All I Want Is Forever
by Lynn Emery, contemporary (2002)
Harper, $6.50, ISBN 0-06-008928-8

If you don't like political issues in your romance novels (personally I don't mind some), tread carefully through All I Want Is Forever, where Lynn Emery lets her political soapbox run out of control. To give her credit, Ms Emery presents a credible case that balances nicely both right and left wing arguments regarding punishment versus rehabilitation. The heroine is a strong conservative, but the cast vary from left to right with various shades in between. Where this story goes wrong is the author's letting the social soapbox drown the romance, leaving both the main characters too underwritten to be memorable.

Talia Marchand grew up in poverty-stricken conditions she no longer wants to even remember. Today, a political consultant working with the most dynamic moderate conservatives in Washington, DC, she is her own woman now. Please don't ask her about her mother who is still in jail for possessing too much drug for her own good. Please don't ask about her teenage-years lover, Derrick Guillory. But when her old guardian suffers from a heart attack, Talia returns to her small town, and damn, all those memories start coming back. Even more annoying, she is assigned to work with Derrick's team in helping to draft a campaign advocating reforms as opposed to harsher jail terms. Talia personally believes in harsher jail terms while Derrick believes in reforms. Caught in the middle is Talia's mother who becomes the movement's mascot.

What I found amusing is that while the heroine can scream right-wing until the cows come home, the plot ultimately favors a resolution that is more like how lefties would love to get things done. I do enjoy reading about the various wranglings and headbuttings that go on in this story, but the romance between Talia and Derrick is never developed well enough because they are always too busy with their campaigns or arguing political ideologies. But ultimately, the heroine's stubborn inertia becomes irritating. In the end, she does the right thing, but for too long, she comes off like an unreasonably stubborn idiot who clings on to silly notions when they are no longer relevant.

I can't deny that I had a great time reading this book, but it's a better political soapbox/mystery novel than a romance novel. I don't mind politically charged romances - I even gave Donna Hill's A Scandalous Affair a keeper grade. But Ms Emery ultimately fails to make her characters as fiery as her social and political viewpoints. All I Want To Forever is a nice book, but I doubt readers looking for romance would be enjoying this one too much.

Rating: 77

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