I love a book I can sink my teeth into, and Hydraulic Level Five is such a book. Check out my review, then hang around for my interview with Sarah Lachtaw, followed by a giveaway!
Hydraulic Level Five by Sarah Latchaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ride the Churning, Restless Rapids of a Second Chance at Love
What a rich and deep adult contemporary romance!
Kaye is in her late twenties and still in love with her childhood friend / ex-husband Samuel (even though it's hard for "stubborn as super glue" Kaye to admit she still holds the candle for him). Kaye is an extreme sports enthusiast, and she and her friend run a PR firm in Colorado. Meanwhile, since the divorce, Samuel has shot up the bestseller charts as a famous author.
Samuel comes from a boisterous Hispanic family, and his sister Danita is about to get married. Naturally, Kaye is Danita's maid of honor, and naturally, Samuel will be in town for the big wedding. Though Kaye and Samuel divorced six years ago, is it possible for them to rekindle a beautiful childhood love?
Kaye is quite a quirky character, and I wonder if the author is equally quirky. There's also much sadness to the story about two broken people trying to mend themselves and each other.
I am so not a fantasy fan and at first I had trouble getting into the snippets from Samuel's wildly successful fantasy series Water Sirens. But when Samuel explains why he wanted to write faerie tales for his little "firecracker" Kaye (cutest nickname ever), I fell for the fantasy completely.
Having finished his fantasy series, Samuel moves on to writing a memoir of his childhood love of Kaye, and excerpts from this story alternate with present events. It makes for interesting reading.
There are some humorous moments in the story, like the time Kaye's attorney pretends to be her lesbian lover in order to make Samuel jealous, as well as:
The morning had been spent calmly arguing over the phone with a ski rental client about why "Going down with you since 1973" was not a family-oriented business slogan.
When we exited the theater after seeing Titanic, Hector shouted, "Hurry up, Kaye! There's only enough cars in the parking lot for half of us!"
Kaye describing a spat between Samuel and his posh editor Caroline: There was tension in Versaceville
The characters develop in a gradual, satisfying way. Both Kaye and Samuel were young when they married, and have made plenty mistakes. Samuel comes from a troubled background that makes you want to hug him.
"I don't need your pity," he said gently, firmly. "I'm a grown man, Kaye -- not that little boy anymore."
"But it doesn't mean I can't feel pain for that little boy. Or that I love him any less," I quietly added.
I like when Kaye says:
"Samuel, you have to get it into your head that when you shield people -- me, Danita -- from the big, bad world, you cause more harm than good."
This was a touching story and I'm excited there will be a sequel titled Skygods.
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And now I welcome Sarah Lachtaw to the blog!
Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome to the blog, Sarah! I found your debut novel to be a masterpiece. Please share your inspiration for the story.
Sarah Latchaw (SL): Wow, high praise, thanks! I believe in setting the bar high, then falling into the pits of despair when I can’t live up to expectations, like your average tortured writer (ha).
Inspiration is always a tough question to answer, because, as you know Ms. Lane, we find ideas in all sorts of places, from current events to life experience, to pure imagination. I wanted to accomplish several things with Hydraulic Level Five. One, to give readers a narrator and heroine they could connect with emotionally—feel her triumphs and hurts. Second, I wanted a love interest grounded in reality—a man with real flaws, but whom Kaye loves anyway. Third, I needed an epic love story that would resonate with readers long after they finished the final sentence. If readers can see something of their own love stories in Kaye and Samuel, then the characters find a home in their minds and hearts, and imaginations.
JL: Including excerpts from Samuel's "work in progress"--a memoir about his childhood with Kaye--is definitely unique. What made you decide to write the story this way?
SL: Samuel’s betrayal of Kaye was so gut-wrenching, I knew he would be despised by readers if we didn’t get a glimpse into his mind. However, if I’d dipped into his mind via a third-person narration, we would have lost the mystery element that keeps readers flipping the pages—what is he thinking? How could such an epic love go so wrong? If I’d told the present-day story through both Kaye and Samuel, we also would have lost the first-person connection to Kaye, which would have killed the story.
I also wanted to weave Kaye and Samuel’s history throughout the story, but do it without a pile of flashbacks. Samuel is a writer, so why not have him write their story? As the mysteries of their past unfold through Samuel’s book like a sad little flower, the present-day tale becomes more poignant and dire.
JL: How involved are you in extreme sports?
SL: Ha! Not so much. I’ve kayaked and canoed here and there, even in some mildly treacherous whitewater. I even vowed to skydive for my thirtieth birthday, only to pass on it because I was expecting dear son. So while I find extreme sports fascinating, I have to rely on my Colorado contacts’ experiences when it comes to crazy backcountry skiing or class five whitewater rafting. I love being outside, just not risking my life while doing so.
JL: You are obviously familiar with Hispanic culture. What is your background?
SL: I don’t have a Hispanic background in my family. Several years ago, I spent some time in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, and wanted to learn more about their incredible heritage. Hispanic culture is everywhere, but I knew woefully little about my neighbors. In my opinion, it’s kind of underrepresented in fiction and when it is featured, its often as a punchline for cheap laughs. In my writing, I wanted to stretch beyond those tacky stereotypes we find in pop culture and show their beautiful traditions, emphasis on family, and accomplishments as truthfully as I could. So I used my experiences, researched and read my tail off, in order to portray the Cabral familia as accurately as possible.
JL: Have you pranked or been pranked anything like the characters in this story?
I was well-educated in the art of the prank thanks to ten years of summer camp and four years of dorm life. The powdered milk thing is nasty and cruel, and please Lord don’t ever do it to anybody. That’s all I’m saying.
JL: There's a sequel coming: Skygods (!) At what point did you know there would be a sequel? How is it coming along?
SL: Well, Hydraulic Level Five and Skygods were written as one big long story, then split into two parts. So the sequel was basically completed before Hydraulic was even published. Skygods is with Omnific editors right now, and I’m glad this came up because I need to ask them when we’re planning to release it.
Also, there is a possibility of a third book looming on the horizon…wink wink wink. I have my story maps done and am diving into the actual writing. Lyons, Colorado lends itself beautifully to the Hydraulic Series, and I really need to bring the story home for one more book.
JL: Oh, goody. *bounces* I love to hear it's already written!
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