Dance With Me
by Luanne Rice, contemporary (2005)
Bantam, $7.50, ISBN 0-553-58692-0

I don't even know why I bother with Luanne Rice's books anymore. She puts out what seems like a new book every two months and all of these books are nothing more than a collection of rehashed plot elements of her previous books. Even worse, she seems to be writing exclusively for some over-60s crowd who, when they are not reading Luanne Rice, are rereading the articles in Reader's Digest or Good Housekeeping while knitting away at the rocking chair some woolen socks to replace the ones they are wearing right now. Dance With Me is a story filled with insultingly sentimentalish elements that seem to come straight out of a 1940s Premarital Sex Can Lead To Pregnancy Out Of Wedlock - OOOOHHH cautionary pamphlet. Since it's set in the present, it's all-you-can-eat time at Ms Rice's Buffet of the Terminally Dumb.

Jane Porter, after running a trendy bakery called Calamity Jane in that evil city awashed with sin and liberal filth called New York City, returns to beautiful pastoral Twin Rivers of Rhode Island to help her sister Sylvie take care of her Alzheimer-stricken mother Margaret. Instead of actually helping Sylvie though, Jane spends more time bonding with that magical special child Chloe Chadwick. Chloe is actually the child taken away from Jane when she was pregnant back in college. Wait a minute, a college-educated young woman back in the 1980s still had her baby ripped out of her arms and this young woman was sent to a home for single-mothers afterwards? From one doddering octogenarian to another, let me assure Ms Rice that the present is a nice place to be so come along, Ms Rice, look out the window once in a while and marvel at the brave new world.

Because blood is thicker than water, Ms Rice puts down Chloe's adoptive parents as people who don't understand her. This is quite insulting because the message here seems to be that the adoptive parents' fifteen years of raising Chloe up to be a well-adjusted teenaged girl (as well-adjusted as a walking Reader's Digest melodrama can be, that is) is nothing compared to the instantaneous mother-daughter bond that magically springs up between Chloe and Jane. That's right, little girls, if your parents ground you, you are adopted. Little girlies, if you read this book and feel such a connection with Ms Rice, feel free to go email Ms Rice and ask her whether she's your biological mother. She'll understand, surely.

When Chloe decides to matchmake Jane with her uncle Dylan, an US Marshall still grieving and guilt-stricken over the deaths of his wife and daughter, because Chloe loves Jane and thinks that Dylan will too, imminent death by sugar shock is probably inevitable. Dylan is a typical wounded hero with the usual baggages and bluster, but at least he is not the airy-fairy la-la walking pink butterflies of love that are Chloe and Jane. Jane's sister Sylvie is also a decent character who is wasted because she is plain and therefore not cloying enough to be the heroine. If Chloe and Jane stinking up the story with their misguidedly vapid old-school antiquated notion of "cuteness" isn't bad enough, this story then presents a happy ending where Alzheimer's disease is nothing more than a contrivance for a happy-ending straight out of the Reader's Digest reject bin slush pile.

Maybe it's time for me wave goodbye to the beautiful, oversweet, utterly vapid world that Ms Rice's stories are increasingly set in. While I confess that I picked up a knitting manual at the bookstore the other day (out of curiosity, mind you), I think I'm at an advanced age where I am too cool for this kind of sugary-slushy insipid banality that Ms Rice insists on selling me.

Rating: 44

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