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REVIEW: Long Time Coming by Rochelle Alers

Dear Ms. Alers,

book review Long Time Coming is the first book in your trilogy about the Whitfields of New York. For the Whitfields, weddings and other celebrations are a family business. The book’s heroine, Tessa Whitfield, is an event planner and owner of Signature Bridals, the company through which she orchestrates dream weddings. Tessa’s sister, Simone, is a floral designer, and her cousin Faith is a baker who specializes in wedding cakes. The three have a warm personal and working relationship, although tension sometimes flares up between Faith and Simone, requiring Tessa to play the role of peacemaker.

As the book opens, Tessa arrives at her home and business (a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights) and finds a message from Bridget Sanborn on her answering machine. Bridget, a young bride, was to come by that evening for a wedding planning session, but can’t make it because she is on a sequestered jury. The problem is that it is now mid-October, and Bridge’s wedding is scheduled for New Year’s Eve. The meeting with Tessa was an important one, so Bridget sends her brother Micah in her stead.

Micah, an assistant DA and twenty-year veteran of the NYPD, arrives shortly after Tessa receives Bridget’s message. Micah and Tessa both like each other’s looks but before they have spent more than a few minutes in each other’s company, they are plunged into darkness. They quickly learn they are caught in blackout affecting much of New York City, and so, Tessa invites Micah to dine with her.

After dinner, they discuss Bridget’s wedding to her groom, Seth Cohen, and Tessa says she’ll need to see the location, which is the New Jersey home of Micah and Bridget’s parents. Micah offers to take Tessa there the following weekend, as well as to take her out to dinner to repay the nice dinner she had cooked for him, and Tessa agrees.

They join a neighborhood party, but when night falls and the lights have not returned, Tessa offers Micah her bed to sleep in. She comes in to check on him, sits on the bed and begins to tell him stories of past weddings, and before she knows it, she falls asleep. When she wakes the next morning to find herself alone, she realizes that Micah is a trustworthy man — he had every opportunity to take advantage but didn’t.

On Saturday, Micah takes Tessa to see his parents’ house where the wedding will be held and in the process she meets many members of Micah’s large and charming multicultural family. Later on, she also allows Micah to take her up to a house he owns in upstate New York, and while there, things start to get hot between them.

But Micah and Tessa have both been burned in the past, Tessa by a relationship with a man who turned out to be involved with another woman, and Micah in his early childhood, when his biological mother told him she loved him and then left four-year-old Micah in a hospital. Micah subsequently spent three years in foster care before being adopted by the Sanborns. Now Micah can’t bear to hear a woman say “I love you,” since it brings back memories of his abandonment, and he doesn’t stay in any romantic relationship longer than a year.

While Micah doesn’t tell Tessa all of this, he does explain early on that he’s not interested in marriage. Tessa gets the message and since she herself is deeply devoted to her time-consuming business, she suggests that the two of them be “friends with benefits.” Micah agrees, but almost from the first, part of him wants more. The same is true of Tessa. The two lose sleep from the intense desire and longing they feel when they are apart, and then try not to confess how much they each miss the other. But how long can they continue to do so?

Micah and Tessa are both likable and appealing characters. I especially like Tessa’s independence and her dedication to both her business and her family. Micah, too, was family oriented and hard working, so it was very easy to understand Micah and Tessa’s attraction to one another. I really felt their emotional connection, too.

The New York City setting is interesting as well. Outside of chick lit, I haven’t read many romances set in New York, and I do enjoy visiting the Big Apple in books, so it was nice to see the city and its surroundings depicted here. Tessa’s business of wedding organizing is also fun to read about.

Both Tessa and Micah have close and supportive families, and it is always nice to see familial warmth and support portrayed as a part of the hero and heroine’s lives.

Unfortunately, the book’s negative points outweigh it positive ones for me. My biggest problem is that Tessa and Micah, much as I liked them, seem nearly perfect and therefore for most of the book there didn’t seem to be anything major keeping them apart. Tessa’s involvement with the man in her past turns out to be nothing major, and though Micah’s issues are mentioned, they are not shown or explored in much depth for most of the book, so prior to the last few chapters they simply didn’t feel real to me. Ergo, nothing much compelled me to keep turning pages.

Also, the writing is awkward in places, both in the narration and in the dialogue, which at times feels stiff rather than flowing naturally the way conversation does.

Detailed descriptions are given of nearly every room the main characters enter, nearly every clothing outfit they wear, and most of the food they eat. While these descriptions are often quite nice (some of the food sounded mouthwatering), they don’t always seem relevant to the story, and I feel there are times when they disrupt it. For example, in the middle of an emotionally loaded encounter between Tessa and Micah’s mom, Rosalind, Tessa’s outfit and new hairdo are described in detail, and as I read, I felt it interrupted the emotion of the moment.

The last few chapters are the most emotionally charged, and my interest in the story was engaged to a greater degree there than earlier, but when Tessa and Micah are finally in conflict, neither one communicates all that well with the other. And soon after that, Micah’s commitment issues are resolved very quickly and easily, when his father gives him a new perspective. I wondered, if it was so easy, why his dad hadn’t done so years ago.

The storylines about Faith and Simone could probably have benefited from more page space. We are told that Simone’s on-again, off-again relationship with her ex-husband is bad for her more than we are shown it. Faith, meanwhile, seems like a nice enough woman but it’s hard to get a strong sense of her personality from her appearances in the story.

Many of the couples whose weddings Tessa had planned in the past are mentioned in the book by name, and I wondered if these were characters from previous books or not.

