When Venus Fell
by Deborah Smith, contemporary (1999)
Bantam, $6.99, ISBN 0-553-56279-7
Venus Arinelli hates the government. Her father is a disillusioned half-Japanese American whose incarceration during the post-WW2 madness has him joing left-wing groups. When her father is implicated in a terrorism attack and died in prison, Vee and her sister Ella find themselves harassed left and right by leering, even cruel government agents from then until today. Today, the Arinelli sisters make a living singing in lounges and hotels, moving from town to town when the government folks finally catch up with them, ask questions about them, and ultimately get them fired.
One day Gib Cameron catches up with them. He's a former Secret Agent, which makes him Instant Scumbag in Vee's book. However, he is also a Cameron, whose bond with the Arinelli started the day Ari's parents became the Camerons' first customers in the latter's home-turned-inn. Gib tells Vee that her father has left the sisters a considerable some of money - $100,000 - from a trust fund, and it is in the Cameron's hands. Would Vee and Ella be kind as to drop by the Cameron's place?
Vee reluctantly does just that, with Ella at her side. She plans to get the money and scram. Too bad the matters are taken out of her hands the moment they arrive. Ella elopes with the family young playboy. Vee starts to fall in love with the Camerons and their friends, especially Gib. Soon, her cynicism and bitterness wear off, and she finds herself pitching her help to her newfound family to restore Cameron Inn to its former glory.
This is a heartwarming story of family and the importance of togetherness, written in wonderfully carefree humor and grace. There are many things to like about this book, but best of all is the relationship between Gib and Vee. Oh Gib. How can I not love a man who would get his navel pierced just like Vee's so that he will always be reminded of her? A man who has been sending her cards and letters since he was a boy? I'm touched. Gib is a sensitive man who is also reliable, loving, kind, sensitive... my hero. And Vee is his perfect match as a woman who gradually learns to love and believe again. It's a perfect fairy tale.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there is one really horrifying scene at the start of this book, one really graphic and violent one that really haunts me. But I must say the warmth and loving feeling that permeates this book more than make up for it. In fact, when a book manages to convey the message that family and love are sometimes all we need in this world, and does it most effectively too to the extent that I cried when I closed the book... well, I'm moved. Utterly.
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