Signet, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-20478-6
Historical Romance, 2001
If Jane Goodger doesn’t rely so often on tired and contrived resolutions for her characters’ emotional conflicts, she would give Susan Wiggs a run for her money. Gifts from the Sea with its seaside setting is an evocative read, but it can go back and forth from great to just okay.
Rachel Best, doing her Madama Butterfly impersonation, walks the beach of Truro, Cape Cod, every evening, waiting for her husband Richard to come home. Richard was lost at sea, and everyone says that he is gone, she should move on in life, but she can’t.
Then one evening, the sea brings up an unconscious man. Rachel gasps – could it be? No, the man is Jared Mitchell, ex-captain of a whaling schooner who stupidly gets himself in this mess he is in. What follows is the usual bedside healing-and-loving with Rachel’s daughter Belle providing the usual “Me, cute! Aww!” moments.
At first I don’t like Jared at all. This man makes high-pitched, grating whining an art of profuse nosebleed. But he soon cleans up nicely, and when he starts to get over his baggage, he makes a nice hero. Rachel, the maternal, loving, and caring heroine can be too perfect at times, but she’s just what Jared needs, yes? Besides, she’s a woman with a generous capacity to love, how sweet. Belle, too, doesn’t make me scream in horror – she is actually sweet and cute without overdosing me with the cuteness eek factor.
And best of all, Rachel loves Richard as much as Jared.
Until the author drops the bombshell. I mean, women cannot love more than one man, so let’s drag Richard through the dung so that Jared will be the one and only! Yeah! Bye Richard, languish in the pits of oblivion you, because you dare to be the one fighting for Rachel’s heart with Jared. Bah.
For a moment, I actually thought Gifts from the Sea would be a mature, beautiful look at romance and healing second time around. Both Rachel and Jared have loved and lost, after all. But no, the author remembers just in time all the stupid rules about romance novel writing and proceeds to sabotage her work. Sure, this book is good. But it can be so much more, but hey, I guess it wants to settle for just being “good”. Whatever rocks your boat, huh? What a waste.