by Deborah Fletcher Mello, contemporary (2005)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-564-8
Deborah Fletcher Mello's Forever And A Day features a very likable duo that manage to come off like nice and down-to-earth people with sensible heads on their shoulders despite the fact that they will never grow old and they don't get saddled with issues like money problems, career troubles, cellulite. However, it is the plot that sinks this book along with some issues with pacing. I have no problems at all with Ms Mello's hand at characterization but her attempt at weaving some romantic suspense elements into her story isn't too successful however.
Monica James is a popular talk-show host at the Raleigh-Durham radio station WLUV-FM and she is currently the number two hottest radio personality behind her ex, King-John Vega. Life is good, especially when the numbers show that she is fast coming close to overtaking her ex in being the number one talk-show host. Even better is the fact that her neighbor, Professor Preston Walker, is one hot fellow and he isn't above asking her out for a date (and more). What more can a lady ask for, right?
Well, perhaps a clampdown on the number of crazy women running around the place, because a crazy student of Preston who mistakenly believes that he has the hots for her are not happy that Monica is poaching on her territory and this person may be the one doing unpleasant things like defacing Preston's car. To be fair to Ms Mello, she tries to depict this woman, Donata, as a woman who is to be pitied rather than a cackling evil ho because Donata clearly has some issues about her past that causes her to be think and behave the way she does. However, the subplot involving Donata ends up coming off like a distraction rather than a seamless part of the story: Donata pretty much disappears for long stretch of time until the author feels that it's time she makes a reappearance, and every time Donata shows up, she interrupts the flow of the relationship between Monica and Preston. There are also a small problem with quite a number of scenes in this story involving Monica or Preston with some secondary characters that don't help move the plot or enhance their characters in any way. These scenes feel like clutter and could have been removed without disrupting the story in any way.
Having said that, I really like the main characters and I wish that they have a better plot than the one they are currently saddled with. If you are a fan of those oh-so-uncommon romances where the roles of the hero and the heroine when it comes to sex (in terms of experience, notches on the bedpost, that kind of thing) are reversed, this book may just be what you are looking for. Despite her having more experience in sex than Preston, Monica isn't some damaged whackjob ex-ho that needs the love of a man to complete her or something - she's just a normal woman who has been in relationships that don't work since her college days, and of course some of these relationships were wonderful and she had fond memories of some of her exes. Preston also has a good reason to be the way he is, although that's not to say he isn't tempted to be like his playboy best buddy sometimes - it's a matter of principles for him. In short, this is one normal and sane couple. Their relationship is mature and most sensible - they talk, they listen to each other, and their chemistry is spontaneous and convincing. The only downside is that Ms Mello doesn't give those two much internal conflicts so those two pretty much hit it off with very few bumps in the road (with the notable exception of Donata). Some readers may find this relationship too uneventful, I suspect, although I like the relationship the way it is just fine.
The denouement of the story is predictable - let's just say that the role of a character close to Monica is obvious the moment this character is introduced and that is to give the story a dramatic climax before we reach the happy ending - but Ms Mello handles the aftermath very nicely, with poor Donata getting some much-needed help rather than falling off some building to kiss the floor and everyone else making up and reaffirming their love for each other in a subdued and even poignant manner when the author could have easily resorted to high-handed sentimental melodrama.
Therefore, it's not that I feel that Ms Mello cannot tackle romantic suspense elements in her story as much as she doesn't quite manage to balance the pacing so that both the romantic elements and the romantic suspense elements in her story can coexist nicely without one overpowering the other too much. Maybe next time she'll get it right. I enjoy reading Forever And A Day but its flaws in pacing are a little too obvious to be overlooked.
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