I also thought that the way the entire Whitfield family was in some way involved with weddings a bit unlikely. Not only was Tessa a wedding planner, Simone a floral designer, and Faith a wedding cake baker, but Tessa’s mother designed and sewed wedding gowns, and her father and uncle had owned a catering hall. It seemed a bit much at times, and I also had a little trouble suspending my disbelief that the wealthy clients who could afford Tessa’s services would purchase gowns from her mother’s small business, when she seemed to make only a few such gowns, rather than from a major big business designer like Vera Wang.

Long Time Coming has some strengths, but as mentioned above, for me these were outweighed by its weaknesses, especially by the absence of much conflict to keep me engrossed in the story. I could have easily put the book down and stopped reading it altogether. So, even though I appreciate the characters’ likeability and connection, my lack of engagement in the story leads me to give the book a C-.

~Janine

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

8 Comments

  1. DS
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 16:05:13

    Whoa, sister of an assistant DA is on a sequestered jury? Don’t think so.

  2. MD
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 17:00:26

    It’s not a problem if Micah lives in New York and Bridget lives in New Jersey.
    At least, that’s what I gather from the review.

  3. Janine
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 17:05:08

    Actually I think Bridget lives in the Bronx (in what was previously Micah’s apartment). Micah lives in Staten Island but if I’m not mistaken he is assistant DA for Brooklyn. I’m not sure how that would affect the jury issue.

  4. Jane
    Jun 17, 2008 @ 07:23:01

    Just the fact that she is a relative of the DA would disqualify her, I would think and if you didn’t get her struck for cause, you’d use a pre-emptive strike.

  5. Susan/DC
    Jun 17, 2008 @ 11:38:43

    Yeah, it’s really got nothing to do with the book other than to provide a reason for Tessa and Micah to meet, but it is more than a tad unrealistic that a woman whose brother was with the NYPD for 20 years and is now a DA would ever be on a jury. I’m not a lawyer but I live in Washington, DC where if you’re not a convicted felon you can count on being called to jury duty every two years like clockwork. Every time I’ve been to a voir dire, one of the first questions asked of prospective jurors is “do you have a relative in law enforcement?” They don’t ask where that relative works because, as I understand it, the issue is that if the answer is yes you’ll be predisposed to believe testimony from a law enforcement officer over any contradictory testimony.

    P.S. Pretty cover though.

  6. Janine
    Jun 17, 2008 @ 12:30:28

    Thanks for answering this question, Jane and Susan.

    P.S. Pretty cover though.

    I agree, the cover is very pretty.

  7. Dana
    Jun 17, 2008 @ 16:50:39

    Yeah, I have to say that the impossibility of the setup makes me unfavorably predisposed to the book right away. The sister of an ADA would not be on a jury in a criminal matter, and I doubt she was on a sequestered jury for a commercial litigation. And sequestered juries are so rare in any case. It just seems like an awkward setup. Surely, if this isn’t a major plot point in the book, she could have been sent somewhere by her employer for an indefinite period of time, or something else more reasonable.

    Also, Micah is a 20 year veteran of the NYPD and an ADA? That would make him at least 45, right? (college, law school, 20 years in police). Is he that old? Is his sister much younger?

    Last issue/question- I live in Brooklyn Heights, and have lived in NJ and NYC for most of my life, so I love books with this setting, but am also very picky. It takes very little inaccuracy in NY settings to pull me out of the book. So, how authentic/accurate is the setting here? I must also add that Brooklyn Heights Brownstones start at about 4 million at present. Is the character someone who would realistically be able to afford such a place (or has she owned it for 20 years)?

  8. Janine
    Jun 17, 2008 @ 17:22:16

    Yeah, I have to say that the impossibility of the setup makes me unfavorably predisposed to the book right away. The sister of an ADA would not be on a jury in a criminal matter, and I doubt she was on a sequestered jury for a commercial litigation. And sequestered juries are so rare in any case. It just seems like an awkward setup. Surely, if this isn't a major plot point in the book, she could have been sent somewhere by her employer for an indefinite period of time, or something else more reasonable.

    I understand why you feel it’s awkward, but I’m not sure being sent somewhere by an employer would have worked all that well as an alternative. Bridget was not even able to do a telephone consultation with Tessa, and I think that had she been sent away by her employer she would have had that option at least.

    Also, Micah is a 20 year veteran of the NYPD and an ADA? That would make him at least 45, right? (college, law school, 20 years in police). Is he that old? Is his sister much younger?

    Micah is 41 years old. Some of the details of the book are starting to get fuzzy for me, but I think he went to law school part time while being on the police force. I had the impression that Bridget was considerably younger, but I’m not sure what her age is. Keep in mind that Micah and his siblings are all adopted (he is the oldest of the children in his family) and a large age gap between siblings is not impossible when there is no biological clock to impede it.

    Last issue/question- I live in Brooklyn Heights, and have lived in NJ and NYC for most of my life, so I love books with this setting, but am also very picky. It takes very little inaccuracy in NY settings to pull me out of the book. So, how authentic/accurate is the setting here? I must also add that Brooklyn Heights Brownstones start at about 4 million at present. Is the character someone who would realistically be able to afford such a place (or has she owned it for 20 years)?

    I don’t remember how long Tessa had lived in her brownstone, or whether she owned or rented it. Her business seemed to be very successful (she was involved in planning celebrity weddings) but I’m not sure whether or not that would enable her to afford her home. I don’t think it was mentioned how long she had lived there, but it’s possible that it was and that detail did not stick with me.

    I do remember feeling that Micah’s owning a place in Staten Island and another house upstate seemed like a lot for a relatively new DA and former policeman, but his parents were loaded, so it’s possible that they helped him purchase one or both of his homes.

    I don’t know New York City well enough to say with absolute certainty how accurately it was depicted, but nothing seemed inaccurate to me, and I just checked and the author’s bio describes her this way: “A native New Yorker, Ms. Alers currently lives on Long Island.”

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