For My Daughter

 
There is a Season by Margot Early
(Harl. Super. #878, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-70878-5
**
I picked up There is a Season with a great deal of anticipation. The back cover blurb indicates that the hero and heroine are in their fifties, long-divorced, brought back together under tense circumstances. The ages of the leads alone would normally make this book a must-read for anyone looking for something out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, a confusing plot structure that is heavily dependent on flashbacks, plus a writing style that skirts the edges of literary pretentiousness, make this a far-from-satisfying read, one I had to force myself to finish.

It's been twenty years since midwife Francesca Walcott shook the snow of Talkeetna, Alaska, off her boots and headed to the lower forty-eight. She left behind an ex-husband, Charlie, a bush pilot specializing in taking climbers up and down from Mt. McKinley. Francesca's whirlwind marriage to Charlie caused a rift in her family; her family had strongly objected to the marriage, and they haven't spoken since. But one of Francesca's protégés, a respected midwife in her own right, has disappeared and is likely dead. Francesca has been left with the estate: a house, a mine, and a large pack of sled dogs.

Charlie is there to greet Francesca at the airport, holding a puppy. Right away the flashbacks start. Francesca meeting Charlie. Francesca running off to Hawaii with Charlie. But the flashbacks aren't just Francesca's. This book has many points of view interspersed through it, with the result that I often had to re-read a passage three times just to figure out whose head I was in.

Francesca is still attracted to Charlie, but old wounds run deep. Charlie is consumed with guilt over his behavior before their breakup. And Talkeetna needs a midwife. Plus, what really happed to Mia, the protégé?

It's hard, very hard, to find any sympathy for a character who has let a family argument fester for thirty years, especially since the root of the problem happened when she was little more than a teenager. Francesca spends most of the book in a pit of denial. She doesn't love Charlie. She never should have come back here. Charlie doesn't love her. Well, I didn't much care about her, either.

Charlie is an overgrown adolescent when it comes to straightforward dealings with his ex-wife. A simple heart-to-heart conversation? It takes far longer than it should, and readers aren't given much reason for Charlie to be continually flippant. He doesn't seem to be pining for Francesca as much as wallowing in guilt over the way he treated her in the past.

In short, while I wanted this couple to find their way back together, when they did, I had no faith that it was worth it or was destined to last. The fact that there are umpteen references to characters from the first two books of this series didn't help. I hadn't a clue who those folks were. And yes, I know that trilogies or whatever are best read in sequence, but that's not always possible, so if previous characters and events are to be referenced, they should be unobtrusive, at least. Here, they yanked me right out of the story as I tried to figure out who they were.

Parts of this book are dark. Charlie's experiences in Vietnam are woven into his flashbacks. Francesca relives the lousiest parts of their marriage. These did help to explain Charlie's guilt and Francesca's bitterness, but it didn't make them fun to be around. When all was said and done, they were still guilty and bitter.

All in all, I can't recommend There is a Season, though I appreciate the author's efforts to present a hero and heroine outside the normal age range for category romance. Too bad the cover artist didn't have the courage of the author's convictions. Francesca looks about twenty-one, Charlie mid-thirties, and the requisite cute baby further cheapens the potential impact. Maybe it will be more to your liking than mine.

--Cathy Sova


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