Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-52877-3
Contemporary Romance, 2012
We’re back in Eternity Springs, a lovely little small town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where there are no shortages of romantic drama. This time around, we have a reunion story. Twenty years ago, Cameron Murphy, the town bad boy, and Sarah Reese, the local dutiful daughter had an affair that culminated in… well, I’m sure you can guess what happened. Before these two can do anything about the bun in the oven, Cam got into trouble and was dragged off to juvenile hall. Cue the violins as these two will never meet again until the story opens, today, when Sarah and her daughter Lori visit Australia and bump into Cam, who is now a tour captain with – eek – a son who is just a bit younger than Lori.
Oh my goodness, that asshole didn’t wait long to knock up another girl, did he? That is the thought that crosses the minds of both mother and daughter as they decide to just walk away from Cam. But the next thing Sarah knows, Cam shows up in Eternity Springs with his son – which turns out to be adopted – hoping for a fresh start with Sarah and Lori.
Lover’s Leap, at its very heart, is a nice take on the whole reunion romance trope because it tries to be different in some ways. For example, it is Cam who spends the last twenty years pining for Sarah. Sarah thinks of him too, but she also tries to go out with other guys – a nice change from the usual heroines who spend decades in stasis, apparently doing nothing but obsessing over Cam. In fact, Sarah is refreshingly level-headed about the past, so much so that she actually believes – reasonably – that she and Cam wouldn’t have lasted if they had a go at being a wedded couple twenty years ago. They had no money, no parental support, and they were too young with him too emotionally damaged as well.
I also like how while she has some regrets about the past. It’s really nice to see a heroine who, for once, understands that they were just too young back then to have a decent go at happily ever after. Of course, this doesn’t mean that she can’t let go of the past and try again with Cam. And this is what I really like: Sarah wants Cam back because she loves him, not because for the sake of the kids or anything like that. The heroine is getting into this romance with her eyes wide open and with the right attitude. That bodes well for the happily ever after.
And no, don’t worry, Cam is not one of those arrogant alpha male types. He has plenty of issues about his father being a mean drunk and the people of Eternity Springs treating him like dirt back in those days, but he genuinely wants to have a go at being a family with Sarah and Lori. He is the first person to admit that he was a screw-up back then and if he could change things about the past, he would have done so in a heartbeat. But because he can’t change the past, all he wants is a second chance.
Therefore, this story could have been a mature and enjoyable take of a familiar romance story line. Unfortunately, things aren’t meant to be. The first reason is this: everyone here talks like a shrink. For a guy with a past like his, Cam is always talking about his emotions, his feelings, and what not, so much so that he may as well be sharing his problem with the audience in Oprah’s studio. Sarah may not be a shrink, but she could have easily been one, as she is so wise on the ways of how your upbringing can shape your character and what not. The author on one hand allows Cam and Sarah to hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, which is good, but on the other hand, the author doesn’t seem to trust me to take a liking to her characters on my own, so she beats me in the head repeatedly about how Cam and Cam’s adopted son are both victims of their childhood. This only adds to the whole “The shrink is in the house – who wants to be the first to talk about her feelings?” vibe of this book.
Another reason is how Lover’s Leap is also a very saccharine mess as every conceivable Hallmark family drama cliché is thrown at my face. The author just has to put in those annoying teenagers. Devin, the adopted brat, has two purposes in this story: get into trouble for the most stupid reasons, just to bring on the tears, and to tell everyone that his father is a great man who just happens to be a victim of his childhood. (See what I mean about everyone being a shrink in this story?) The daughter, Lori, transforms into a complete bitch in the late third or so of the book, but instead of a well-deserved smack in the face, she is “understood” and forgiven with a hug because, yes, she too is a victim of an unhappy fatherless childhood. Seriously, everyone here seems to be living out Michael Jackson’s Childhood song. Oh, and Sarah’s mother has Alzheimer’s disease, because Alzheimer’s disease is the perfect accessory to make the story feel even more heartwarming. I suppose cancer is deemed too sad, but maybe the author is just saving it for a sequel.
Naturally, the characters from previous books rally together for our couple and their emo kids, practically waving lighters in the air because love is the most beautiful thing ever. Meanwhile those people who were once mean to Cam end up asking Cam for his forgiveness.
All this mawkish sentimentality is terrifying. At the end of the day, I can only wonder whether Eternity Springs is the place where suicidal diabetic patients go to die.