The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels is a love story that brings a lot more to the party than your traditional romance novel. Claire is a successful designer to the stars and the elite in Western Australia but her clothing design has served a greater purpose than just fame. It was what saved her from the morass of grief over the death from brain cancer of her little baby girl. After three years of hell, during which time she struggled to even get out of bed, following the death of her beloved Katie, the designing has given her some sense of worth again. To the casual outsider it appears her husband Derek has been the ultimate rock and support for her during these trying times, but appearances can be deceiving. When Derek suddenly turns up with an “old school friend” Jasmine (Jazzy) and offers her the chance to stay with them until she sorts herself out, Claire feels something is wrong but seems unable to act on her suspicions. It’s only when Claire meets the enigmatic, yet successful artist Zach that the reality staring her in the face seems to take hold. The chemistry between Claire and Zach is obvious and intense, yet Claire still needs to deal with her troubled past before she can move on.
Author Athena Daniels has brought an extremely readable and relatable tale in The Scream Behind Her Smile. As a lead character Claire was real, believable and someone the reader clearly wanted to root for while at the same time feeling this intense desire to shake her out of her complacency and her naivety. What I particularly liked about this story was the author’s obvious desire to not minimise the incredible loss losing a child has on the parents. No amount of advice, “to move on” or “to let it go” is ever going to make any difference. No parent dreams of this ultimate tragedy and when it happens it is totally devastating to the parents. This whole premise was beautifully and sensitively portrayed by the author. Until you forgive yourself for what happened, you can never make peace with the present or the future. The relationship between Zach and Claire was moving, powerful and incredibly sexy. I did love that Zach not only had a past but that he was actively dealing with reconciling with that past. Both Claire and Zach felt they had huge impediments in their lives to them ever being happy again but Daniels skilfully showed us that there is a way to let go without forgetting. I can highly recommend this book, especially if you love romance with some real meat on its bones. This is what this book has.