Tides Of Love
by Tracy Sumner, historical (2000)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6696-1

I have reread this book twice now and I still scratch my head over what the big fuss hero Noah Garrett perceives his problem as. I don't see why he should beat himself bloody in self-absorbed bitterness, and since his Emotional Torment is the focus of this story, I don't get the story at all. I find it hard to muster any sympathy for him or the things he put heroine Elle Beaumont through.

Let me try to straighten out Noah's Problems again. Let's see. Noah loves his brothers Caleb and Zach, whom the studious boy adores and idol-worships, while taking care of the French lil' girl next door, Elle, from bullies (the latter including his brothers). One day, a 14-year old Elle stumbles upon late Mama Garrett's diary which reveals - gasp - that Noah is actually the result of an affair. (Ladies, never write incriminating evidence in diaries, trust me, they will always get read one way or the other.)

When Caleb snatches the diary from Elle and proceeds to read it aloud in Noah's presence... oh boy.

Noah blows up.

Years later, Noah is back in town, this time the new marine biologist. Elle is eking a living as a companion to an elderly lady. They meet, and old attractions flare anew.

Now Noah, for some reason, blames Elle for his troubles. That's the impression I get even after two readings, and I am hard-pressed to see his logic here. He voluntarily took care of her when they were kids, right? So why begrudge her now? He seems to be fond of his brothers before, so why the acrimony now? What's the big deal about illegitimacy in the 1890s anyway, at least when your step-siblings are so willing to mend fences with you?

But Noah, he drags this torment of his on and on, and everyone around him isn't spared from the misery fallout. Elle, a decent heroine, ends up alternately confused, bewildered, and finally, exasperated. After all this jumping through hoops he put her, I better hope there is a good grovel at the end to make all this seemingly misguided attempt at outcooling Byron worth my while. And Elle's.

But even at the Grand Grovel, it's Elle putting Noah at the defensive. I still don't see what the big fuss that is his Torment is, and I still don't understand this man. And Elle succumbs into his arms so soon after the perfunctory grovel anyway.

I can't help feeling cheated on behalf of Elle. Noah is Roger from Rent or Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre (don't get me started about Jane Eyre) all over again - misguided men who can't see further than their own self-absorbed misery to know that they are putting their women through unnecessary pain and heartache.

Rating: 55

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