Monday, May 26, 2008

Bygones by LaVyrle Spencer ***

You'd think by now I'd have read every Spencer book there is. Nope - there's plenty more that I haven't even gotten yet!

When I first started this journey, my first 2 books were That Camden Summer and Morning Glory. Both of them were 20th century American - 1917 and 1941 - and both I consider "sweet" romance: sexual tension yes, actual graphically described sex, not much, if any. Both wait til after marriage to consummate - in fact, in Morning Glory it's well after, since she's a pregnant widow. So I had this notion of her writing that isn't exactly correct, not having read more. She writes a completely new and different story every time - she uses different times, different regions, completely different situations and backstories. Now I have read 2 "family" stories, where a couple is already married, with older children - both completely different (Bygones and Family Blessings). She doesn't only write "sweet" romances or historical romances either.

Bygones is a family story - and also a "first love" story. Bess and Michael married young, had 2 kids, and went through some rough times, ending in Michael having an affair, divorcing Bess and marrying the Other Woman. It's 6 years later - Michael's second marriage is now ending in divorce and Bess and Michael's daughter brings them together to announce her pregnancy and marriage. The daughter harbors a fantasy that Bess and Michael will get back together, and she does everything in her power to get them to do just that.

Their son Randy, on the other hand, has never really recuperated from the bitter divorce. Bess admittedly kept the kids away from their father, and it was no secret from the kids how bitter her feelings were for Michael, enough to poison Randy against his father.

Because they have to see each other during all the wedding festivities, Bess and Michael are forced to act civilly and even face some of the truths about themselves. Many reviewers of this book feel that Bess ended up taking the blame for Michael's affair that broke up their marriage. Although she does realize that she shared in the breakdown of their relationship, she doesn't really take the blame for the affair. Michael as much as admits the second marriage was a mistake - but it's true that neither of them come out against his adultery as much as they could have. Adultery is a major hot button amongst romance readers, so if this book were ever re-written, maybe that could be dealt with differently.

Their attraction grows throughout the book, although once again, Spencer writes a stubborn heroine who almost ruins her chance at love because she can't voice her feelings. Michael tries to give her an ultimatum, but - lucky for us readers - he gives in and forces the issue another way, since Bess just cannot seem to be the one to give in and admit she wants to resume the relationship. And we have another hero, like in The Hellion, who undertakes some changes to win back his girl.

I just can't say I dislike any of the Spencer books I've read so far, but I didn't love this one either, so I'm going with 3 stars.

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