detail throughout the book.  However, she clearly leaves a path for which the other supporting players will follow.  Indeed, there are a whole group of characters who have their own unique sorrows and struggles.  When they are all brought together we are able to comprehend the various issues in depth and begin to truly understand them as individuals.  Throughout this unmasking we can witness Lea as the catalyst acting to unpeel the various characters like an onion.  What is left at the end is strength and love.

Without a doubt, I would give this novel my highest recommendation.  It is an easy story to read with crisp dialogue and dynamic characters.  The writing has a poetic flow which has the unique ability to provoke an entire array of emotions in the reader.  That is what true engagement is all about.  As this is Book 1 of a series, I await anxiously to see what is in store for Lea and her family in the future!

5 out of 5 Lovely Stars for this one!