Jun 16 2008
Dear Ms. Alers,
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-.