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REVIEW: “A Note in the Margin” by Isabelle Rowan


John McCann, a man who judges life by the tally of an accounts ledger, has a supreme goal in life: To achieve, live, and enjoy the rarified executive lifestyle. But he’s encountered one problem: The migraines are going to continue to get worse unless you make some major changes in your lifestyle. What you need is a ‘sea change’… Perhaps buy a nice little business in the country, settle down, something easier to occupy your time…

While John knows the doctor is right, he just can’t resign from the job he’s fought so hard for. He decides the sacrifice of taking a year’s leave of absence won’t interfere too much with his plans, and so he finds himself running Margins, a cozy little bookstore, with the help of the former owner’s son, Jamie. John expects to put in his year, get his stress under control, and then get back to business.

What John doesn’t expect is how Margins and its denizens draw him in, particularly the quiet, disheveled man who takes refuge in the old leather chair in the second-hand book section. John’s plans for an unattached year of simple business crumble when he meets David and is forced to reevaluate life, love and what he really wants from both. John and David are forced to come to terms with their pasts as they struggle to determine what possible future they might build together


I had high hopes for A Note in the Margin. I mean, it’s set in a BOOK STORE. I love books! It takes place in Australia. I love Australia! The MCs are an intense business man and a troubled transient. I love angst and lost causes! But even with all those morsels, the story fell short for me.

John is stressed to the max and decides to leave his job as a corporate badass to run a tiny book shop called Margins in Melbourne. With the store he inherits the former owner’s son, Jamie, as a helper, and a homeless man, David, who hangs out in the back and reads books all day.

At first, John finds himself crushing on Jamie, and then, even though he’s completely irritated by David’s presence in Margins, John develops an attraction to David. It felt off to me that John wanted to immediately jump into the sack with Jamie, and the affection toward David alternated between hot and cold. At times John was inexplicably mean to David, and at others it was as if David was his other, better half.

For his part, we learn David is a hot mess of mental illness. He’s haunted by his past and a family he’s left behind, and he’s understandably timid about forming personal connections with anyone.

Then, boom. Out of nowhere we find that John has…a GIRLFRIEND. Huh?!? Even though she makes an appearance and is mentioned a couple of times in the book, the relationship is never fully fleshed out or properly resolved.

The language in A Note in the Margin is choppy and simple, and the switching point-of-views had my head spinning. (Truly, from paragraph to paragraph, I wasn’t always sure whom I was hearing from.) I also found the story to be repetitive in places.

MCs John and David begin believing they’re in love, but have yet to have a deep, significant conversation with one another, which brings me back to David. It took almost the entire novel for me to learn his story. It was frustrating to read about him falling into his same patterns of behavior over and over and have no idea of what was inside his head. My heart broke for David, SO HARD, but I wish I’d had a better understanding of him sooner in the story!

For me, A Note in the Margin dragged to its conclusion, and even though there was resolution at the end, I felt David was still so fragile, so I doubted the strength of his ongoing recovery (I’m pretty sure all the other characters in the book were on the same page with me!). That said, John and David had a lovely physical relationship and nice chemistry with one another when it counted. A Note in the Margin is a heavy, heart-grabbing read; I can certainly see how and why it’s a beloved book for many.



Ami – 5 stars


6348864Title: A Note in the Margin (A Note in the Margin #1)
Author: Isabelle Rowan
Publisher:  Dreamspinner 
Pages:  276
Release Date:  March 16, 2009
Purchase Links:  Dreamspinner, Amazon, ARe

9 comments on “REVIEW: “A Note in the Margin” by Isabelle Rowan

  1. Ami
    January 30, 2014

    Awww, too bad you didn’t enjoy it as much. I LOVED this story. Like one of the my most beloved stories, as you could see in my 5-stars, which I rarely give out.


    • jenhuff03
      January 30, 2014

      Ami, I saw your rating, and I thought you’d be shaking your head at me! ;) Another great example of how different our reading interests are, but I really appreciate that! I can see why this book is loved by so many; I wish it had the same affect on me.


  2. Kim W
    January 30, 2014

    I liked this story but I usually try to avoid mental illness in a story line because I have a close family member who is mentally ill and I know the power of love isn’t going to cure anyone. I just don’t believe the HEA and it makes me kind of sad.

    Don’t even get me started on the movie Silver Linings Playbook! I loved that movie but it made me really sad too because that couple and their family had to be doomed to a life of exhausting drama.


    • jenhuff03
      January 30, 2014

      Oh, Kim. I’d suggest you avoid this book like the plague, then, because that was the message I walked away with, after *all* the stops and starts with David: that love could “heal” him. I just didn’t buy it. And I know what you mean about SLP–I was just depressed after I saw that movie!


  3. Sheri
    January 30, 2014

    Hmmm, I’ve had this one on my kindle for ages. now I’m not so sure?!
    *scratches chin*
    I just don’t know……


    • jenhuff03
      January 30, 2014

      Ack, Sheri, I dunno! On the one hand I say try it–and that’s what I lean towards because I think I know what you like–but on the other hand…I don’t want you to be mad at you for telling you to read it. ;)


      • Sheri
        January 31, 2014

        pffff, like I could ever be mad at you?
        you DO know what I like and I’ll keep it on stand-by for now.


  4. ilhem3606
    January 30, 2014

    What Sheri said.


    • jenhuff03
      January 30, 2014

      It’s very highly rated, Ilhem! It may just work for you! :) I suppose you could try a sample if you don’t already own it, and then get a feel for yourself. It just wasn’t my cuppa. See my note to Sheri above. ;)


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This entry was posted on January 30, 2014 by in Contemporary, Reviewer: Jenni and tagged , , , .

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