Author: Sandy Barker
Home is where the heart is…
When Jaelee Tan leaves her high-flying PR job in Miami for a sabbatical in Bali, the last thing she expects is for it to become permanent. But when her boss demands the trip be cut short, Jae does the only thing she can think of and quits on the spot.
With two months in Bali, a new group of friends and the gorgeous scenery and beaches, Jae is determined to make the most of her new-found freedom. And when she locks eyes with hunky Scot, Alistair, Jae wonders if she’ll lose her heart to more than just a Balinese sunrise.
Sunrise Over Bali is the fourth novel in the Holiday Romance series, which connects standalone stories with overlapping characters. After greatly enjoying this novel, I definitely need to get my hands on the other three, One Summer in Santorini, That Night in Paris, and A Sunset in Sydney. As some of the characters were introduced in the previous novels, I did not have any prior knowledge of them, but it was extremely easy to catch up on the dynamics. This story follows 35-years-old Jaelee Tan, who has an amazing job that’s she very qualified for with her BA in Communications and Masters in Public Relations. She currently lives in Miami and is the Junior Vice President at the second-largest PR firm in Florida. Before beginning this story, I loved that she not only has a graduate degree to add to her qualifications to have the higher power job, but she has it in her mid-30s. To me, it helped add a touch of realism to the story.
After a break-up with her boyfriend, Paco, she ends up running into him at her best friend, Ali’s birthday party. Not only did Ali forget to mention his attendance to Jaelee, but Paco is in attendance with his new wife. This causes fallout between her and Ali and Jaelee is currently not speaking to Ali. This also spurs Jaelee’s idea to take a sabbatical. She ends up booking a two-month trip to Bali where she’s staying with other digital nomads at a place called UROP (“You Are Our People”) that is a co-living space. After her arrival, Jaelee ends up receiving notice from her job that they need to rescind her sabbatical and she needs to return home. Instead of leaving, she ends up quitting. Now her time in Bali is not only to heal herself emotionally but to use it as an opportunity to figure out the next steps in her career. As a character, Jaelee was initially difficult to like as she was judgmental of people and places. She came across as self-absorbed and closed-minded at first; however, over the course of her story not only does she grow as a character, but the reasons behind some of her characters are revealed. By the end, everything came together nicely, and she was very likable and enjoyable.
At the compound, Jaelee meets Alistair, a software engineer Scots man, and the two of them have an immediate attraction to the other. While they are both willing to be together, it is not simple as Jaelee is still dealing with residual feelings for Paco and Alistair is dealing with his own break-up. Their relationship develops both at a quicker rate and also as a slow burn, which fits very well into the story. As each of them is meeting in a destination away from home and living in the same place, the timeline moves differently compared to meeting on one of their home turfs. The two of them worked together nicely and I enjoyed both of them as a potential couple. While I loved the romance, I enjoyed the friendships even more. Peta, an Australian lifestyle coach, and Helena, an American model/actress were both staying at the same place and I loved the friendship that formed between them. Each character was at a different stage in their life and I loved how they all came together to form a genuine bond.
Overall, I loved the escapism and Bali made a fantastic backdrop for the story. Bali is an incredible destination, but it is not a complete paradise, so I liked that the story did not highlight only the secluded resort side and instead showed everywhere. I have heard of digital nomads and co-living situations before, so it was amazing to see it featured in a story. If my job allowed this, I would easily pack my bags to participate. The novel is an amazing emotional journey for Jaelee as she rediscovers everything that she wants out of life. The friendships she formed were amazing and I enjoyed her relationship with Alistair. I do wish that their romance was explored a little more as it did sometimes take a backseat to the internal journey of Jaelee; however, it was an enjoyable story and I cannot wait to read more from the series!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**