Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Feminist and The Cowboy by Alisa Valdes

The Feminist and the Cowboy. Alisa Valdes. Gotham Publishing. January 2013. 336 pp. pbk. ISBN#: 9781592407903.

The Feminist in this novel is a hyper-liberal woman who reflects the epitome of the feminist from the 20th Century who ultimately made the opposite sex the enemy.  It’s an extremist attitude that unfortunately evolved as a reaction to years of woman experiencing poor to shoddy treatment at the hands of men. This is confirmed in the story of the feminist’s own mother who abandoned her child and launched into a new life that would be free. 

When the protagonist meets the Cowboy, an antagonist in the true sense of the word, he’s something she’s never met, a man who is ultra-macho (actually he’s downright nasty and rude at times, something that the Feminist seems to miss in her bedazzled state) and yet very traditional in the way he courts a lady. At times the Feminist assumes a great deal and those assumptions make her the target of his wrath and also expose her unruly tirades of rage as well, to the point where she knows she is in serious need of anger management counseling and/or help.

While the author attempts to make the Cowboy come out as a totally balanced male, it just doesn’t work.  He tries to be neutral and yet is as domineering in his own “tough love” fashion.  This reader is unimpressed by him and definitely not “wowed” by his tactics that are missing the sense of compassion and caring that is okay for men to demonstrate to women. To generalize that the feminist movement made women out of all men is a large stretch for sure, albeit it may be true for some.

The Feminist and the Cowboy is an okay read, very fine in the way the main female character grows and changes, but one hopes she can evolve even more to see that the Cowboy she has grown to care for needs some evolution himself.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

After the Rain by Karen White

After the Rain. Karen White. Penguin Group (USA). December 2012. 384 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451239686.

Suzanne Paris, as she is now calling herself, is a freelance photographer who is running away.  We don’t know for a long time where she’s from but we do know that she is a woman who for years has had no “hometown” and immediately goes on the run whenever anyone tries to get too close or begins to start connecting dots to the mystery of her past.  It’s a lonely life; and despite Suzanne’s tough exterior appearance, underneath she’s like a tightly-wired machine that is super-exhausted underneath. 

Suzanne’s luck is holding so far when she decides to get off a cross-country bus in Walton, Georgia, a typical Southern town with extraordinary hospitality and just as extraordinary nosiness.  Everyone knows everyone and makes sure everyone else knows the whole story about each resident, guest and visitor!  One has to laugh if it didn’t freak out Suzanne more, yet one does as the caring nature of these “strangers” is warming to the heart, a counter to the irritating qualities of town busybodies.

The first person Suzanne meets is the town mayor, Joe Warner, a man totally blasted from taking care of his six kids and grieving today for his wife who died years ago. In fact, he grieves as intensely as he did the day she died.  He seems to always be showing up in situations where Suzanne is desperate for help and at first her irritation at his questioning is downright annoying.  That takes quite a while to overcome and their relationship begins to improve when Suzanne shares her gift for photography with Joe’s daughter, Maddie, and gradually becomes a major influence in her life.  So the story goes on and on and on….

All the characters have something to learn about their strengths and weaknesses.  Suzanne may look “tough as nails” but has a heart of gold and is a very, very talented, skilled, sensitive photographer.  Slowly but surely the picture gets better and better until the past returns with a vengeance and seems to make everything go wrong.  Will it all be sorted and resolved – no spoilers here, LOL!

After the Rain is another hit novel for Karen White who knows how to balance the ups and downs of emotional women and crisis situations with just the right amount of revelation to make each scene more than credible. She is one very knowledgeable and talented writer, proven again in this wonderful work of romance and/or contemporary fiction!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Come In and Cover Me by Gin Phillips

Come In and Cover Me. Gin Phillips. Penguin Group (USA) Inc. December 2012. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9781594486487.

"I have to believe the pieces can fit together...We owe them that, to tell the truth about them," said archaeologist Ren Taylor.  She and Silas Cooper have met at Crow Creek, an archaeological dig outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico because he's found another piece of an Indian ceramic bowl that he knows she'll want to see.  She is an expert on these artifacts and believes they were all made by one particular Indian girl. It takes time for the reader to understand how Ren knows this is so.  It all has to do with the death of her brother, Scott, when she was just twelve years old.

Ren has a unique gift or curse, depending on your point of view.  She senses the spirits of ghosts, including her brother and gradually as the story unfolds that of two Indian women, one younger and the other older.  As these visions are increasing, Ren and Silas are falling in love. At first it seems so perfect.  But Silas's inability to believe in Ren's gift and her ability to listen and hear the story of these very talented but haunting women, Lynay and Non, unnerves him, slightly souring their relationship.  Sparks of love and arguments begin to fly as each displays weakness to the other.

The dig provides more and more clues to the lives of a "lost" people, their lives paralleling the losses in Ren's life.  There are many ways of dying and this tale is about ability to live perpetually in denial or to embrace the loss and move beyond it to creativity and beauty.  Yes, it even means being able to mourn in order to free the Spirit to fully live.  One has to be vibrantly alive to tell the story of the "lost" ones, and that telling makes even the objects left behind in the passing even more enchanting and gorgeous! Then true love blossoms!

Come In and Cover Me is a unique story of love, death, loss and recovery; indeed it is a story of resurrection evolving out of the healing of love, memories, dreams, visions, and open and honest dialogue.  The story is well-crafted, thoughtful, imaginative, and unforgettable in its gracious unfolding!  Poignant, simply lovely contemporary fiction!