Waiting For You
by Janice Sims, contemporary (2005)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-626-1

Wow, all I can say is, I'm sure the heroine Erica Bryant must have missed her true calling. Instead of being the best vineyard manager in the world, she should have become a relationship counselor. If she does that, watch out, Oprah! Erica, in this story, is perfect. She really is. Now, I have nothing against perfection, seeing how I'd love to attain that state myself, but what Waiting For You is in dire need of is a conflict that lasts longer than a chapter. Anything, really, to keep me from not putting this book down while I'm reading it.

This book is the first of a trilogy revolving around siblings from a successful family that runs the premiere vineyard - named, of course, Bryant - that produces the best Savignon Blanc and Chardonnay in Glen Ellen, California. In this book, the sister Erica takes a trip to the Etienne Roumier Winery near Paris to learn and train well before she takes over the family vineyard operation of producing red wine (the Bryants are branching out). In Paris, she falls in love with the manager of Etienne Roumier Winery, Joshua Knight, without realizing until later on that the two of them actually go way back to the time when they were kids. She also gets involved in the lives of Etienne Roumier, his daughter Dominique, and his wife Berenice, with Erica's sage advice doing a lot to help the Roumiers become one big happy family again.

Erica is flawless and she never does a single misstep in this story. In fact, it is she who helps the likes of Dominique see the light and find the way. Because of this, conflicts in this book never last longer than a chapter at most. Dominique is not a happy woman because her father doesn't allow her to be involved in the daily running of the vineyard and she acts like a rebellious kid because that's the only way she knows to get back at her father. But one lengthy speech from Erica to Dominique allows Dominique to find the courage to talk to her father, and a few pages after this scene, Dominique and her father are on their way to an A-OK. Hurray for Erica! Someone adds salt into the wine and frames Dominique for it. Erica and Dominique team up for some Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves investigation. I like this... until a few pages later Erica and Dominique have figured out who that saboteur is. It's the same thing with internal conflicts. Whenever they crop up, they will be resolved quickly.

It gets to a point where because there are obvious points in the story where a conflict gets resolved and another crops up a few pages later, it is very easy for me to put this book down to attend to matters that distract me from my reading. It is hard to find any suspense in this story when the main characters, especially Miss Fix-It-All Erica, will be okay always. Therefore, it is hard to get that "I must finish this book quickly because I need to know what happen next!" feeling when I'm reading this book.

The lack of urgency in this story aside, I have a small quibble with how so many of Ms Sims' characters are too similar in the sense that they all share the same happy goody-goody thought bubble. I can't tell Joshua from Erica's brother Jason, for example. It will do well if Ms Sims allows her characters to have some distinctive personality trait to distinguish them as individual characters, especially when mistakes crop up such as on page 227 when Jason suddenly morphs in Joshua and I nearly don't catch that mistake because I can't tell those two men apart!

Ms Sims has a fine grasp on creating realistic internal conflicts that can arise in a relationship because many of them are pretty real. I especially enjoy how Ms Sims creates a credible reason as to why Erica won't initially move in with Jason, sorry, Joshua (heh) even if they have slept together. Let's just say that Erica's reasoning come off as reasonable, as if Joshua's reaction to her refusal. But as I've said, all of these conflicts are always resolved too quickly, literally in a matter of pages, with always Erica knowing the right thing to do to make things right.

As a result, while on the whole I have nothing but warm fuzzy feelings for the Bryants and their friends I have no doubt that nothing will faze them, nothing will truly mar their happy perfect lives. Ms Sims is really venturing too close to Rochelle Alers' method of writing in this instance, where her characters are so perfect that conflicts thrown in their path are like tumbleweeds blowing in the wind. There's nothing wrong with perfect characters if the story has some intriguing conflict that really challenges the characters enough to keep me intrigued. As it is, I find it too easy to put down Waiting For You. On the bright side, it's just as easy to pick it up again! The depictions of life in a vineyard and what goes on daily in a vineyard are also very nicely done without Ms Sims coming off like a lecturing schoolteacher. It is easy to "see" from Ms Sims' description just how working in a vineyard can be like. Of course, with the characters offering little in terms of engaging and intriguing conflicts, it is too easy to be distracted by the background of the story!

Rating: 70

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