by Bette Ford, contemporary (2003)
Harper, $6.50, ISBN 0-06-053307-2
Unforgettable is a well-written "only in romance novels" story. The author's writing style is such that the dialogs have a lively gaiety in them, which is why I find this book very readable. Unfortunately, the premise of the story is one that can only happen if the characters exist in that oh-so-typical romance novel bubble where you have to cater to that man who needs a nanny for the sake of the kid. When the author begins to prolong the hero and the heroine's reluctance to settle down using trivial reasons, the pace drags, the story comes to a standstill, and that's the point when I have serious problems with this book and I'm just midway through it. Oh boy.
But first, the story. Anna Prescott is a successful caterer whose high-end clients include the pro football team Detroit Lions. Nepotism has its rewards, after all, since her brother also plays in Detroit Lions along with his friend Gavin Mathis. Anna has a crush on Gavin once, and she's not sure she's over it. Gavin is a commitment-phobe whose father abandoned his mother when Gavin was a kid - yeah yeah, same old song, skip to the remix. One day, his father dumps Gavin's half-brother, fourteen-year old Kyle, on Gavin's doorstep. Kyle is predictably resentful and full of issues, and now Gavin has to ask Anna to come in and move in with him for the sake of the kiddies. And Anna of course puts her career on hold to be Gavin's chef and move into his house to take care of Kyle when Gavin is away playing. Why? It's all for the kiddies, people! And along the way, attraction flares between these two.
I call this book a strictly "only in romance novels" only story because it is hard to imagine that Gavin can actually ask his best buddy's sister to bend over backwards to cater to him with a straight face under the pretense of dire need. He's a footballer, not a harassed middle-class pencil pusher trying to make ends meet - he hasn't heard of counseling, babysitter, and parenting experts before? More importantly, can't he hire someone with his big bucks? Likewise, Anna is willing to take a detour from a career to become a prettified equivalent of a Filipino maid to Gavin, all in the name of friendship, concern, and Maternal Values. It is very magnanimous of her, but I can't help wondering why these two people can't seek professional help to deal with an obviously troubled teen.
Still, I am willing to go along with the premise if the author hasn't drag the couple's relationship using trivial reasons. Anna can't commit to him because he is a womanizer and even when he tells her that he has been a celibate for a long time, she seems to be struck by an affliction of selective memory. This affliction leads to her declaring that They Must Be Friends to send them back two steps for every one step forward they make in their relationship. Gavin has more reasons to be afraid of commitment than Anna, but strangely enough, Anna's insecurities and often illogical Let's Just Be Friends Even If We Can't Keep Our Hands Off Each Other mindset dominate in their relationship.
Gavin and Anna try to be good parents to Kyle, I'll give them that. That's the main reason why despite their contrived relationship, I find them still agreeable at the end of the day. Gavin, however, has passive-aggressive issues: instead of telling his father to go hang, he actually enables the man's behavior because apparently his late mother would enable his father's nonsense so he must too in the memory of his mother. Anna's family really crosses the line and goes too far in their protectiveness especially in one scene where all of them get together and verbally assault Gavin for kissing Anna, and it doesn't reflect well on Anna that she doesn't tell her family that there are some aspects of her life that should remain hers and hers alone.
Oh yes, one more thing: I find it odd that Anna is that distressed over the fact that she is attracted to Gavin. Since when does attraction instantly mean marriage and babies? Only in romance novels, I guess.
Bette Ford has taken a very familiar premise for her Harper debut but fails to provide any refreshing take of hers to keep things going after a few good first chapters. The result is far from Unforgettable.
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