Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TBR Tuesday/CKC -- Hunt the Hill, Win the Hill

Before I get to today's TBR read, I want to make a little list of the books/authors that are in my Contemporary Keeper Challenge:
  • The Older Woman by Cheryl Reavis
  • Lost Cause by Janice Kay Johnson
  • Dr. Dad & Hidden Treasures by Judith Arnold
  • Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper
  • Considering Kate by Nora Roberts
  • A Game of Chance by Linda Howard
  • The Passion of Patrick MacNeill by Virginia Kantra
  • Coming Home to You by Fay Robinson
If the title is in red, I've read it.  I'm going to read all of these books and see if there's a keeper in the bunch.  I would dearly love to give the prize because that would mean a) I was wrong, and b) I have a new keeper contemporary, and possibly even a new favorite author.

Today's book, Cheryl Reavis's The Older Woman is a daring but flawed book.  Here are the reasons it's daring:  The POV is entirely the hero's.  From start to finish.  And the narrative seems appropriately incomplete as a result.  He tells us some things (even what she's wearing in most scenes) but not other things (what's wrong with his legs, how much older she is, etc.).  And having the guy's POV was very effective in getting us to empathize with him even to the heroine's detriment.  When she says "No," to his offer of a date, we scratch our heads right along with him.  What's her problem?  Pah! Women!

Another reason it's great:  It's got a great love story.  Unfortunately, it's 60 years old, but great love is still great love.  Cal's landlady, Mrs. Bee (a former schoolteacher who maybe taught spelling -?), makes dinner for Cal and Kate: meatloaf, homemade rolls, sides, and two pies.  It's the anniversary of her marriage to Bud Gaffney, who shipped off to WWII and never came home.  He'd written her wonderful letters, asking her to make him his favorite meal when he got home.  Every year on their wedding anniversary, she does exactly that.  Try reading that scene with a dry eye.

I have some quibbles about The Other Woman -- it's a very slow starter for example, and Reavis could have gotten the various women in the story to drag out of Cal some of the details he wasn't revealing himself.  But overall I enjoyed seeing a romance from the guy's POV.  Here's a quick example of romance from Cal's perspective:
[I]n his opinion, [high maintenance women were] the only kind worth having.  Something was seriously wrong with a guy who could be happy with a doormat.

I really wanted to pick a fight with Cal at this point.  Uh, buddy, do you actually think women are either "high-maintenance" or "doormats"?  Seriously?  But for all I know, guys think like that.

On balance, then, this was a fun and emotionally affecting book.  So why isn't it a keeper?  A couple reasons.  In the discussions about keeper books I've had here recently, one thing keeps coming up:  We keep those books whose characters and stories we want (or need) to be able to revisit.  Keeper books make us feel something special and specific to that book, and as long as that feeling can be re-experienced, we keep the book.  (Thanks, specifically, to bafriva for her analysis on this point.)

I just didn't feel that with The Older Woman.  It was generically charming, and the gimmick of getting only Cal's POV didn't really elevate the story above that.  If Reavis had trimmed the lead-in but expanded -- a lot -- the relationship between Cal & Kate, and also shown us a lot more of who they were as people, then maybe.  But their relationship is fundamentally formulaic:
  1. Previously platonic situational relationship, 
  2. suddenly see each other in a new way, 
  3. romantically ambiguous date-or-is-it-just-friends-eating-together?, 
  4. The Kiss, 
  5. pursuit (which Cal, a paratrooper, refers to as "hunt the hill, win the hill"), 
  6. sexual consummation, 
  7. realization of feelings, 
  8. misunderstanding, 
  9. renewed effort to "win the hill," 
  10. HEA.
I found Cal and Kate to be charming people, and I very much enjoyed my time with them.  But I guess they weren't "high-maintenance" enough for me.
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1 comment:

  1. Ah, well, it was worth a try!

    I'm currently reading BLUE-EYED DEVIL by Lisa Kleypas, the first time I've tried one of her contemporaries. It's her second contemporary, I think. It's interesting so far for being in first person from the heroine's pov (I'm less than 20 pages in).

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