Joanne DeMaio's fourth book, True Blend, brings her readers back to the quaint town of Addison, Connecticut, to meet new characters and even catch a glimpse of some familiar faces. Young widow Amy Trewist is finally beginning to recover from the loss of her husband when her daughter Grace is stolen from her in the midst of a bank robbery; in a mere three minutes her life is uprooted, and when her daughter is finally returned she knows their lives will never be the same. All she can remember of the scene is a compassionate promise from a masked assailant and the feel of a hand over hers. Local market owner George Carbone has always been aware of the distance between him and his brother Nate, a rift driven between them by their father's death; one that Nate tries futilely to avoid. Their only connection now is their penchant for casinos and card games, but when Nate raises the stakes George finds himself drawn into a new sort of gamble, and he'll be faced with a choice that could cost people their lives: especially two year-old Grace Trewist. As George and Amy's lives entwine, powerful feelings will war with a plague of secrets as their lives spiral into unforeseen change.
True Blend marks a unique turning point in DeMaio's evolution as a writer. While her previous novels explore her ability to capture all the complex nuances of personal relationships, True Blend’s story reaches additionally into elements of crime, suspense, and mistaken identity. While the nature of the novel’s plot is decidedly new territory, DeMaio’s reliable narrative style and her talent for crafting memorable characters manage to draw True Blend comfortably into the family of her previous work. Readers will be at home in the fictional town of Addison while discovering new layers of DeMaio’s ability as a storyteller. Proving herself to be particularly adept at relating the intricate depth of romantic relationships in her writing, it’s interesting to see different circumstances used as a new device here. While DeMaio's previous stories casts her characters' relationships against the search for personal identity and the lingering impact of complex romantic history, True Blend examines the fight to overcome – whether it’s possible – the repercussions of immoral actions in the face of love. This avenue presents an opportunity for an exploration of human nature, to question whether one can be driven to commit one crime for the sake of preventing another, and whether love and truth can ultimately triumph over perceived betrayal; it’s all captured beautifully in DeMaio’s confident prose, set amid a dreamlike world of authentic New England charm.
Beyond its taut romantic drama, True Blend draws on the other plights of its characters to broaden its story. The many struggles Amy faces after Grace’s abduction become a crucial element of the story, and DeMaio’s superb research brings them to vivid life: we see Amy’s struggle with anxiety and PTSD following the attack, as well as the means she takes to recover, and perhaps the most heart-wrenching of all, we witness little Grace’s prolonged silence following her abduction. The bond between mother and daughter is as strongly portrayed as the complex relationship between brothers, allowing readers to feel deeply engrossed in the varying degrees of family dynamics. As George grapples with the role his brother played in a shocking crime he must also come to terms with what influence he may have had on Nate’s decisions. Combing the vastness of emotional complexity and the sweet, simple charm of a quiet New England village, True Blend takes readers on a journey to determine the strength of love, the power of hope, and the endurance of the soul.