REVIEW: Promises to Keep by Shirley Hailstock
Tricky curves ahead
After three years of grieving, it’s finally time for widow McKenna Wellington to take that long-awaited road trip…though her adventure isn’t meant to include Parker Fordum. The stodgy, set-in-his-ways economics professor is the last person McKenna wants to accompany her across 2,400 miles of defunct highway. But her late husband’s friend has his own reasons for signing on.
And Parker’s surprising McKenna in all sorts of good ways. Somewhere between Chicago and LA, an unlikely friendship blooms, turning a cross-country trip into something more. But what awaits them at journey’s end?
Dear Ms. Hailstock,
I’m not quite old enough to remember the 1960s show that gets referenced so often in this book but I did have Nat King Cole singing “Route 66” on my mind while reading the story. McKenna and Parker are younger than I am but something about their journey to discovery and self fulfillment caught my attention and made me buy this book.
McKenna built a Corvette! I have to say that again because I’m so in awe (as are most of the men in the story, once McKenna convinces them of her automotive bone fides). McKenna built a Corvette! And not just any Corvette but a ’59 red and white one. Wow. The lady has not only serious business chops but can hold her own in a car repair bay. Thank you for a strong heroine who isn’t afraid to show it.
Parker is harder to get to know. He and McKenna have never got along well and she blames him for a tragedy she’s never truly examined that happened in her life. The reader doesn’t know much more about him than he reveals a bit at a time to McKenna but I did guess one secret which was actually fairly obvious.
They’re only in their early thirties so a bit young for any bucket list or mid-life crisis to propel them to make this trip. Instead it’s death that sparked the journey. McKenna’s convinced herself that this was her dual dream with her dead husband though Parker gently and persistently steers her to the truth – no pun intended. Still McKenna wants to prove – mainly to herself – that she can do this. Take a car she built from the ground up on a 2400 mile journey along a classic American roadway. She wants the adventure that the two main characters of the 60s show found along the way so she sets some guidelines about use of modern conveniences. Parker may raise an eyebrow at it but eventually he gets into the spirit as well.
Their first setback happens fairly soon and it serves as a realistic way to get the two to share quarters in order to save money. They also have to take jobs in some of the small towns they travel through which gets them a chance to meet people, see life and get to know each other. I appreciate that their relationship progresses by learning about each other as well as the sexual tension brought on by their physical proximity. It isn’t all “I just want into your pants.” There’s also “I want to know more about you, what interests you and makes you tick” to go with that.
There are emotional burdens each of them needs to acknowledge, deal with and let go of. Some of this is more believable and some felt rushed. While I enjoyed the characters they met along the way, perhaps a bit too much time was spent on this part of the story which then made the romance feel shortchanged.
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing something before it’s too late, here’s a book about two people who actually manage it. They let go, take off and decide to see what the road will bring them. The epilogue, or should I say epilogues?, was/were a tiny bit strange but I enjoyed watching McKenna and Parker find themselves as well as each other. B-