Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-046-0
Contemporary Romance, 2006
Long Strange Trip is story set in San Francisco and spans from 1967 to the “present day” in 1987. It tells of the relationship between the more uptight sort Kenneth Hailey and the flower-child Rose “Rose Red” McCarthy.
In 1967, Kenneth decides that a change of scenery is exactly what he needs after he lost his fiancée to his best friend. He moves from New York to the Bay Coast area. A bespectacled mathematician who enjoys classical music, he finds the whole Summer of Love flower-power scene something alien to behold. It is when he makes a pilgrimage to the Golden Gate Park, sits down under a tree to catch his breath, and finds an attractive joint-smoking woman next to him that his entire life begins to change.
Kenneth starts out an unlikable prude but he is soon having fun sleeping with and getting high with Rose. However, old habits die hard and when Rose’s lifestyle pushes him to breaking point, he realizes that perhaps he has to break up with her and get his old life back. What he doesn’t count on is how he will miss Rose so much when she’s gone.
This one is a romance story although it doesn’t follow the typical format of a romance novel. The fact that it spans some 20 years should tell you something, heh. These two sleep with other people when their relationship is in its “off” period. The road to a happily ever after here is filled with separations and reconciliations.
My problem with this story is that Kenneth is such an unlikable boor that I have no idea what Rose sees in him. No, really, this man is such a judgmental ass that whenever Rose surprises him by being more intelligent than he gives her credit for, whenever Rose throws him off-kilter, he reacts by brutally insulting her. I don’t think Kenneth respects her enough to make this romance believable. I love the fact that Rose is genuinely a flower-child even as she has the brainpower to get a Masters degree, but I also feel that she is too good for Kenneth. Her attraction to Kenneth seems to be more Freudian than chemical – he reminds her of her own proper and respectable father whom she doesn’t get completely along with.
Because I find Kenneth a complete asshole at times who can’t be trusted to do right with a woman – he ends up hurting the two women he ended up sleeping with in this story – I find it hard to care for the romance, unless you count the many times when I wish Rose will just ditch this man hard as a form of caring. However, Ms Gaia’s writing style strikes a chord in me. There are many scenes in Long Strange Trip that are very nicely written indeed. I often find myself rereading a scene a few times just to savor it. It’s really too bad, therefore, that this is one story where the heroine is too interesting and vibrant to the point that she is just too good for the judgmental whiny-ass hero.
Long Strange Trip lives up to its title at the end of the day. I find this beautifully written story a very compelling one even if a part of me doesn’t care too much about the romance. I like it, I wish I like it more, but I think I will reread this one soon just to enjoy Ms Gaia’s prose.