Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-60589-1
Historical Romantic Suspense, 1999
This book is set in the Depression Era, the 1930s. Now that’s a setting you don’t find in historical romance everyday. This book is okay, however, but I won’t actually be tearing down the street to look for previous related books.
Kathleen Dolan travels to Rawlings, Oklahoma, with high hopes. She has invested in the Gazette publishing company over there and is looking forward to life as a co-owner of a newspaper. However, things get off on a bad start when she is attacked by hijackers just outside Rawlings. She is rescued by cutie-pie Johnny Henry. Then she finds her new partner, Adelaide, unconscious in the office. Soon Kathy finds that all is not well in Rawlings. The town is ruled by an iron fist by the mayor, who is also town doctor and commissioner, who does nefarious acts from his clinic. When the Gazette goes on a crusade to expose Doc Herman, Kathy soon find her life and those around her, including Johnny whom she’s beginning to get the hotties for, in Dire Distress.
Johnny, who is barely educated and is the son of a woman of ill repute, is intimidated by Kathy, and how they achieve some middle ground in their relationship makes for some pretty emotional read. There are lots of pushing and pulling on Johnny’s part that can be frustrating, but overall, Kathy and Johnny are a sweet couple. But they have a lot of issues, mostly dealing with Johnny’s low self-esteem and thick-headed pride. When this book ends, the author lets me know that these two are going to be happy for – oh, a few years, before this self-inferiority of Johnny and his passivity when it comes to voicing out his emotions would cause a separation between them. When their baby arrives stillborn, it’s the final nail in the coffin. Johnny leaves to go bang-bang-bang in World War 2 and files for divorce. But do not fear. All will be well, the author promises. Just buy the next book when it comes out next year.
It all depends, I guess, on one’s taste for sequels. Me, I’m feeling rather disgruntled. I can’t help wishing I’d read this book when the next book comes out, back to back. Then I wouldn’t feel this feeling of annoyance at the whole scheme of things. Sure, marriage isn’t perfect, and there will be bumps all over the road, but I expect some neat endings to my romances. I hate to be left hanging and knowing that they won’t have a happy-ever-after, at least not yet. And now I must say till spring 2000? Hmph!
Oh, and one funny thing: I never actually understood the concept of product placement, at least not in books, until now. It is one thing to create atmosphere using familiar names synonymous with an era. But my, my, this book drops names as if it is sponsored by brand names real or imaginary. There’re gratuitous usage of brand names and other thingies like Coke, the Rawlings rodeo fair, and lots of song titles of popular singers of that era. I say gratuitous because these names are casually brought up in passing observations of the characters – she picks up her Coca Cola drink – and serve no purpose other than to tell me, “See? I’m drinking Coke. Coke’s da man!” All that’s missing is Johnny and Kathy looking up admiringly at a giant Goodyear blimp before going back to scum-kicking in good old Rawlings.
With Heart is a rather cozy, comfortable read, although I’m not pleased at being left dangling till 2000. I am not actually inspired to dash to the bookstore and raze all the author’s backlist off the shelf, but hey, I actually like Kathy and Johnny. Let’s just wait and see how the next phase of their story will turn out to be.