Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1996-1
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Don’t be fooled by Rachel Gibson’s endorsement and the football player hero into believing that Looking for Lacey is a See Jane Score type of light-hearted romp. As one of the reigning Queens of Trauma Porn, Linda Francis Lee doesn’t flip over and turns into Mindy Chuckles overnight. It’s just not done – by doing so, it is probably going against the cosmic laws themselves. Having said that, I like this contemporary version of Linda Francis Lee. She still has a distressing tendency to handle her characters’ emotional baggage in a most tired and derivative style, but in this one, the characters grow and their emotional epiphany resonates me with me.
Bobby McIntyre seems like a typical sports jock: a football player thinking the world is against him because of his wounded knee and because of his past. Lacey Wright is a single mother determined to live right even if she has to lie about her experiences and despite her past. She ends up getting hired by Bobby’s sister to run Bobby’s sports bar. Talk about bad timing: the sister, Beth, has fired the man before Lacey and now Bobby is mad at losing that friend (who has also stolen a large sum of money from the business, but that doesn’t matter to Bobby because Gator is a friend and because his life is so sad, boo hoo hoo, etc) and he isn’t above taking out his anger at Lacey. Read that as making smarmy moves on her hoping that she will flee the job. But he has underestimated the abnormally high tolerance level of creeps in a desperate romance heroine. Also, these two actually begin to bond over their past (boo hoo hoo) – a rare occurrence in this author’s usually angst-filled drama-mama books – and they actually embark on a courtship that is simultaneously hesitant and rocky all at once.
Bobby and Lacey’s baggage is actually derivative types. The author, however, doesn’t overplay the angst this time around. Another great thing about this book is that while the characters tend to go on and on about their Boo Hoo Hoo, Lacey doesn’t exactly allow Bobby to take everything out on her, not all the time. These two characters’ courtship is nicely done and filled with tiny simple moments that count. The small moment of nervousness before you open the door to greet him – does your hair look okay? – to the small quiet moments of bonding to dancing to sweet music: these two people really start to heal when they’re together, and the author manages to sell me these little sweet moments of discovery and simple joy in a courtship perfectly. I am quite shocked to find the words on the page blurring – wasn’t Bobby about to confess that he can’t swim – damn, I’m crying. Why am I crying? I’m being manipulated, but because I’m a sucker for sweet stories that accurately evoke those beautiful scary moments when one is about to fall in love, let me just make a parachute out of Kleenex and jump right over the cliff. I love to read about how a courtship can drive two people to forget their blues if only for the moment and make sweet, sweet love. It’s like a nicely done country song, this book – manipulative but so difficult to resist.
Being a mistress of emotional manipulation when it comes to her writing, Linda Francis Lee divides readers, from my experience, into either loving her unconditionally or rejecting her outright: she is not an author for everyone. My own experiences with her books are rocky: I like some, I really hate it when this author overplays her hand at dishing out the melodrama, but sometimes, she manages to use her elegant wordsmith and powerful sense of description and scene building to create a story where even a simple scene of kissing between two wounded people seems like one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever read. And how nice for me that Looking for Lacey is one such time.