There’s a generally accepted formula for Romances, but not all romances follow the formula. We’re accustomed to boy meets girl, an obstacle prevents them from immediately getting together, obstacle(s) are resolved, happy ending. Today I’m focusing on a group of romances or love stories, that skip the formula, but nevertheless are romances.
PERFECT FOOL by Bethany Zohner Herbert
“They’re all the same” is the phrase often used to describe romance novels. That’s certainly not true of Perfect Fool by Bethany Zohner Herbert. Herbert has written a romance that is a little bit of everything. It’s weird, whacky, funny, and unusual. I loved it!
Set in medieval times, a street urchin with quick hands and without a name is simply called Little Thief because that’s how he survives. One day the Royal Fool takes charge of him and trains him to be a court fool. He loves it, but it doesn’t stop him from appropriating items he wants. The older fool, Fendral, gives the child a name, Farrago. Farrago has a weakness for pastries, and an irrational fear of spiders, both of which are pertinent to key points in the story. He grows up enjoying the friendship of a scullery maid and an apprentice mandolin player who are about his own age. He enjoys his new life and all goes well until Fendral elopes with a gardener with long brown hair, leaving Farrago the royal fool to the new boy king. He adjusts until he discovers he’s in love with the scullery maid, who isn’t really a scullery maid. When she’s taken away, he pursues her and one disaster after another results.
The characters are delightful and their dialog flows effortlessly, but is quirky and humorous. Farrago is clever and sometimes just plain sneaky, yet lovable. He has a classic case of “foot-in-mouth” disease. Even with all of the humor, there’s much to admire about his adaptability, his loyalty, and staunch adherence to things and people he cares about. The author pulls no punches with her vivid descriptions of life without modern conveniences and provides an easily imagined background for the story. The romance follows the standard plot: boy meets girl, there are obstacles that keep them apart, love conquers all, and then the happy ending, however the author cleverly convolutes these steps to create a story that is hard to second guess.
Bethany Zohner Herbert began life in Salt Lake City, Utah, but grew up in Idaho except for a short time spent in England and another short time in the South. She’s back in Idaho now. She earned a bachelor’s in creative writing from BYU-Idaho and a master’s from Utah State University. In addition to her writing career, she teaches Zumba.
WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG by Pamela S. Williams
What Took You So Long by Pamela S. Williams is not a tale of young love as most Romances are. Both the hero and the heroine are pushing forty and never been married. Laine and her friend, Carrie (from Living It Down) are opening a reception center business in Carrie’s Aunt Sophie’s old house. John Marchbanks, a friend of Carrie’s who is also her husband’s law partner, becomes their attorney. The attraction is strong between John and Laine, but both are accustomed to independence and gave up a long time ago on marrying and having a family. She’s a breast cancer survivor who devotes her spare time to serving the senior singles in her ward. Just as they realize how much they care for each other, John is diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
A secondary romance runs concurrent with that of John and Laine. The pastry chef hired to prepare refreshments for the center is a divorcee with two teenage children. Her ex-husband is a wealthy man who lavishes expensive gifts and trips on his children while she struggles to cover the basics and he mocks her attempts to raise the children in the Church. She doesn’t trust the man contracted to care for the grounds of the reception center, but he becomes a mentor for her son, and somehow manages to work his way into her heart.
The characters are likable in this story and are realistic as they struggle to deal with their difficult life situations along with facing new challenges, learning to trust and love, and to move forward when live hands them a path different from the one they once expected. Along with the romances in this story, the author paints an optimistic picture of self-discovery and second chances.
Pamela Stott Williams grew up in Portland, Oregon, but now she and her husband live in Utah. She has been a newspaper reporter, teacher, tutor, and has undertaken several types of writing along with raising three children.
THE BLOG by Carolyn Adams Hanchett
The Blog by Carolyn Adams Hanchett can only loosely be categorized as a romance. This controversial story does have a strong love story theme, but it is primarily a venue for stating a conservative political view point. Abigail Houston is a senior at a liberal North Carolina university and very much in love with an attorney, Elijah Morningstar, who is taking a few classes at the university to get a masters degree in political science. Elijah is a Cherokee Indian and the chosen candidate by the bosses of one political party to run for the open Congressional Seat.
Upset because of a professor who is teaching a revised version of American history and his refusal to allow her to present her paper because she alludes to God’s role in the formation of the United States, Abby begins a blog to share historical facts that are omitted from current history classes and text books. In her blog, she campaigns for the state to balance liberal professors with conservative ones in state run universities. She also takes a strong stance for the conservative viewpoint on other controversial issues, making herself highly unpopular with liberals, atheists, and “one-world” proponents. As Elijah sees her unfair treatment and reads her blogs, he is converted to her cause and worries for her safety. She becomes a target of several powerful groups who oppose her belief in God and conservative views, which she backs up with careful research. Fearing he will insist she drop her blog and worry excessively about her, Abby doesn’t tell Elijah of the vicious threats made against her. Her blog reaches millions of viewers and she becomes a danger to those who stand to profit from extreme liberalism.
From a literary viewpoint, The Blog, has a number of shortcomings. It needs tighter copy editing, dialog updating, and the elimination of head hopping. LDS readers will be disappointed in characters who claim to be opposed to premarital sex who vacation together, spend the night alone in her apartment, and in other ways fail to avoid the “appearance of evil” or temptation. The stories and quotes used in Abby’s blogs are accurate and thought provoking, but are difficult to separate from the character’s added comments. There is some mild profanity. For a couple who is supposed to be deeply in love, keeping life threatening secrets from each other doesn’t ring true. I had difficulty identifying with any of the characters because neither the antagonists or protagonists felt real or complete to me, though I care a great deal about many of the issues introduced in the book. The ending is definitely not the typical Romance ending.
Those who are concerned about today’s text books, the over abundance of liberal viewpoints in education, same sex marriage, abortion, Satanism, socialism, and other darlings of the so-called progressive left and those who want to understand better the issues dividing today’s society will find much to think about in this book. Those looking for a romance to curl up with will find the thoughtful gestures and spoken endearments satisfying, but digging a little deeper thy might gain hope for a love that endures beyond this life.
Carolyn Adams Hanchett has a deep love for America and is proud of her small Cherokee heritage. This is her fourth book. She is the mother of three daughters and has nine grandchildren.
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PERFECT FOOL by Bethany Zohner Herbert, published by Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc., 288 pages, soft cover $14.12. Also available for e-readers.
WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG by Pamela S. Williams, published by Walnut Springs Press,265 pages, soft cover, $17.99. Also available for e-readers.
THE BLOG, Book One by Carolyn Adams Hanchett, published by Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, soft cover $19.95. Available for e-readers.