I know I need an attitude adjustment when it comes to romances of the over-forty set. Why that should be, I don’t know since I’ll never see forty…or fifty…or sixty again myself. All I can say is, I resist them. With Destiny Unleashed, Sherryl Woods had an opportunity to adjust my attitude, but despite competent writing and a pair of attractive and believable fifty-ish lovers, I remain unconverted.
The destiny of the title that is getting unleashed is Destiny Carlton, vibrant, energetic, and still lovely at age 53. Destiny has been a stay-at-home mom and a single parent for the past twenty years, raising her brother’s three sons after he and his wife were killed in a plane crash. All three boys are men now, grown, married, and with exciting careers. Destiny keeps busy with volunteer work, and she serves on the board of Carlton Industries, but now she is ready to expand her horizons.
The horizon in which she chooses to expand is Carlton Industries’ struggling European division. She coaxes her oldest nephew, Richard, into appointing her chairman of the division. Richard is understandably hesitant, but succumbs to the hint of blackmail in Destiny’s arguments. As a result, right before Christmas, Destiny flies to London, geared up to take on the division’s challenges.
The primary challenge Destiny faces is a series of attacks on Carlton Industries by Harcourt & Sons, a British conglomerate. Harcourt & Sons is headed up by William Harcourt who - not coincidentally – was involved seriously with Destiny 25 years earlier.
In her early 20s, before her brother died, Destiny spent several years painting in Provence. At an exhibit of her work, she met William Harcourt. Their attraction was almost instant; both had found the love of their lives. They lived together, happily, in Provence for several years. Then Destiny’s brother died, she went back to the States, and William went back to London to run the family business. Neither ever married or entered into another serious relationship.
Now William has decided it is time to mend the breach. His attacks on Carlton Industries are meant to attract Destiny’s attention and to provoke a response from her. He has succeeded, but now finds himself cast in the role of villain. When he made this rather impractical plan, he had not fully realized how vehement Destiny’s reaction would be.
Once Destiny is in England, William’s courtship starts its uneven but steady course, made more difficult both by her suspicions of him and by the actions of someone within Carlton Industries who wants to sabotage her management of the company. Paradoxically, the actions of the saboteur bring the two together, rather than pushing them further apart, as they work together to uncover the perpetrator.
The company sabotage is one sub-plot; the other is Destiny’s nephew’s continued resistance to her role in the company. This is a romance that needs two sub-plots, as Destiny and William methodically – and unexcitingly – work through the issues in their relationship. Once they have sorted out what went wrong in Provence, the only question left is whether Destiny’s loyalty to her nephews is stronger than her love for William. Very little tension is generated by this decision, as it is obvious that the two may not be mutually exclusive.
The two sub-plots don’t generate much tension, either. There are only a few people in a position to sabotage Carlton Industries, so William and Destiny tick them off one by one until the offender is identified. Only one of their investigations results in much action, and even that is only mildly interesting. I found another of their inquiries distasteful.
One of their suspects is found to be involved in a long-term, homosexual relationship. William seeks out the man’s partner and interviews him to see if he is responsible for their problems. The man convinces William of his innocence. That’s fine, but why weren’t any of the wives of the other suspects questioned? Shades of the Cold War when to be homosexual meant to be vulnerable to blackmail. I question including such an episode when it does nothing to advance the plot.
I had problems with the second sub-plot as well because I shared Richard’s unease with Destiny’s chairmanship. I too would worry about sending an untested 53-year-old – man or woman – off to head up a struggling division. Much was made of how disloyal it would be if Richard undercut Destiny’s authority by flying to London to check up on her. From what I know of international operations, such a visit by a CEO to an overseas division would have been a regular and scheduled occurrence, whoever was in charge in London. If Richard wasn’t visiting his London headquarters regularly, he should have been.
So…a tepid romance plus an unexciting investigation plus an unconvincing management conflict adds up to…what? A ho-hum story, that’s what. While Destiny Unleashed is mostly inoffensive, this is not the book that will send readers scurrying to the store searching for more stories of mature lovers.
--Nancy J Silberstein