by Dee Carney, contemporary (2011)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-490-9
I could say some sort of spell kept me transfixed to the spot as I watched my neighbor's son masturbate, and it would almost be the truth.
Regina Pace is feeling melancholic one evening over her husband's death six years ago when she spies - accidentally, of course - her neighbor's son risking blindness and hairy palms by the family pool. She is caught in the act, but to her dismay and perhaps some degree of pleasure, he issues an invitation for her to come watch again, the same time on the following day. With all the office politics she faces at work - her younger rival seems to be getting a promotion over her, how annoying - perhaps a fling with the hot kid next door is what the doctor ordered. He's 26, she's 41, but age is just a number, right?
Keeping Pace is a very readable story. It's narrated in first person from Regina's point of view, and I have to say, Ms Carney has succeeded very well in portraying Regina as a real, vulnerable, and yet endearing character. Her loneliness is palpable and sometimes cuts like a knife, and it's great to see her finally sort herself out, even if getting there can sometimes be frustrating. It is never easy to make changes in one's life, after all.
My only issue here is the romance. Oh, I have no problems with the heroine getting her fun with the kid next door. More power to her, I say, as there is nothing wrong in being a desirable older woman and living life to the hilt. The problem here is that the romance takes place in such an accelerated pace that I have a hard time buying that the characters truly love each other, at least to the degree that they will proceed to settle down and live happily ever after. Ms Carney does what most authors do to their younger heroes and turn Joshua Smith into a mature kid - so much so that he comes off occasionally as a forty-year old man playing a younger man - but this overcompensation is not enough to render the romance believable. The author needs more pages than that - as it is, I can't help having Alanis Morissette's song Hands Clean playing in my head, and if you look up the words to that song, you'd understand why. This story would have been so much stronger with a happily for now ending instead of something more permanent.
After all, it is okay for a hot MILF-type heroine to have fun with a younger man without having to drag in weddings and baby showers to make the whole thing palatable. More Melrose Place and less Heartland, please.
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