The Key to Everything mood board created by the author, Paula Stokes, and used with her permission.
Author: Paula Stokes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️
Synopsis: College senior and psychology major Oakland Fuller is one who spends her life looking for signs and believing in the ever elusive soul mate. Following a series of failed relationships, Oakland quickly comes around to idea that the reason is because of unresolved issues she has with her high school boyfriend Seth; a theory which is further encouraged by both the school counselor and a fortune-teller who both say the same thing. Convinced that the universe is telling her she needs to contact Seth in order to explore what feelings they may still have for one another, Oakland obsessively begins to try to contact Seth.
With frustration mounting over a lack of response from Seth, Oakland’s best friend Morgan swoops in and convinces Oakland to join her on a guided Thailand excursion during their upcoming winter break. Traveling to Bangkok finds the two friends meeting a handsome pair of US military soldiers who are also on vacation. Deciding that she will take her friend’s advice, after all she is single, Oakland engages in some harmless fun and sex with Tyson. What starts out as harmless no strings attached fun, slowly begins to blossom into actual romance and what Oakland admits is her best relationship ever. Unfortunately, her new budding relationship is put at risk when Oakland spots Seth at a temple in Bangkok, and Oakland once again begins to question the signs the universe is sending her way and who she’s truly meant to be with.
Thoughts: First, I have to thank the author, Paula Stokes, for the advance e-ARC copy she was so kind to provide me with of her first self published novel. From the start, I found myself on a roller coaster ride in regards to my feelings towards Oakland. I had a hard time with the fact that Oakland was so obsessed with wanting to reconnect with Seth in main part because I wanted her to come off as being a level-headed individual given the fact that she was planning on becoming a clinical psychologist. Oakland was so focused on looking for signs to prove that she was meant to be with Seth, and so determined that what she was doing was for the best, I couldn’t help but feel that if I were looking for a therapist to help me, she would be the last person I would go to.
I almost put the book down after the first couple of chapters due in large part because of how annoying I found Oakland to be. With that being said, I persevered as I convinced myself that Oakland would grow as a character and prove that she wasn’t the idiot I felt her to be. Oakland is one of those characters where I found myself wanting nothing more than for someone to smack some sense into. I had a hard time dealing with her treatment of Tyson, despite them agreeing that what they were doing was all in good fun and that there were no strings attached, I still believe that Tyson was a good and kind man who did not deserve to be treated the way he was. Tyson was most definitely a better person than me, I don’t think I would ever agree to help the person I was into help track down their ex so that they could potentially get back together with this ex they claimed was their soul mate.
I think really the only reason why I kept reading the book was because I liked the other characters. I loved Morgan, for Morgan not only served as the voice of reason but she was fun and the kind of friend I’d want to travel to Thailand with. The senior citizen members of the guided tour provided great foil to the larger story, as the book continued and they started to share more about themselves, they proved that one should never judge those they don’t know based solely on age and appearance for at any given time people can surprise you and prove to be both interesting and engaging people to know. Tyson pretty much epitomizes that kind of man I would like to meet and have a long-lasting relationship with. Tyson is not only attractive, but he’s kind-hearted and truly wants for those around him to be happy, even if it means he’s left alone and unhappy in the end.
I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book and you’re probably wondering why I gave the rating I did. Well the thing is, overall, I did enjoy the book. The story telling was engaging and the description of Thailand and all it has to offer drew me in and made me want nothing more than to hop a flight right away in order to see the sights and eat the food myself. I further kept reading out of curiosity, I wanted to see if Oakland would really give up the chance at true love for the memory of first love, or if she would see reason and pick the man who was supposed to be nothing more than a fling. Not wanting to give anything away, I won’t say whether or not the book provided me with the ending I so desperately wanted.
Just know that it is because of the other elements of the story that I gave a middle of the road rating to this book. The Key to Everything was not my first Paula Stokes read, and it certainly won’t be the last.