Review: ‘The Vast Clear Blue’ by Karen Winters Schwartz

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Description: Mark arrives in Belize, and almost at once becomes a catalyst for change among a love triangle of ex-pats already in country.

Belize is a big part of this book, to the extent one feels it could not have been set anywhere else. Only a flawed paradise like this could enable the way of life of enjoyed by Kendal, Aaron and Charlie. When Mark blows in on a permanent bender, bringing with him a whiff of the real world, he precipitates an unravelling of the way of life the three other ex-pats have evolved together over a decade.

Author: Schwartz’s publicity tells us, “Karen Winters Schwartz’s professional writing career began in 2010, when the first of three widely praised novels, Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?, Reis’s Pieces, and The Chocolate Debacle were issued by Goodman Beck Publishing. Red Adept Publishing released Legend of the Lost Ass in 2020, and her latest novel The Vast Clear Blue in January 2023. Both these last are richly emotional stories about love and relationships and take place in the exotic setting of Belize.

Schwartz now splits her time between Arizona USA, a small village in Belize, and traveling the world “in search of the many creatures with whom she has the honor of sharing this world”.

Author website:

Appraisal: The beautiful setting is rendered in some detail (but not so much as to waylay pace) and great affection. It is a place the author knows well. Her previous book was set there too.

The characters are attractively realised through what they say and do, and an occasional internal monologue. Their lives are slow and simple: and yet much happens. They are special, unique, people: and yet they are just like everyone else. I felt that an amalgam of the four of them (including the beer sodden Mark) would together make the ideal person one would like to be (although I wouldn’t want Mark’s liver). There is such warmth, loving, depth of understanding, caring and encouragement going on here. There is no sense of angst, rivalry, or jealousy such as underpins most relationships. Could such an emotional paradise ever actually exist? Even in a geographical paradise like this? Well, there is always the snake, in any Eden.

The action of the book is like the careful placing of jigsaw puzzle pieces. The construction is very skilful, and the finished picture has been a very satisfying read.

This would, indeed, be a 5* book for me, except for the Author’s Note which ends each chapter. I found the intrusion of the author in this way threw me out of the book every time. I had to read them (on your behalf) and could not understand why the author felt a need to include any of them, or why her publisher let her. The book, as is, is novella length, so perhaps it was decided to extend it to its current length through this ploy.

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to contend with the Author’s Notes: you can skip right over them and enjoy a cracking novel. And I recommend you do.

Plenty of F-bombs (as the Americans say) if you like to be warned about that sort of thing.

**This review was originally prepared for Big Al & Pals: received a complimentary book file in exchange for an honest review.**


Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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