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REVIEW:  Talk of the Town by Beth Andrews

REVIEW: Talk of the Town by Beth Andrews

Dear Beth Andrews:

Technically this had all the right elements of an interesting romance but I struggled to connect with the hero. Maddie Montesano got pregnant when she was sixteen with Neil Pettit’s baby. Neil didn’t want a child. He wanted to pursue a hockey career. His dreams came true and Maddie stayed in Shady Grove, joining her family’s construction business and raising her daughter. Neil came and went, missing birthdays and holidays, and basically being a shitty dad.

Talk of the Town by Beth AndrewsAfter winning the Stanley Cup, he returns home to do his obligatory duty visit with his 12 year old daughter and help his sister get back on her feet. Unfortunately he finds his daughter hates him and his sister in the midst of a deep depression, one that Neil doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Neil avoids believing that anyone has a serious emotional problem; perhaps in part because he was able to set aside all distractions and make himself into an elite pro athlete but also because he does not want to take on any responsibility of being tied to any one particular person even if it is his daughter or sister.

He is frustrated with his daughter’s unhealthy weight and believes that his sister’s depression will just evaporate with time. He’d really just like to fix everything and move on but no one is complying with his wishes.  It was sad to see Neil stand by and watch others criticize his daughter’s weight, not realizing the pain it was causing her.

Maddie’s character was portrayed as a bit of a sad sack too.  Her love for him led her to make harmful decisions for her, for him, and ultimately for the child that was created.  I wished she had moved on from Neil.  If a guy you love doesn’t return your feelings after 12 years, it seems really self destructive to continue to pine after him, wish he would change, and resent him for not being the perfect man you want him to be. Maddie’s entire purpose seems to be giving Neil the finger which prompts Neil to ask “Don’t you ever get tired of being so angry at me?”

I wasn’t sure why Neil wanted to avoid his home and family that much and I didn’t really understand why Maddie wouldn’t let the fire of her feelings for Neil to die.  I also didn’t understand why Maddie felt so hurt by Neil’s abandonment.  Yes, at the age of 16, I could understand it but not at the age of 28, particularly considering Maddie’s own actions. But what confounded me the most was the lust between Neil and Maddie.  It felt phony to me.  If they disliked each other so much why not just move on?

What I did like was the supportive family that Maddie had and how the issue of childhood obesity was touched on. It’s a difficult issue and I thought that it was portrayed realistically – from the well meaning grandmother who was always criticizing the young girl’s eating habits to the mother who believed that it was just a phase to the young girl herself who was beset with image issues and starting to believe that her value rested on her appearance, particularly when it came to earning her father’s love.

C-

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  A Father at Last by Julie Mac

REVIEW: A Father at Last by Julie Mac

Dear Ms. Mac:

As a secret baby book, the story must do two things: 1) convince me that keeping the secret justified and 2) that the secret should be kept for an ongoing period of time.

A Father At Last by Julie MacUnfortunately both failed for me. The story starts out with young Kelly Atkinson watching her father be locked behind bars. This prologue is designed to provide the justification for the seven years Kelly kept her son from the man who was his father. Ben Carter was deemed by Kelly as a bad bet and didn’t want her son to suffer the same pain as she did. Of course, he was good enough to sleep with and she refers to him as “her soul mate. Her ex-soul mate.”

She did try to find Ben when her son was a toddler and the few times she found any information suggested that her decision to keep Ben at a distance was wise.

Despite not seeing each other for seven years, Ben and Kelly run into each other near the courthouse as she is taking a break from her obligations as a duty solicitor at the Auckland District Court. (I wasn’t sure what that was, but it sounded like she was a public defender). He pretends to initially not know her but then follows her later to explain that he was running with some bad gang guys and wanted to ensure that unwanted attention wasn’t directed toward her.

It seems fairly apparent from the onset that Ben is likely undercover. Kelly assumes that all her suppositions about where Ben would end up were fulfilled. Even after seven years of absence, Ben confronts her about their one night together so many years ago.

He drew her hand to his chest and leaned his other hand on the lift wall beside her, so that his face was close to hers, the scowl gone. “I tried to contact you, lots of times, after that night we had together.” There was a rough edge to his voice. “I couldn’t find you. I concluded you didn’t feel the same way I did about a replay. Eventually I gave up.”

That sort of talk, albeit relatively unbelievable, does little to help the justifications Kelly will later have to make to justify her silence and then her subsequent ongoing lies. When Ben asks her straight up whether her child is his, she lies, of course, and then proceeds to tell him that even if her son was his, she would never tell him.

Perhaps in an effort to curry reader acceptance of Kelly’s actions, Ben’s response is muted. He understands and isn’t angry. He wants Kelly back and to create a new family.  Kelly is resistant because she is afraid of being hurt (see her father’s actions).  Ben tries to signal to Kelly that he is not what she presumes.  “Maybe I’m a good guy in disguise,” he tells her.  Ben’s position requires him to continue with the lie to her, foolishly asking her to believe that he is a decent person despite all the outward evidence to the contrary.

But even beyond my reluctant acceptance of Kelly’s motives was just the writing itself which seemed rather plodding punctuated by melodrama.

Then he looked up, and kicked, but his aim was way off, and instead of heading straight for the other boy, the ball was coming to Ben.

Like an arrow to my heart.

The initial meet in the elevator where Ben bares his soul to Kelly after not seeing her for seven years rang as forced as when Kelly admits that she is afraid of losing him in Chapter Three despite them not actually having any kind of relationship.

Kelly and Ben both have past issues with their fathers which have informed their life. More secrets come out and Kelly, in particular, has to learn to forgive her father in order to move on with Ben.  Ben and Kelly keep their secrets from each other for a long while, too long in my opinion.

The low key nature of the storytelling along with the overly dramatic and forced emotional highs came off false.  C-

Best regards,

Jane

 

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