From This Day Forward
by Bettye Griffin, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-275-4

The last two books by Bettye Griffin are romantic comedies, thus I am pleasantly surprised when I realize that From This Day Forward is actually a pretty solemn tale about family and love. Like most of this author's books, her lively and bouncy prose keep things going even at the saggiest of book middles, but From This Day Forward is an effective drama, albeit a manipulative rescue fantasy drama.

It helps a lot that the heroine Cornelia "Hatch" Hatchet's deprivation is because of her circumstances and not because of her intellectual inferiority. She is stuck in Farmingdale, Illinois, a shanty town where people are living below the national poverty line, eking out a living doing the night shift at Super K-Mart. Her father is crippled by a physical handicap and her mother is gone, so Hatch had to give up her dreams to take care of the family.

Then into Farmingdale comes city rich boy and journalist Skye Audsley. Yes, you read that right: he's Skye and she's Hatch. Confusing, huh? Skye reluctantly leaves his 80-something grandmother to cover the sorry living conditions in Farmingdale, and he and Hatch's paths cross. Later, after her father's death, he will offer Hatch a job as his mother's nurse, and she will accept. Only then will their attraction take seed, but there is some way to go before these two can make babies and live happily ever after.

Yes, this is a rescue fantasy, no question about it, and if anything, this book proves that a woman needing to shed her low-inferiority complex and find the courage to relive and seize her dreams et cetera can only do so when she has lots of money at her disposal. (How will you get your self-esteem back if you have no money to buy that $1000 Donna Karan dress?)

Still, the whole theme of family values is well handled by the author. It's nothing groundbreaking, this family theme, but I really like how Hatch finally comes into being her own person with the support of her sisters and her new employer. It's not smooth sailing, but even if things seem contrived at first, I'm willing to forgive everything, because Hatch is really a likable, smart gal. Skye's reticence is a bit more exasperating, but since he's just Hatch's trophy in her soul searching adventure, I guess he doesn't need that much personality.

This book packs a more emotional wallop than the author's previous romantic comedy romps, so it may surprise readers familiar with her brand of light-hearted humor. It sure did me. In fact, as this book is more coherent and realized and substantial than anything Ms Griffin had ever written, I wish the author will explore the hitherto hidden side of her writing. From This Day Forward can be shamelessly sappy and transparently schmaltzy at places, but in the end I feel so nice and warm that I don't really mind much being manipulated this way.

Rating: 87

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