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REVIEW:  Promise Me a Rainbow by Cheryl Reavis

REVIEW: Promise Me a Rainbow by Cheryl Reavis

“Deserted by her husband because she couldn’t have children, Catherine Holben has thrown herself into her job counseling pregnant teens. Catherine is still recovering from the pain of her divorce, but her life is changed forever when she makes a purchase in a quaint curio shop. She meets handsome, hardworking Joe D’Amaro, a widower and father of three, and his daughter, Fritz. But Joe needs help with Fritz, a seven-year-old dynamo. She’s a precocious but headstrong little girl who’s impossible to resist., and he is too proud to admit it.

Joe and Catherine are cautious about making a commitment to each other. They both know the joy and heartache of falling in love, but are they willing to risk being together despite their misgivings? Neither can ignore the love that quickly blossoms between them. Maybe they can have a wonderful life together . . . if only Joe’s still-grieving older daughter, Della, will accept a new woman in her father’s life.

True love versus reality. Can Catherine handle his ready-made family? Or is there more in store for her than she thinks?”

Dear Ms. Reavis,

What a wonderful, soft, sweet romance that still manages to include some hotness + emotional intensity. Even before their relationship has them burning up the sheets – but not in an overwrought, cliched, purple way – these two care about each other. They care a lot and I can see this, feel it, believe in it. They fight it all the way after a rocky start but for some reason this gets me to believe it even more. I’ve always been dubious about people who fall into insta-love – mainly because often it seems that the two are in love just because the plot demands it – but here I feel I’m watching it happen.

Promise Me a Rainbow by Cheryl ReavisJoe and Catherine have both loved and lost. His first wife died in a car accident and he grieved deeply while Catherine’s husband left her due to their infertility issues. They’ve both known love and, glory be, neither is wailing “I’ll never love again! I just can’t risk ever feeling that pain a second time.” But there are reasons for them to take things slowly and think hard about what they’re doing. Neither is exactly eager to be hurt again but at least they’re not ducking and dodging any potential future. Always a good sign for me.

Catherine isn’t sure about this initially prickly man with his 3 children because Joe can be rude when he’s feeling emotionally in the wrong. She’s also still getting over being dumped by the man she thought loved her and with her teaching schedule, she doesn’t want to jump into anything. Joe is working hard to build his fledgling business and help his intense youngest child. He’s also got issues with a sister-in-law that complicates family things. Then when his beyotch sister-in-law sees a way to twist the situation to her benefit, Joe is faced with his eldest daughter’s anger and pain.

The relationship with the children is heartfelt yet at times also painful. Fritz worries Joe with her solemnness and closely held thoughts. Charlie is easy going. Della is full of pain and the pangs of approaching adulthood. Honestly I think Joe does the best he can and beyond being there and even with listening to your children and explaining things the best you can, there will be times of pain and heartache. The reasons which are built into the story to explain it all give a pretty good source of conflict here and not one that can be easily cleared up. There are plenty of times when I wanted to shake Della, too, til her teeth rattled. But she’s truly at that stage of Teenaged Drama Queenness so her actions and feelings are understandable to anyone who’s ever gone through this age. By the end of the book, it looks like there might be a rainbow in the near future.

Fritz reminds me a bit of several children I’ve known. Quiet with deep inner depths who can worry about things with such intensity. She seems to scare Joe a little and I can see why. Her thoughts and reasoning are those of a young child and to her, they make perfect sense and are completely logical. Her longing for a real mother is that of a child who remembers the loss of her own and who longs for what her older siblings had and that she’s mainly missed. Her interactions with her father and Catherine have a sweetness and tenderness I enjoyed experiencing.

Catherine’s students move the story into the true contemporary range. Teenaged pregnancy is often a springboard for the secret baby books so popular in romances but here the realities of the situation are examined a bit: the social isolation at school, the physical cost paid by 13 year olds giving birth, the harsh home life often faced by these girls. Your own training as a nurse makes these scenes more realistic – especially the hospital ones. The emotional and physical issues of the cancer faced by Catherine’s friend Pat remind me of those of friends of mine – though they didn’t deal with an asshole husband.

