I often say that books are like a blanket. I enjoy books that are like a knitted afghan; they can be in soft, gentle hues, or in passionate, bold colors, or even a combination. However, the strength of the book is how the tones smoothly blend from one end to the other. There are other books that I criticize (not on this blog, of course...this is my happy place!) for being a messy, patchwork quilt. There may be bits of strong plot points, illustrative dialogue, vivid descriptions, character depth...but not enough, or mixed in with too much "junk", or just mashed together in a way that doesn't really make sense.
True to its name, The Exception to the Rule by Beth Rinyu completely defies my categories of books. Though it is a patchwork quilt, it is an absolutely stunning combination of characters, locations, times, and plots, creating a wonderfully memorable story.
The story begins with Kat, a pediatrician, walking in while her long-time boyfriend is in bed with another woman. In an attempt to start over, she leaves her father (her mother passed away when she was young) and heads to Nigeria for a nine month volunteer medical project. She goes with two friends, but ends up meeting the renowned Dr. Julian Kiron. They share a deep connection, but must sever it when an emergency calls her back home. Their paths cross again a few months later, and then again several years after that. I must admit: it is difficult to summarize this book without giving anything away! Trust me: the story is MUCH better than this summary.
When I was little, I became obsessed with the idea of travelling to Africa. I would send away for travel brochures (did you know Zambia had a Bureau of Tourism in the 70's??), and even went to West Africa for my honeymoon. So, of course, the Nigerian setting for the beginning of this book drew me in from the beginning. But then the story became about a crisis in her childhood home in New Jersey. As that is resolved, we jump ahead five years, to another whole plot point. While this should have seemed jumpy and rough, it was a smooth story that kept me drawn in at each moment.
This book makes me think about fate, and what is "meant to be". This story revolves around two people who continue to be drawn together. Despite seemingly different goals and core values, two people keep finding themselves pulled towards each other. This is one of the cornerstones of a good romantic novel: even when the characters do their best to mess it up, their connection is so perfect and true that the connection survives all attempts to thwart it.
I give this book five hearts. It is a complete, full story that has many layers of depth, and characters who will stay with you long after you read the last page.