Victoria Bylin’s Together With You is a charming story about ophthalmologist Ryan Tremaine, who is in over his head raising his three children by himself while his ex-wife is traveling. Penny, an unplanned product of an affair, was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and runs away at every opportunity in search of her recently-deceased mother. Kyle and Eric are distant, and in spite of his best effort, Ryan cannot find the cohesiveness he desires for his family.
Enter Carly Mason, preacher’s daughter and assistant toy store manager, who has expertise with FASD through her volunteer work back home in Kentucky. She’s finishing up her college degree and trying to forget a bad experience she had with a FAS teenager that left her feeling like a failure.
When Penny goes missing at the mall and wanders into her store, Carly can’t help but notice the symptoms. She’s able to reach Penny by talking through stuffed animals, and helps her get back to her dad. Ryan, impressed by how Carly handled the situation, offers her a job as Penny’s nanny.
Though reluctant at first, Carly agrees to take the job, and here we experience Bylin’s mastery of character. This book is a love story—not only between Ryan and Carly—but also between each member of the family. Kyle and Eric must learn to get along as brothers, and to accept Penny as their sister. Ryan must learn how to interact with each of his children in a different way, and wants nothing more than a normal family dinner. Carly smoothes their relationship with southern fried chicken and simple acts of kindness and love.
Bylin exceeded her reputation, depicting realistic and engaging characters in a way that I fell in love with each and every one of them, even Aunt Denise, who wants to take custody of Penny herself. The back copy of the book compares the story to The Sound of Music, and I agree. It has that heartwarming feel where chaos yields gradually to comfortable.
The tension between Ryan and Carly as they deny their attraction is subtle, but ever-present. My heart ached for both of them throughout the story, as they fought their own inner battles and struggled to find the place where they could be perfectly right for each other.
I highly recommend this story, and give it five stars without reservation.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.