Book Review: Ninety-Nine Signs by Elisheba Haxby, Jesse Vincent

Book Review: Ninety-Nine Signs by Elisheba Haxby, Jesse Vincent

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Updated April 08, 2019
Book Review: Ninety-Nine Signs by Elisheba Haxby, Jesse Vincent

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Are there places too dark for love to reach?

On the run after another betrayal, Tamara Jensen believes she’s too broken for love… then come the signs.

A breakdown strands her in Vancouver, Washington on the corner of 99th and Highway 99. Across the street is the Highway Ninety-Nine Diner where she lands a job as a waitress—however starting over is hard with all the broken trust.

Joe Phillips, the diner’s short-order cook, is rugged, handsome, sweet, and is determined to push past her walls—but he has secrets of his own. Tamara finds comfort in his friendship as she struggles with a past that haunts her, and a darkness she cannot shake. She could give her heart to Joe, if not for the fears that plague her.

Their friendship deepens and Tamara begins to hope again until she’s forced to make a choice no woman should ever have to face. Then the signs reappear, and lead her down her darkest path yet.

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Editor review

1 reviews

Ninety-Nine Signs by Elisheba Haxby & Jesse Vincent
Overall rating 
Before we get into the book, I want to applaud the authors of this book. They have obviously worked hard to get this book out, but they are also part of a collective of Christian creatives who have established an organisation called "Above The Sun" to bring different types of work to the marketplace, not just the Christian audience. This book is the first in a series of books which will be called "Ninety-Nine". There is a particular significance to this number in the story and I guess that it will run through the series.

The book is written from three different perspectives and although it is largely a romantic tale there are a lot of twists and turns and some great drama throughout. The characters that tell us the story are mainly Tamara and Joe, but there are some passages from a character called Levi as well, but the focus is definitely the other two.

Tamara is running away, just like she has done all her life. Running from an abusive Father, running from no-good ex-boyfriends and a whole dark past. With the soft-top on her car down and the wind in her hair she sobs her way from the life she has had onto something new. But then in what seems like the middle of nowhere, her car dies until a guy from the local diner notices her plight and comes over to help fix it. The number 99 is important to her, she smokes 99's, she was listening to the radio when Princes "1999" came on and she realised she had stopped on 99 Street, right opposite the 99 diner where the helpful short-order chef had come from to help her, and they had a staff wanted sign in the window! Feeling this is a positive sign she decides to stay right there and take a job.

Joe happens to be the short-order chef from the diner who helped Tamara with the car and he is the other main character of the story. An alcoholic who has been sober coming up to 3 years also has a dark past. He tragically lost his Mum when he was younger and turned to drink to numb the pain, and some counselling. He is in a relationship with Susan but due to previous infidelity she doesn't trust him and when he finds himself trying to help Tamara she thinks there is more to it than friendship and leaves him.

These are not your normal characters from a romance novel, in fact the stories of their lives read more like something from a TV soap, although a lot more believable. Some of this is semi-biographical on Elisheba's part, so she is writing from a place of knowledge about this type of pain and hurt. This hurt is very palpable through the book on the part of both of the main characters, they are both very broken people, they each have their own demons, but as they start to draw together they realise that they have a bond that is more than friendship, but dare they call it love? Can love actually work for people who are badly hurting and hurtful.

There is another character who has some input into this story and this is Levi. At first he seems like an incidental character who comes into the diner regularly, but Tamara notices that he leaves odd comments on his bills. At first they are just happy notes, but then he writes and crosses out things from her past. One day he leaves his journal in the diner and he doesn't return. Tamara collects it meaning to return it when she sees him next, but he stopped coming in and she doesn't know an address for him. Levi is connected with Joe because Joe used to be one of his clients at counselling, but now they maintain a respectful distance.

So that is how the story is set-up but it's never that smooth, especially when you add a number of twists and turns in relationships, pressures of life, and the basic human instincts for "flight or fight" then you have a cracking story that rolls along keeping the reader with it every step of the way. I am not a big fan of romantic novels, but this isn't your typical romance, there is a lot of drama. It's not about declaring your love for somebody and hoping everything runs smoothly. It's about two imperfect people living imperfectly, and sometimes it's only one of them fighting to make it work.

Of course there is another character in this story that is barely credited until the end. One who may have been pursuing both of them from their very earliest days, one to whom the 99 isn't quite as important as the 1 that he will track down and find. If you know, you know, but if not you will need to read the novel to discover the identity of this mystery character.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and the writing flow is great. There were a few typos that I noticed but not enough to damage the story. It is hard to work out who wrote which bits of the story so well done to the two authors of this book. It is thoroughly enjoyable and a good read and a bold statement about books to come in the future.

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