Fender Barnes profits from an institution he doesn’t believe in: marriage. He’s a talented designer, but a reluctant jewelry store owner, thanks to his pop’s retirement. He’s cynical, he’s jaded, he’s not entirely certain about the concept of love, but he’s happy to sell an eager young guy an engagement ring for his fiancée to be—until moments after the transaction when that eager guy is hit by a car and killed, and Fender’s conscience pays a rare visit.
He retrieves the ring and decides to find the woman his customer intended to marry. That woman turns out to be Ginger Stevens, twenty-something ski instructor, who—despite being full of guilt and self-doubt after the death of her boyfriend—is someone Fender finds he quite enjoys being around. He’s smitten.
Which is all well and good, except that after he meets her, Fender can’t do it. Though it’s right there in his pocket, he can’t tell her about the ring. Instead, he embarks on a long, ridiculous quest to find a way to tell her the truth he knows she deserves. Aided by advice from Pop and the antics of his best friend Sam, Fender tries desperately to juggle his budding romance with the reality he knows could ruin it.
Will he find love or foul it up? Can Ginger move out of the past to embrace what the future has to offer? Meet this unlikely pair in Beck Anderson’s heartfelt and fabulously funny second novel, The Jeweler.
I’ll make one statement right upfront. For me, there was a familiarity with The Jeweler that was particularly endearing. The story is set in Boise, Idaho, which is a place that many of my family and friends call home. We travel there for family events every once in a while and so I recognized many of the settings used in this novel (the scene at the Record Exchange was a particular favorite). There’s even a mention of an Oregon coast town that I know well and it really helped me connect on a deeper level with the book. It was as though I was reading about people I already knew.
The synopsis above does a stellar job of explaining the overall plot, so I won’t bother to recap the summary here. I’d rather spend my limited review space highlighting the one big note I made about The Jeweler as I read it. There’s a unique spin on this romantic tale that I don’t often come across in such stories. Ready?
While this is a narrative written in third person, and explores the perspectives of Ginger and Fender, I found that much of the romantic story unfolded from the male point of view.
“Fender looked back on his “wasted youth” and didn’t feel regret; he just felt sorry for his dad. Oh, to have a son who excelled in mediocrity, with a side of troublemaking. This was yet another reason to never have children; they might inherit his juvenile delinquency. And another reason not to get married. But Fender was constantly reminded why he despised marriage, regardless. Every time he’d craft a delicate setting with a pale, clear diamond, and it went on the hand of a crass, selfish gold digger, or some cheating, sweaty lout gave a necklace of blood red rubies to his unsuspecting, hard-working wife, Fender remembered how he felt about the sacred institution.”
Not only does the reader become well-accustomed with Fender’s thoughts and feelings about romance in general and Ginger in particular, but many of the story conflicts and solutions are largely driven by the male influences in Fender’s life. Fender’s best friend, Sam, is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest bachelor. He lives a quiet, unassuming life and enjoys smoking, Carhartt coveralls and beer. He’s perfectly content and could truly care less if people can’t deal with his choices. But he’s also warm and loyal and willing to help Fender figure out his dilemma with Ginger. He pushes Fender to stray outside his romantic comfort zones, and stays right by his side through thick and thin.
Another source of male guidance and support is Fender’s father. Not only has he looked after Fender emotionally, he has also provided his only child with an established jewelry business for financial security. Having grown up without a mother and with no other siblings, Fender’s experiences with women are largely limited. Until his life intersects with Ginger’s under a set of tragic circumstances, Fender has kept his interactions with women casual, seemingly as Sam and his father sit on the sidelines waiting for Fender to discover something or someone special.
Pop’s questioning gray eyes were still trained on Fender, and his sparse mustache twitched with curiosity. “Tell me, Sonny. What’d you do today?”
“Nothing.” The day had been humiliating enough. He didn’t want his dad to know on top of it all.
“Jerry, he was in fine form.” Sam sat across the table from them, out of Fender’s striking distance.
Fender tilted his head and shot his most withering look at Sam. “I went skiing.”
“No, no, it’s better than that. We went after this girl, and Fender learned how to ski all over again. He also tried to use two old ladies as bowling pins.” Sam’s shoulders were shaking again.
As per usual, Pop focused on the woman in the conversation. “Fender went after a girl? Really? Does this mean little Sandy didn’t make you swear off women forever?”
Sam brightened. “I’d almost forgotten about Sandy. Isn’t she the one that wrote I HATE YOU with weed killer on your front lawn?” Sam sat back and stretched his arms out on the top of the booth, relaxed and apparently prepared for a stroll down Fender’s memory lane of exes.“
As The Jeweler unfolds, we see that even Ginger tends to rely on the support and advice of these two gents; and as a captivated reader I was glad to see her do so. For these reasons, this novel was an enchanting and refreshing read for me. I’ve become a true fan of Beck Anderson as a result, and I’m hoping that she’ll be willing to meet up with me in downtown Boise the next time I happen to pop into town for a visit. The author has that special ability to infuse both tragedy and humor into a novel without skewing to extremes with either. Not only is this novel filled with characters I swear I already know, it tells a story that is as realistic and fragile as it is courageous and surreal. Just like life.
An enthusiastic four star read from me!
About the Author:
Beck Anderson loves to write about love and its power to heal and grow people past their many imperfections. She is a firm believer in the phrase “mistakes are for learning” and uses it frequently to guide her in writing life and real life.
Beck balances (clumsily at best) writing novels and screenplays, working full-time as an educator, mothering two pre-teen males, loving one post-40 husband, and making time to walk the foothills of Boise, Idaho, with Stefano DiMera Delfino Anderson, the suavest Chihuahua north of the border.