Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Daisy's Back In Town by Rachel Gibson *****

I'm about to finish my (slow) glom of Rachel Gibson, with only 2 more in her backlist that I haven't read. This was a glom that almost didn't happen, because the first one I read was an AAR Top 100 from 2007, See Jane Score, and frankly it just didn't interest me that much. (Go figure, I gave it 4 stars too...) I felt like it was a Susan Andersen-wannabe - a contemporary, humorous, quasi-Chick-Lit-ish, but missed the mark. However, I had already ordered more of her stories, so I read them and discovered that while Jane didn't interest me, others of her books did! Then the glom began...

I think what happened with Jane was that the hero just didn't engage my heart as much. The writing was good, the story interesting, Jane's journey was credible but Luc was a little too - distant I guess. Cool, maybe. I just didn't get him. Maybe I should re-read it to see if I will feel differently.

This story started off rough for me. First off, I do try to overlook grammar errors and typos but sometimes they just reach out and pinch me. And when they add up, I just feel pinched and cannot enjoy the story. I'm not exactly the High Priestess of Grammar or anything, I'm just one of those annoying people who managed to remember a lot (but not all) of those grammar things they shoved down our throats in elementary school. I clearly remember wondering what on earth I would be able to do with the skill of diagramming sentences... and now I know. Distant remnants of that skill haunt me while I read for pleasure.

Right on the second page: the word "past" spelled "passed". "Passed" is a conjugation of the verb, where "past" - well, here is an explanation from a google search:

The past tense and past participle of pass is passed: They passed (or have passed) our home. Time had passed slowly. Past is the corresponding adjective (in centuries past), adverb (drove past), preposition (past midnight), and noun (lived in the past).
I know, I know, it's obnoxious of me to point it out, but hey - in my brain, it's obnoxious that it PASSED the proofreader with that error on the SECOND PAGE! "He moved passed a nineteen-seventy..."

Then there was the spelling of dates, like in that same sentence, instead of using numerals. Sigh. Those are no biggie, except it wasn't used consistently and wasn't used correctly all the time either. And then a character name misspelled - spelled as Kribs except in one instance where it was spelled Cribs. Hello - this is what proofreaders should catch. And those things pop me out of a story.

The plot is an interesting one: 3 children growing up together, 2 boys and a girl, all the same age, in the same grade, in the same small town. The heroine grows to love them both as friends, but later, when both boys are in love with her, she has to make some sort of choice. Other authors have broached this subject in differing ways - I think first of LaVyrle Spencer's Twice Loved, which tore my heart into tiny pieces and truly, even with a sort of HEA, left it clear that there was no possibility of a true HEA for everyone.

Gibson's story takes a different angle. Early on, the 2 boys (Jack and Steve) agree that, in order to keep the friendship between the 2 of them, neither one will pursue Daisy as a girlfriend. They both go on to date other girls, and Daisy dates other boys. Through a twist of fate, Daisy is stood up for the senior prom just a few months before graduation, and Steve tells Jack - who wasn't even planning to go to the prom. Steve already had a date. Jack takes Daisy, and they both realize that there's chemistry too strong between them to deny it any longer.

Just as both boys had developed feelings for Daisy, she had feelings for both of them - different feelings, but both strong. For Jack, she had always felt overwhelmed, strong feelings that seemed dangerous, and for Steve it was something sweeter, more controllable. She and Jack hide their relationship from Steve, planning to tell him right before he leaves for college - or better, maybe after he leaves and the 2 of them are left behind.

Then Jack's parents are killed, and he pushes Daisy away in his grief, asking for some time apart to sort out his feelings. She's young and confused and scared - because she's pregnant with Jack's child. Afraid he no longer loves her, she goes to her other best friend, Steve. Steve does the unthinkable - he asks her to marry him, and then he takes her away with him to college. They tell Jack they are married, and then they leave and never return.

Steve does one more unthinkable act: he develops brain cancer and dies 15 years later. Daisy waits a few months, and decides it's time to deliver a letter Steve has written to Jack and reveal the truth about what happened. Their son Nathan knows; Daisy's family knows; only Jack doesn't know he has a 15 year old son, raised by Steve and Daisy.

I know a lot of people hate the Secret Baby conceit in romance. And it is awful in real life, it's just unforgivable to take a child away from his father and never tell him. Somehow, after a truly rocky beginning of the story, though, I began to see it from Daisy's 18-year-old perspective. She actually did love Steve, even if it was different from how she loved Jack. She thought Jack no longer wanted her, and that she and the baby would be better off with Steve, and she managed to convince herself of that, up until Steve's illness.

The biggest obstacle wasn't telling Jack the truth, however. The biggest obstacle was for Jack to overcome his anger at Daisy and Steve for taking Nathan away from him. Daisy realized that until Jack forgave her, and Steve, any new relationship between her and him was doomed.

The part of the story where Jack finds out about Nathan, and then begins to develop a relationship with him was the most heartwarming of all. It's easy enough for romance authors to create the hero/heroine relationship - after all, that's what the story and the genre is about. You know the saying, "If the kids are alive at 5, I've done my job"? Well, if the hero and heroine get naked, do it and fall in love before the end, the romance author has done her job. Pretty much, anyway.

But when the author has you caring about the secondary relationships, like a father and son, then you know she can spin a web around you and have you wrapped up in her world.

So she did it - and for that I should give her 5 stars. But all those typos and grammar thingies - plus how annoyed I was getting with Daisy not getting to the point during her original 12 day stay - dropped it into 4.5 territory. OK, I just realized I usually do round up, so dangit, I'll go with 5 stars.

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