It does get a little precious at the end when the pregnant posse + grandmamma (I agree with Clarkson about her) go looking for Joe to make him do right by Catherine. And the discussion with the priest about getting the wedding done on time sounds too cute. And Della’s rethinking of her family options does go down to the wire. But I still like this book for the emotional truths and the solid, well written characters. B




REVIEW: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

REVIEW: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

The third book in my class on Georgette Heyer is Sylvester. We’ve had the founding Regency romance, Regency Buck, and Cotillion, the book that makes fun of the tropes Regency Buck establishes. I chose Sylvester for our third book because I love it and because I love how Heyer again plays with the construction of the hero by having the heroine, Phoebe, use Sylvester, the hero of the book, as the villain in her Gothic romance.

Sylvester by Georgette HeyerSylvester Rayne, Duke of Salford, is looking for a wife, but is horrifying his mother with the bloodless, passionless way he’s going about the search. She casually mentions her (deceased) best friend’s daughter, so Salford decides to check her out. Phoebe is not at her best in social situations, especially around her scary step-mother, so when Salford meets her (again — they met once during Phoebe’s season the previous year), he is unimpressed and can’t wait to get away. Phoebe, however, mistakenly thinks that Salford will definitely propose to her, and so runs away with her best (male) friend during a snow storm. Tom, however, breaks his leg on the flight, and Salford comes to his and Phoebe’s rescue (it makes sense in the book — that its ridiculous is part of the point). They spend a week together, snowed in at an out-of-the-way inn, becoming friends. Salford then helps Phoebe get to London when they’re discovered. There they set up a flirtation, until the truth of Phoebe’s book comes out.

After her utterly unsuccessful season, Phoebe wrote an utterly improbably gothic novel that also happened to be a roman a clef. It’s published when she and Sylvester are at the height of their flirtation and takes the ton by storm. She used Sylvester as her villain because of his villainous eyebrows and because of his abominable pride. If there’s one thing wrong with this book, it’s how many times the characters and the narrator attempt to describe exactly what’s wrong with Sylvester’s pride. They go on and on and ON and it’s almost like Heyer doesn’t *quite* have a handle on it or was trying to convince herself that Sylvester’s pride was actually wrong. That pride is damaged by Phoebe’s book and he confronts Phoebe in public, ruining her.

Much like Charlotte Bronte who unwittingly dedicated Jane Eyre to William M. Thackeray who had a mad wife hidden in his attic, Phoebe coincidentally gave her villain a young child as a ward who is completely under his control. Sylvester’s deceased brother’s son is his ward and completely under his control. Sylvester, of course, is nothing like Phoebe’s villain, and loves his nephew, but Phoebe’s book gives Sylvester’s sister-in-law the idea to spirit her son away to France. The book turns into a road romance at this point, with all the character careening around the countryside of France. But it’s hysterical, character driven, brilliantly plotted, and so perfectly done.

I adored this story on reread. It’s always been one of my favorite of Heyer’s books, but I fell into it and just didn’t come out until I was done, even though I knew exactly what was happening. Most of all, I love how Sylvester and Phoebe fall in love:

His sense of humour, too, was lively: often if a fatuous remark were uttered, or someone behaved in a fashion so typical as to be ludicrous, Phoebe would look instinctively toward him, knowing that he must be sharing her amusement. It was strange how the dullest party could be enjoyed because there was one person present whose eyes could be met for the fraction of a second, in wordless appreciation of a joke unshared by others: almost as strange as the insipidity of parties at which that person was not present.

This is one of Heyer’s more romantic books — of course, it’s still Heyer, so “more romantic” means that love is, in fact, mentioned at some point. But still, the understatedness of Sylvester when

looked around quickly, and saw her. Something leaped in his eyes; she had the impression that he was going to start towards her. But the look vanished in a flash, and he did not move.

doesn’t make it any less powerful for all that. And the climax and denouement of the book are among the most romantic Heyer wrote: “O God, Mama, I’ve made such a mull of it. What am I to do?”.

This book is one I recommend for conversion kits. It’s not too heavily filled with Regency cant, like Cotillion, the characters are brilliant, the story is delightful, and the scenes with Edmund and both the button and the tassels are just not to be missed.

Grade: A

Next up, a visit by Sabrina Jeffries, and we’ve added Venetia to the syllabus for the last class! So you get one more review out of me.

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