Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray

Julie and Romeo Cover Absolutely wonderful romance novel of 60-year-olds in love

Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: February 8, 2012
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 242 pages
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

The Cacciamanis and the Rosemans, who live in a small town near Boston, have been feuding for three generations, and Julie Roseman has no idea why. Yes, their families each run a florist's shop, but there is plenty of business for both stores. In the process of this feud, 15 years before, Julie's daughter Sandy fell in love with Tony Cacciamani when they were both 16. They were caught trying to elope and their families broke up their relationship. In addition to that, there have been countless vindictive, retaliatory acts on the part of both families over the years, and each side of the feud regards the other as criminal scum.

When Julie married Mort Roth at age 20, her parents and Mort asked her to stop working in the flower shop since they could only afford one employee. Julie worked a few years as a secretary, then became a stay-at home wife and mother to her two daughters for thirty years--until the day when she and Mort were 55, and he dumped her to run off with a 38-year-old woman. At that point Julie's parents were dead, and since they had left the flower shop entirely to Julie, Mort could not demand a piece of it in the divorce.

Julie has taken back her maiden name and has been running the shop the past five years, greatly enjoying the flowers, but struggling with the financial side of the business, both keeping the books and generating capital. At the start of this story, the economy is in a downturn, and Julie's business is barely surviving. In hopes of improving her chances of saving it, she attends a conference for small business owners and meets Romeo Cacciamani in person for the first time. She is amazed to find that she feels no animosity toward this handsome man with kind eyes, and he clearly holds no resentment personally toward her. She had heard from a distance that his wife had died a few years ago, and when she expresses her sympathy, Romeo asks her to have coffee with him. Thus quietly begins a relationship that is a source of wonder and emotional rebirth to the two of them, but is anything but to their respective families. When the Cacciamani and Roseman clans inevitably find out about Julie and Romeo's romance, all hell breaks lose, and everyone from Romeo's 90-year-old mother to Julie's 32-year-old realtor daughter do everything in their power to break up the star-crossed lovers.

This exquisitely written Romeo-and-Juliet tale updated into a contemporary romance between two mature lovers is a joy to read. Though there is a lot of poignancy in the story, it is also filled with wry, ironic humor that is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. The author also creates love scenes between her two mature protagonists that are both sensual and incredibly tender. Best of all, the ending of the story is uplifting, triumphant and very, very entertaining.

I loved this book when I read it for the first time many years ago, and it was just as terrific an experience for me the second time around.

In short, everything about this book is flawless as far as I'm concerned, and this book is a true keeper.

The Kindle edition I read is well edited and formatted.

I rate this book as follows:

 
Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Wild Child (Bride Trilogy) by Mary Jo Putney

Wild Child Cover Mary Jo Putney at her best--which is stunning!

The Wild Child (Bride Trilogy) by Mary Jo Putney

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: May 30, 2006
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 384 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

I love this story! The empathic, sensitive, animal-healing hero is to die for, and I really love the heroine, especially her psychic abilities and the way the hero and heroine both love animals so much and connect emotionally and spiritually over this love.

MJP's major talent is very much in evidence in every part of this story. I am in awe of her elegant use of flashbacks, the careful, believable, moving character development with great motivation, the extraordinary romance, friendship and passion between the hero and heroine. Also, MJP's special gift, very much in evidence here, is interweaving the relationship between the hero and heroine with their relationships with their blood families as well as their "families of affiliation." Particularly in this case the latter provides a welcome chance to revisit old friends in Rebecca and Kenneth.

I find the whole setting of the heroine's incredible gardens enthralling, including her artistic ability with flower arrangements and "carving" bushes in the topiary and elsewhere. I love Meriel's amazing tree house and the lovely image of the beautiful horse Dom gets her with hair the color of hers. The scene with the fox Meriel and Dom save is very moving, as is the relationship she has with her East Indian rescuer and his romance with an important subcharacter. So many riches in one book, I have to say more.

I experienced the prologue as incredibly powerful--what a fantastic hook! I myself never suspected for a moment who the villain is until the climax, but his evil is not at all "out of the blue." Also well done is the interweaving of the theme of the castle ruin throughout the whole book. It serves multiple linked purposes, including the ultimate regaining of the heroine's blocked memory. I am tempted to hazard my own response to the symbology here--that the castle ruin can be seen to represent (among other evocative images and metaphors) the heroine's family roots, and a basic solidity in her core character that allows her to heal from the horrendous psychological trauma in her early childhood shown in the prologue. Conceptually, the castle ruin also provides opportunities for MJP's wonderful, subtle wit, which shines throughout the book.

The plotting altogether is superb. For example, I love what MJP does with the madhouse and the way that the hero's helping Ames' daughter Jena leads to Dom later getting assistance to help rescue Meriel from the same place. I like the interweaving of what is happening with Kyle, the hero's twin, with what is happening with Dom, the hero, throughout the book.

I found myself wondering about halfway through if Dom and Kyle are going to change places in the end as a powerful echo of their switching places throughout the book. So for me it is extremely well motivated and "organically cohesive" when MJP does that switch figuratively, in a believable psychological way, with Dom and Kyle realizing that Dom is very like their father, rooted in family and tradition and the land, and that Kyle is a natural wanderer. Kyle also realizes that only he has been keeping himself from following his dream and that he doesn't have to resent anyone or anything for that situtation anymore--he can remedy it himself.

I rate this book as follows:

 
Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Setting: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5