So I finally got around to reading this whole thing. Now I can review. Whee. 39 chapters seemed kind of daunting to catch up on, but some seemed more like scenes, and the pace progressed nicely, so it read effortlessly.
Firstly - your Bella doesn't make me want to rip my eyes out. Thank God. I have serious issues with Bella in the Twilight series, so I love to see interesting takes on her maturing. This is possibly the most believable, since the timeframe is much more realistic than 'Bella has an epiphany' and changes in the course of a chapter. I was wary at first that your Bella would go the way of so many others and become 'strong' in a way that in no way relates to any of her personality in the books, and in essence is just a softer word for 'bitch'. I'm glad to see that I needn't have worried.
I'm wary of New Moon AUs in general because I see so many that use it as an excuse to have a go at Edward because they have problems with the book - they often take it too far for my liking. I was glad to see that it was dealt with in this fic in a way that I felt superior to the book, and didn't make Edward out to be the total bad guy.
You've covered so many of the issues and problems that were skirted over in the series. I loved how the maturing wasn't just confined to Bella - all the characters have changed for the better. Your Rosalie is wonderful, she gets such a raw deal in so many fics, even though we only know her from Bella and Edward's biased views. I wish there was more Alice, since they had the close friendship thing going on.
I love the depth you've added. It seemed wrong to me that Bella wasn't curious about the Cullens in the time before she met them, so it was nice to actually see her asking questions. In this chapter specifically I loved how Bella actually took in what Edward was saying. In the books she never really seemed to listen to his opinion about the change and instead let it go in one ear and out the other before continuing to press her argument.
It may have taken 39 chapters for the romance to progress, but it did so realistically and naturally. I'm not a shipper, my favorite stories are gen, so it never bothered me anyway, but this is a romance that I, naturally skeptical of the Soul Mate/One True Love thing, can believe in and enjoy.
Oh - and your Esme is gold. She got such a raw deal in the books and in a lot of fics, I like to see some depth added to her.
However, and I'm now going to sound like giselle, the lack of Carlisle makes me sad.
And there we go. A review of 39 chapters in one big mess. I'm sorry if this isn't coherent. I have now caught up, so in future my mess of thoughs will only relate to one chapter at a time, which should make it easier to unravel.
Wow! What a terrific, long review! Thank you! And you must be dazed after that many chapters -- although yes, a lot are scenes. I actually tend to think of them as "parts" rather than "chapters" even if that's the archive terminology. I think if I were to ever repost it, I'd combine some to create longer individual chapters, but I wanted to try to get up about a part a week, so I decided to go with shorter.
ANYway, on having a go at Edward ... I've seen that same thing. But I think, in some ways, guilt is on both sides. This older Bella, for instance, wouldn't have let him go so easily, but she was extremely insecure back then -- as many teen girls are. She played right into Edward's hands. And his error was not from cruelty, but attempted kindness. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." BOTH of them have to grow up enough for it to work later. Bella has, but so has Edward. It was never that he was a bad person, but that he was a product of his era and of his lack of experience. She was a victim of her age and equal lack of experience. (And of course, the rest of the Cullens have to learn things too.) This Bella listens better to Edward and his concerns. More will come out about that in the next couple of parts, I think.
On Bella asking the Cullens questions ... I had the funniest conversation with a teenaged girl back at Christmas when I was flying home. She was sitting there reading the book in the airport, so I told her I was a fan and asked her why she liked it, etc. I was curious how she saw Edward and Bella, and one of the things that I asked her was if she wished Bella had asked more about the Cullens' past, what they'd seen in their lives, etc. She just looked at me like I had two heads and said, "That would be boring!" LOL! I'm sure there are teen readers who'd like to know those things, but it made me think that part of why Bella didn't ask in the books is that she was too young yet to really be interested. She hadn't lived long enough yet herself to have any real sense of perspective. That's not true of all teens, again -- and it still is true of a lot of adults. But I think an interest in the past increases the older we get. I had NO interest at all in stuff like that as a kid. Current events I lapped up like ambrosia, but old stuf? Pah! Dead people are dead and not interesting. Ha! And while Bella seems to like reading the classics, I thought it interesting that she never asked Carlisle what he knew about Shakespeare (who lived basically a generation before him), or Jane Austin, or the lives of her writing heroes. That struck me as odd!
Carlisle will return Very Soon Now ... if not in the next chapter, the one after. He gets a very nice homecoming, but yes, he had to stay away for a while to 1) force Edward to do a residency (as he never would have if Carlisle were around), and 2) to force the family to interact without the "father" dynamic. He's just so MUCH older than all of them, I think it must become very easy for them to lean on him, even Jasper.