REVIEW: A Smile in a Whisper by Jacquelyn Middleton

Posted August 18th, 2023 by in Blog, Contemporary Romance, Review / 12 comments


In A Smile in a Whisper by Jacquelyn Middleton, Island life isn’t for everyone, something Evie Sutherland knows all too well. Especially when you live off the northern coast of Scotland on a small isle with few amenities and potentially brutal weather. It’s also not a stellar place for someone like herself, with a chronic medical condition, to make their residence. But Evie wouldn’t trade Orkney for the world. Back in the day, though, her teenage self wondered what a life in London might be like with her then boyfriend, actor Nikolai “Nick” Balfour whose family had ties to the island. While she did spend some time in the grand city later on, it just wasn’t the same given that Evie and Nick had broken up by then. Something that seemed unfathomable at the time. Because not only was he her first love, but they had been the best of friends as well.

‘Sometimes all you needed was someone who would listen, who wouldn’t judge when you were hurting. Someone who knew the pain and loneliness of carrying a heavy secret.’

Nick will forever feel terrible for the way things ended with Evie. He’s spent many years agonizing over his choices where she’s concerned–even more so than the time he’s spent worrying over how he’s handled his stalled acting career. When the chance to film on Orkney presents itself, Nick knows now is the time to finally talk things out with Evie. She was always there for him, lending a shoulder or giving a huge hug when his anxiety spiraled out of control. Now he wants to prove that he’ll be there for her–no matter if her Crohn’s is in remission or if she has a flare up. Nick can only hope that they’re both in the right place to finally give things a proper go between them. And that Evie will forgive him for past mistakes.

‘Sometimes the greatest act of kindness is the kindness you grant yourself.’

A novel that managed to be both atmospheric and grounded in real-life issues, A Smile in a Whisper was as touching and memorable as a second chance romance can get.

“My Tigs, I never stopped loving you.” His brown eyes sparkled. “It’s always been you.”
The smile in his whisper brought happy tears to Evie’s eyes.

Content Warning: View Spoiler »

I’m a sucker for a small-town romance–even better if they are set in a coastal location–so A Smile in a Whisper already had me hooked with the backdrop being the Orkney Islands off the northern coast Scotland. Author Jacquelyn Middleton described the location, its people, and the local events so well that I truly felt like I was right there every step of the way. And I loved that the island life was so wrapped up in Evie and Nick’s story. From his famous family’s influence there to her finding solace in the wildly breathtaking ocean, Orkney was like another character that I fell for all immediately.

I’m also a huge fan of second chance romances. And wow wasn’t Nick and Evie’s relationship a tumultuous one. I will mention right away that I have to applaud Middleton for her portrayal of them having serious, genuine health issues (Crohn’s disease, mental illness) while also shining a light on it in an accepting, positive way. The personal health concerns Evie and Nick faced down were serious of course, but by the end of their story it no longer defined who they were. And I think that’s part of what helped them not only find their way back together, but what also helped them heal from past mistakes, miscommunication, and the resulting hard feelings.

The dual timeline Middleton used to piece together Nick and Evie’s romance worked well and was laid out in a way that wasn’t confusing or overdone. She cleverly worked through from when they met almost two decades prior, following each big event or moment in their lives, while alternating it with present day. And I so enjoyed seeing Evie and Nick’s evolution as individuals–and as a couple–over time. I might have been frustrated with the lack of communication and omissions of important info but given how young they were when they first met, it really did feel honest how things were handled. As much as I adored Nick and Evie as teens, I think readers will love how their sweeping HEA turned out once they reunited as adults in their thirties.

QOTD: Do you enjoy romances that take place over several years or do you prefer a shorter time frame?

Book Info:

Publication: Published: August 10th, 2023 | by Kirkwall Books |

A SMILE IN A WHISPER is a dual timeline love story ideal for fans of Christina Lauren’s Love and Other Words and Carley Fortune’s Every Summer After.


Evie Sutherland throws herself into everything. Like many on Scotland’s picturesque Orkney Islands, she works several managing her family’s shop, researching genealogy for tourists, and writing historical romance novels. Evie aces most challenges—except love. With a childhood diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and a disastrous dating history, Evie has convinced herself that guys won’t date the “sick girl” and the blame falls on the shoulders of her first love, a famous boy from London who spent his summers on her island.

To the outside world, Nikolai Balfour lives a charmed life. Starring in a popular British TV series as a teen, young Nick stole fans’ hearts from the Isle of Wight to Shetland. However, that was a lifetime ago, and the years since have been filled with “Didn’t you used to be…” moments, career wrong-turns, and empty relationships. Now finding success behind the cameras, Nick is still racked with regret and guilt over how things ended with the Orcadian girl he’d loved and left behind.

But when a television series filming in Orkney blows Nick back into Evie’s quiet life, they’re forced to face their heartbreaking past and revisit old secrets that should never have been kept.

Unfolding in alternating past and present timelines, A Smile in a Whisper is a touching story of first love and second chances, and the enduring summer memories that shape us.



12 Responses to “REVIEW: A Smile in a Whisper by Jacquelyn Middleton”

  1. Amy R

    Do you enjoy romances that take place over several years or do you prefer a shorter time frame? As long as the story progresses I’m good with either.
    Thanks for the review.

    • Michele H

      That makes all the difference, Amy, doesn’t it? As long as the timeline helps the story progress, a shorter *or* longer span works. The author definitely knew what she was doing in this case! 🙂

    • Michele H

      I can definitely understand that, Glenda! 🙂 Sometimes it’s nice to have a straightforward story and other times it’s fun to have more involved romances–to dig into the characters’ past and get a broader view of their lives. Enjoy!!

  2. Latesha B.

    I enjoy both because I like to the see the growth of the characters over time.

      • Michele H

        Right, Dianne? As long as the author weaves it into the storyline carefully, either type of time frame works. Happy reading!! 🙂

    • Michele H

      Ohhh, then this is the book for you, Latesha! We got to see the hero & heroine for almost a 20-year span, getting snippets of their lives. It really painted a picture of their young love and how they found their way back together as adults after gaining more life experience. So. Good. 🙂

    • Michele H

      Isn’t it an interesting title? It was both part of a poem/lyric that was mentioned at the beginning of the book and it was also something the heroine thought about the hero. Enjoy!! 🙂

  3. Banana cake

    I enjoy both short romances and ones that take place over several years.