Racing the Sun
By Dorine Linnen
Jul 30, 2015 - 8:00:00 AM

American Amber MacLean arrives in Positano, Italy, almost out of money without even enough cash to get a plane ticket home to California. Her Danish traveling companions don't understand her dilemma and she wouldn't tell them anyways. Backpacking and staying in hostels is sometimes a solitary experience, even if you're surrounded by others in dorm-like rooms sharing a bathroom. Amber has had romantic encounters on this six month trip around the world, but none of them have lived up to her expectations. Will Italy bring her more than she's found so far?

When Amber applies for a job teaching English to two children, she doesn't expect to be on a boat to the island of Capri for her interview, nor does she anticipate staying overnight in the house where she'll reside and to be hired to start the very next day. Amber doesn't think she even likes these precocious children and her English degree didn't prepare her to teach it especially without knowing Italian, but for some reason, the nanny and the older brother of these orphaned twins think she's perfect for the job.

Desiderio "Derio" Larosa is a brooding recluse who hasn't left the island of Capri in a year. He witnessed his parents' last moments before they drowned and has even quit racing motorcycles after an accident, even though racing was something he loved, which has earned his family a reputation for his odd behavior. He drinks, he smokes and he locks himself up in his office for most of the day. Will the beautiful Amber entice him to live life to the fullest once again?

After finishing WHERE SEA MEETS SKY, I couldn't wait to read the rest of Amber's adventures in RACING THE SUN. This novel isn't as much as a travelogue as the previous book but it's more about where Amber lands after traveling for six months. We get told where and how she traveled after leaving New Zealand, but we don't get a lot of details until she lands in Italy. It's with a sense of desperation that Amber looks for a job right away and she's willing to do almost anything to earn enough money to go home, because she knows it's the responsible thing to do. Not that she's been overly responsible about her travel plans so far, but she has to start somewhere, right? Well, maybe she can stay in Italy a little while longer before facing reality at home, if she gets the right job.

Amber seemed like a quirky, geeky girl in WHERE SEA MEETS SKY and she lost some of her sparkle in RACING THE SUN. She wasn't quite as much fun and not as self-confident as I remembered her in the previous book. I wanted so much more for Amber than what she settled for at first. She grew into the job she took but she spent so much time alone and just with the children that it seemed almost stifling for her bouncy personality.

I was a little disappointed with this book because the travel wasn't as free-flowing as in WHERE SEA MEETS SKY. In that novel, the travel stories seemed bohemian with a flowerchild kind of vibe. Yes, there are some great details about Italy in this book, but I prefer the backpacking aspects of WHERE SEA MEETS SKY and missed that in RACING THE SUN. The other difference is that this book didn't touch me emotionally in the same way as the first book where I cried three times.

Both books contain adult language and situations so they lean more toward the New Adult sub-genre of romance. RACING THE SUN isn't angst-ridden as I've often heard the New Adult sub-genre described before, so the only thing I find different about it compared to a sensual contemporary romance is the raw language, the age of the characters and their more carefree lifestyle as they prepare to take on the responsibilities of adults. I really like the way author Karina Halle makes a setting come alive through her characters' adventures and she makes me crave more travel adventures for myself.

Amber's attraction to Derio didn't make sense to me at first. I couldn't understand why she was fascinated by someone who smoked, drank too much and sulked most of the time. Apparently she saw something in him I didn't, because he did improve with time. But not before he was a jerk and selfish toward the end of the book. Truthfully, neither of them are perfect which makes them more realistic.

I've come to realize that I won't always like the actions of author Karina Halle's characters as much as I don't always understand their motivations, but I still really enjoy this author's books. RACING THE SUN held my attention and I raced for the end in hope for Amber's happy-ever-after. I wasn't disappointed, even though I had my doubts that Amber and Derio would ever find their way. Once they did iron out their differences, I was convinced of their suitability and love for one another.

Even though it's not necessary to read WHERE SEA MEETS SKY before RACING THE SUN, I highly recommend it because the two books are different but equally good in their vivid portrayal of travel destinations and all the possibilities for adventure. I think readers will enjoy WHERE SEA MEETS SKY so that they can get to know Amber before and after she falls in love by reading these two books in order.

Karina Halle's talent allows me to travel now as I wish I had backpacked through Europe in my youth by experiencing it all through her characters' hearts and desires. I can picture myself there, even though I might not have ever been as fearless or carefree as these interesting characters. If you love to travel and want to relive that love, or dream of your own future adventure, RACING THE SUN will inspire you to include Italy's Amalfi Coast as a destination for real, or in your dreams. Where are we traveling next, Ms. Halle?

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