Liquid Silver Books, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-62210-231-0
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Once Given Never Forgotten has a rather poetic premise – strangers who meet and connect viscerally, without really knowing one another’s name, but Derryn De Ceuster’s execution of the story ends up being rather awkward. Maybe it’s because she’s Australian and I have to admit that Australian humor doesn’t always translate well for me, but I just can’t get into this story, as much as I’d like to.
Our Australian heroine Evie Moore is in a pub in Lancester, England, when a stranger asks her to marry him. Thus begins a story in which two strangers continuously jostle, tease, and prod at one another until, maybe, perhaps it’s love after all. Evie, however, has some psychological barriers to tear down before she can allow herself to love again, while the hero – Darcy, as she calls him in her mind – has his own ulterior motives as well.
As I’ve said, I love this premise – two strangers just doing their thing, never really wanting to take things seriously. and no, I’m not talking about quickie romps in motel rooms. The interactions here are conversational, visceral. Let’s just say that this story can quite talky, but I think I’m a bit in love with the premise. You have no idea how hard I try to make myself love this story, but in the end, I give up. I just can’t.
You see, the author has a style of writing that can be best described as that odd kid in class that no one really picks on or dislike – it’s just that the other kids stay away because they don’t understand that kid at all. I feel like those other kids here. These characters can break into bizarre tangents that feel like self-indulgent navel-gazing on the author’s part, and a lot of time, the humor falls flat because there are often turns of phrases or wording styles that feel very stilted and unnatural in a “Real life people really don’t talk like that, do they?” manner. The hero comes off like a pompous ass who makes jokes that nobody would get and smirks because the heroine is confused and hence… I don’t know, he wins a prize each time he stumps her, perhaps. At any rate, following those two is like watching two film school kids trying to outdo one another in pretentious twattery – the only correct response to them is to belch loudly to their faces.
I haven’t been speechless many times in my life, but it took me a couple of moments before I spoke again. “You’re some type of shrink, aren’t you?”
“Then I must be on candid camera.” I looked over my shoulder for confirmation of a camera crew lurking in the darkness.
“No,” he repeated, chuckling through the word.
“Would you tell me if I guessed right?”
He looked to the side thoughtfully as if considering the notion. “Hmmm… that would be… no,” he said flatly, although his eyes twinkled with amusement.
I searched his face for signs of mockery. “So, I could tell you anything? I could tell all sorts of lies.”
“The objective, Mozzie,” he slowed my new nickname as though testing its sound on his lips, “is to be completely honest and truthful. Just no names or places.”
“But I don’t know who you are. You could be a mad-raving-lunatic-rapist-stalker for all I know.”
“I’m not. Honest.” He seemed surprised I would even say such a thing, that his simple statement of being “honest” hadn’t been taken at face value.
“Yeah, and that’s probably what Jack the Ripper said as well,” I murmured dryly, raising my wineglass, stopping just before taking a sip. “I just don’t understand what the big deal is about my name and what I do for a living.”
“Okay, I’ll give you an example. You could be a…” he swirled the air with his hand, “tax inspector, and, quite frankly, I’m not too fond of tax inspectors, so I probably wouldn’t want to get to know you better.”
“That’s very shallow of you,” I said, pulling my eyebrows together in disapproval. “So, what happens when you do find out what I do and you don’t like it? Do you just stop talking to me?”
“No, because by then I would know the real person inside your head and your heart, and it wouldn’t matter what you do.”
See what I mean? He keeps stringing people along like he’s secretly laughing at them, and I can’t stand him at all. If I have to spend half an hour in that guy’s company, I’d probably end up shoving an umbrella down his throat and then opening it.
Once Given Never Forgotten has a rarely used premise that could have been magical – shame that everyone in here turns out to be such twats. Especially that hero, my god, someone please spike his drinks with extra-strong laxatives for me and lock up all the available toilets nearby.