Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-73320-X
Contemporary Fiction, 2000 (Reissue)
I’ve nothing against reading a story about (almost) adultery, but I do have a thing against reading stories laced with triple saccharine boosts and melodramatic emotional fluff to make up for the complete absence of convincing, much less well developed, characters. And The Gazebo, a mainstream romantic story praised as romantic by the usual smart critics of respected literary journals (good grief), is just that. Slap in adultery and everyone’s a literary avant garde duchess now. Hmph!
Abby is an editor working hard to support her child. One day, old coot Martin Rayfiel comes up and tries to sell her his story of a star-crossed romance between he and sweetheart Claire Swift. Abby is too caught up in herself to pay attention until he leaves. “Wait,” she calls, but it’s too late.
Seems that Marty and Claire are childhood sweethearts, madly in love because… er, because… uhm… because the author says so, that’s why. Their sickeningly sweet and perfect love and joining of souls, mind, heart, and body are interrupted when their families step in and break them off, dramatic Romeo and Juliet style. Heck, but that doesn’t stop the power of love, not even the ties of matrimony, no way. They may be married to different people, but every year, on May 27, they will meet the place they first met each other, for a poignant reunification.
The plot sounds really heartbreaking, which is what prompted me to plop $6.99 for The Gazebo. Unfortunately, the writing leaves much to be desired. The prose is amateurish, with lots of silly sweet sentiments that come off totally cloying and calculated.
And at the crux of the whole story is the fact that Martin and Claire never actually try to fight for their love. Meeting once a year sounds pathetic an action in the face of the repeated insistence that their love is the love of a lifetime. I mean, even Romeo and Juliet try to fight for their love, didn’t they? And since I’m never convinced of the why’s of their love – why are they in love? – I am never involved in their story.
I really wish these sort of authors would stop thinking that bon-bonny romance and female readers would go breathless in excitement at the thought of two beautiful people falling in love because the author says so. Okay, scratch that. This book is a bestseller so maybe it’s only me. Me, I want to see lovers fall in love because they talk, they click, and they genuinely like each other. Not because she has beautiful eyes or as pure as innocent as snow, despite her shady family, and not because he has shoulders broader than the Grand Canyon or his great tight butt.
And Abby – what she is doing in this story, I will never know. Do you know that she is inspired and starts seeing life in a new light because of the couple’s story? Talk about needing to get out more often.
The Gazebo goes overboard in sugar at the expense of character development or even good plot development. I can predict that supposedly-surprising ending miles away, and I can also sniff the cloying scent of calculated sentimentalism reeking from every darned page.