The Courtship

A Kiss to Dream On

The Marriage Bed

Sweeter Than Wine

 
Head Over Heels
by Stephanie Mittman
(Dell, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-22555-8
****
Head Over Heels is an enjoyable entry in the long contemporary field. Nan Springfield, wife to minister Phil and mother to a mixed brood of children, knows that her marriage is in trouble. Her husband has been sleeping on the couch for ten months. He doesn’t want marriage counseling, doesn’t want much to do with Nan, and refuses to talk about it. On the night when Nan confronts him and says she wants a divorce, their conversation is interrupted by a phone call telling them to turn on the radio. Harris Tweed, a talk-show host, wants to know why thirty-five thousand dollars in scholarship money from the church has disappeared. Tweed thinks the Reverend Phil Springfield stole it.

Nan is loyal to the last, and when Phil drives his car into a tree on his way to the radio station, she instantly blames Harris Tweed for causing her husband’s death. Her brother-in-law, Vernon, is only too willing to support that theory.

A stranger, Harry Woolery, approaches Nan at the funeral. Harry is also known by his radio name, Harris Tweed -- but he can’t let Nan know that. Instead, he vows to do all he can to quietly help this woman and her four kids. There’s nine-year-old Christopher, and three foster children: autistic Derek James (D.J.) and two little girls, Rachel and Robin. Harry and Nan become friends, and then fall in love. But Harry still believes that Phil Springfield was guilty as sin, and Nan steadfastly maintains his innocence. When Harry finds irrefutable proof, he faces a tough decision. Should he tell Nan, who by now is pondering a million-dollar lawsuit against “Harris Tweed?” Or should he keep quiet and hope that their growing love will withstand the coming events?

Harry is a wonderful beta hero -- caring, supportive, willing to overlook his own needs to bring comfort and a supporting shoulder to this woman he’s come to care for so deeply. His interactions with little D.J. are particularly touching, as he plans a therapeutic riding program at his father’s tumbledown ranch in order to bring the little boy out of his shell a bit. He shows his willingness to go to bat for Nan as the social services system scrutinizes her ability to provide for the kids. Nan is torn between the influence of the vengeful Vernon and the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right with Phil before he died.

Nan presented a problem. She never stops to think whether her abrupt request for a divorce might have had something to do with her husband’s death. When the truth eventually stares her in the face, she goes into denial and clings to her victimization stance for far too long. Harry has done everything except walk on water for this woman, so why she would assume his only motive was to destroy her husband’s reputation was totally beyond this reader. To put it bluntly, she became shrill and tiresome.

Head Over Heels is a fast-paced novel with characters that will engross you, though they may not all enchant you. Stephanie Mittman’s polished writing and snappy dialogue are a real standout. And to quote that old song, I’m just wild about Harry.

--Cathy Sova


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