by Farrah Rochon, contemporary (2012)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86274-0
Small town romances can be the sweetest thing or the most painful tragedies ever, depending on how the author approaches it. After all, we need a reason for the city heroine to stay, and often, authors resort to forcing the heroine using all kinds of contrived reasons while, inexplicably, having the rest of the folks in town shame the heroine for having dared to venture outside the borders of the small town even as these people celebrate the hero for making it big in the city. In other words, small town romances can easily be throwbacks to the more annoying anti-feminist notions, and such stories should be approached with caution.
Farrah Rochon is normally an author whose plotting tend to be riddled with gaps in logic, but, to my pleasant surprise, A Forever Kind Of Love is a pretty decent small town romance. It is only in the last few chapters that the author loses control of her story and resorts to some unimaginative use of clichés that end up sabotaging her story. I'd be discussing this matter, so this means there would be major spoilers present in this review. You know what to do.
Mya Dubois and Corey Anderson were the classic good girl/bad boy pairing fifteen years ago, until she found him happily enjoying the cavorting of a half-naked hussy. In a pretty unusual twist to the usual "it's all a misunderstanding" scenario, this time around, the hero really did cheat on the heroine back then. They were teenage brats back then, so perhaps this can be chalked up to youthful stupidity on his part.
At any rate, she decided to leave Gauthier ASAP. Shortly after, she found out that she was pregnant, but she soon miscarried. Mya never told Corey, and given that he was cheating on her and planning to head out of town on his own, I don't blame her.
That was then. Today, Mya returns to the Louisiana small town after the death of her grandfather. Her grandmother collapses shortly after the funeral, and Mya can't help getting involved in some local small town drama subsequently, so Mya isn't going back to New York City anytime soon. She also learns that Corey has come home to stay, and even became close to her family in the recent months. Can they have a successful second chance this time around?
One thing that really stands out to me here is how well Mya stands out as a well-drawn character in her own right. Sure, she can be abrasive, but I can understand that. She didn't have many happy memories in Gauthier, and the few happy memories she had with Corey are tainted by the events leading up to the break-up. Mya's reasons for leaving and coming back feel real rather than contrived. I can certainly relate to the poor dear.
What is interesting here is that Mya may have issues, but she also comes off like a normal person. She isn't a case of walking baggage. Her career in the city isn't portrayed as a negative - she is not desperately unhappy living there. The people here don't treat her like dirt. In fact, there is a powerful scene where the heroine meets an old friend, who ended up working behind a pharmacy counter because she became pregnant young and ended up unable to make use of the scholarships she was offered. When Mya claims that she needed to leave Gauthier, or else she'd end up making compromises that she would regret for the rest of her life, she's not lying.
I like that the author can create scenes like this to make the heroine's issues resonate with me, and I especially appreciate how the author doesn't just pile on the heroine like many authors of small town romances tend to do. This isn't a "blame the ho for leaving the small town - how dare she spurns her duty to be a wife and mother to the hero!" story, that's for sure.
I'm not keen on the hero, however. He knows he was in the wrong back in those days, but instead of being remorseful or super romantic in order to win the heroine back - that would be too easy, I guess - he just prods and pokes and pushes at her hot buttons. I guess annoying one's way into the heroine's panties is the way to go if you are a romance hero? I don't see any hint of convincing maturity that would make me think of him as a suitable husband material.
And this is where I come to the real problem of this story - the part where the author loses the plot. Remember the miscarriage? Well, the heroine is conflicted about telling him, and I can understand her fear. By this point, the author has two choices: have the hero behave like a mature fellow and mourn with the heroine of what could have been, or be a colossal asshole and accuse the heroine of being all kinds of whore, putting her city career over her dead baby and other bizarre nonsense.
Perhaps the author believe that the hero behaving this way would create some fireworks for the obligatory conflict moment before the happy ending. Even if this is the case, the hero's behavior isn't just ridiculous, it's also predictable and clichéd. Despite my reservations about Corey up to that point, I thought this book was shaping up to be a pretty good read and it certainly deserved something better than this lame and overused late stage conflict. The author introduces this conflict shortly before the happy ending, so the hero doesn't even need a good grovel to back into the heroine's panties.
Worse, the author has the heroine's family bludgeoning her with the fact that she "belongs" to the small town, so the heroine ends up staying, her realistic reservations about everything else all swept under the rug for this convenient happy ending. I don't know why the author took the pains to create a heroine with realistic insecurities if she's just going to have Mya run like Mary Poppins on crack for the happy ending, shrieking that she is finally home or something like that.
At any rate, A Forever Kind Of Love is a pretty unexpected kind of good read, one I never suspected that the author is capable of delivering, until somehow the last dozen or so pages got switched with those from a more cliché-addled "small town is best if you are the heroine - BEST, YOU HEAR ME, BECAUSE EVERYTHING ELSE WILL NOT DO - SMALL TOWN OR DEATH!" story.
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