Falling in Love

Fall Into Me
by Pauline Trent
(Zebra, $6.99, PG)  ISBN 978-08217-8142-5
Southern charm is chivalry, warm summer nights, the smell of magnolias, gentlemen being gentlemen and that quiet sense of time having slowed down.  Fall Into Me has all that, and yet it also has one annoying phrase that was very distracting.  Knowing I was reading a pre-edited version, my hope is that the editor will pull most of these references out.  But in looking at a review from Trent’s earlier book, I noticed that the same phrase was used and the reviewer commented how distracting it was.  Readers be warned – “hand to God” is used so many times I actually started counting them at one point.  This played a role in why this tale is only getting 3 hearts.

Howard Michaels is a famous non-fiction writer who travels the world and tells stories about real people.  He has expressed an interest in coming to small town North Carolina and doing a story on Colonel Lambert, a Civil War era general.  His descendants still live in the town and have given permission to be interviewed along with allowing the author access to the documents stored in the public library.  What the descendants don’t know is that Howard Michaels is a woman named Michaela Howard.

Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Granger is certainly surprised when he goes to the airport to meet a man who is one of his favorite authors – he has all of his books in the first edition.  He is surprised not only that the “he” is a female, but an attractive female to boot.  Bobby, a Lambert descendant, is thrilled to be working with her, now that he has met her.  Bobby is a widow of almost 15 years and is the “father” of his two nieces whose parents were killed when they were very little.  He and his wife Abby had just taken them into their home when Abby was diagnosed with cancer.  The nieces are in their twenties, making Bobby somewhere in his forties (although this is never really clarified).  It is implied that Michaela is of a similar age.

The story is a character study about this romance and the time these two spend getting to know each other.  We have many issues that have to be resolved:  big city girl vs. small town boy; North vs. South, older man set in his ways vs. mature woman who is a traveler and rarely settled down anywhere.  Bobby’s previous marriage was extremely happy and he is uncertain he wants to commit to another woman who might die or leave him.  Michaela meanwhile loves New York and even though she is on the road a lot, she is settled there with friends and even a few past boyfriends.  They share ideas, humor, love of certain foods and find themselves compatible and sexually attracted. P> To show us that Michaela is worldly, we are introduced to her cross-dressing best friend and his gay friends.  We meet a man who wants her to be more than friends, while she describes him in a much more familial way.  And we hear about all her adventures all over the world.   Meanwhile, Bobby is a southern boy who decides to step back from sex and just court her when he realizes he may be falling in love.  He loves his town and is resentful when anyone seems to be making fun of it or patronizing their southern small town ways.

There is a hint of a previous story about one of the nieces, Angie and her fiancée Chris.  The other niece Carter Anne is set up nicely for a future story.  These two play a role by giving Michaela a view of family, something she really has not had.  They are boisterous, loving, loud, caring and in everyone’s business.   The townspeople also play roles, primarily a group of women who work at the library and who have viewed Bobby as a possible mate for years.

I liked this story and while it didn’t set me on fire, the very nature of a mature love story was endearing.  The pace was engaging even while charmingly slow at times.  But the charm was lost over and over when every other comment, even in their heads, was the use of the “hand to God” phrase.  It was repeated 6 times in three pages early on and then it became way too noticeable whenever it was used.  

I want to heartily recommend Fall Into Me, especially for those who like romances that are a little more subtle and cater to the older age set.  But “hand to God,” I simply can’t rate it more than just acceptable. 

--Shirley Lyons

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