More romance books are sold than any other genre. Most novels contain some elements of romance and in others it is the main focus of the story. Even so, it’s unfair to lump all romances together; they illustrate a wide range of personalities, time periods, co-genres, values, and circumstances that bring two people together. The two I’m focusing on today are extremely different from each other. Always Will by Melanie Jacobson could be classified as comedy and Legally and Lawfully Yours by Anita Stansfield falls into the social issues category.
ALWAYS WILL by Melanie Jacobson takes two young people who are making great strides in their careers following their college graduations. The problem is they live in the same apartment complex and Hannah has had a crush on Will since she was thirteen years old. Three years older Will has been her older brother, Dave’s best friend forever and she grew up with him as a part of her life. After Dave marries, he charges Will with watching over and protecting his little sister. When she learns Will has decided it’s time to get serious about looking for a wife (he’s 28) Hannah goes into a panic and devises elaborate schemes to sabotage his dates. In turn, he goes overboard playing big brother and undercuts her dates. Not wanting to end their friendship over her crazy antics, she determines to get over him which proves easier said than done.
Both Will and Hannah’s behavior is more adolescent than realistic for a couple in their mid to late twenties, but the dialog is great and the juvenile stunts they pull are complicated and hilarious. As characters both Hannah and Will are fun, likable, and well-intentioned, but are so smart they lose touch with reality. The plot is totally predictable, but readers won’t mind since it’s the hilarious journey that carries the story and readers will love. There are some serious moments that explain some of the childish antics. All in all Always Will is a refreshing fun read.
Melanie Jacobson is a former English teacher with a great sense of humor. Always Will is her seventh published novel. She and her family live in Southern California.
LEGALLY AND LAWFULLY YOURS is a slight departure from Anita Stansfield’s usual novels. It highlights a social issue more than the romance angle. Shannon Turney calls off the wedding when she finds her fiancé cheating. Since he’s an attorney at the same high-powered law office she is, her dissatisfaction with the job she worked so hard to achieve increases to an unbearable level. She and her brother were removed as children from an abusive and neglectful home to bounce from one foster home to another. Her brother is now in prison and his two children are facing the same kind of abuse and neglect at their mother’s hands she knew as a child. When his ex-wife is arrested, Shannon gains custody of the children, quits her job, and takes off with them to find a new safer life. After driving randomly for three days, they wind up in a small New York state town where they are befriended by the town veterinarian, Phillip, and his mother. As the relationship deepens between Shannon and the veterinarian, she gets counseling for the children and they seem set for a happily ever after ending. Then the children’s mother is released from jail, claims to have cleaned up her life, and files to regain custody of them.
Readers who love a story that makes them weepy will identify with Stansfield’s characters whose reaction to both positive and negative events is tears. Both Shannon and Phillip do a lot of crying in this story. The characters don’t quite ring true for me, but Stansfield is a highly popular writer and many women identify intensely with her emotional characters. Phillip is a little too good to be real and some readers will find Shannon’s growing faith in God a bit preachy and distracting. Their greatest strength is their determination to forge ahead, start over if they must, but never quit.
The story is plotted well, though it seems to build toward a dramatic climax which never really happens. It does an excellent job of pointing out the deplorable condition of some children’s homes, the destruction of families caused by drug addiction, and the lack of quality foster homes. It also brings to light the sad condition of siblings separated in the child foster care system. The story is well researched and if it is overly emotional it can easily be forgiven.
Anita Stansfield is sometimes referred to jokingly as the Barbara Cartland of LDS fiction. In the nearly twenty years she has been writing romance novels, she has had more than fifty books published. She was born and raised in Provo, Utah. She is the mother of five children who have provided her with a growing number of grandchildren. She has twice been the recipient of lifetime achievement awards.
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ALWAYS WILL by Melanie Jacobson, published by Covenant Communications, 238 pages, soft cover $15.99, also available on CD and for e-readers.
LEGALLY AND LAWFULLY YOURS by Anita Stansfield, published by Covenant Communications, 249 pages soft cover $15.99, also available on CD and for e-readers.