Love Remembered
by Ellen Fisher, historical (2003)
New Concepts Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 1-58608-419-4

Back in 1998, Ellen Fisher came out with a book titled The Light In The Darkness. It's still on my keeper shelf. Fans of bad boy romances and Pygmalion/My Fair Lady stories should take a look at it if they come across it in used book stores. After that great book, the author then vanishes back to midlist limbo. Bummer.

Well, how nice that Ellen Fisher has finally gotten her career on track again thanks to independent small publishers. Love Remembered is a retelling of The Taming Of The Shrew - a more politically correct version that won't have a Mr Shaw foaming at the mouth - with some suspense thrown in. There are some big problems with this story, but I still had a decent time reading it nonetheless.

Gwaltney Harris was a self-made man in 1765 Virginia. The son of a not-so-nice wheelwright, he has become a decent man in his own right. However, respectability still eludes him as the gentry shuns people whose money come from trade and whose pedigree isn't all that illustrious. However, he needs to be respectable now for a reason. His only genteel friend, Jonathan Powell, suggests that Gwaltney court Cordelia Ashton, the rudest and most terrifying shrew in town. Cordy has a nice dowry, her father is a respectable planter, and no one else will marry her anyway - what does Gwaltney have to lose? Of course, Johnny isn't entirely altruistic: he's infatuated with Cordy's sister Elizabeth and Lizzie won't have anything to do with any man until Cordy's married first. Cordy, however, is determined never to marry. Gwaltney is a persistent man though.

Love Remembered's greatest failing is in its somewhat too-faithful adherence to the original The Taming Of The Shrew. Ms Fisher fails to provide a decent reason for Cordy to treat Gwaltney so abominably, and treat him abominably she does in more than one instance. It is a good thing that Gwaltney is truly a man with very little recourse left or he would have just ditched Spoiled Lil' Miss Thing here and go on his merry way. The author fails to make Lizzie and Johnny any more interesting than Shakespeare did with that original boring younger sister and that silly tutor fellow.

It is only once Cordy and Gwaltney are married and the reason for his need for respectability becomes clear that Love Remembered finally settle down to become its own story in its own right. Here, the story becomes an interesting read because it is a gender reversal of The Light In The Darkness: here, the heroine is the one that becomes the unreasonable jerk while the hero is the sympathetic one. Ms Fisher, however, allows Cordy to grow up and love her husband in a believable manner. Gwaltney and Cordy could have sling insults and sulk and indulge in long drawn-out misunderstandings, but the author wisely has these two talking instead. I have a great time following these two people come to love each other and I can't help wishing that the author has cut down on the pre-marriage shrew antic first half to concentrate on the second half of the book.

The minor suspense plot is on the silly side though. I could do without me snorting in disbelief when the overblown family secrets come into the open.

The romance in Love Remembered lacks the emotional intensity and poignancy present in the author's debut. Is it fair to compare this book with Ms Fisher's debut? Perhaps not, but I can't help feeling disappointed nonetheless. Not that I don't enjoy reading this book - I do - but it's like waiting five years to revisit that yummy gourmet deli only to learn that they have built a Burger King in its place. Compared to The Light In The Darkness, Love Remembered lacks the really powerful emotional punch the author has proven capable of delivering. Let's hope Ms Fisher will kick up a notch in the drama and the emotional intensity for her next book.

Rating: 80

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