Knowing You
by Maureen Child, contemporary (2003)
St Martin's Press, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-98920-2


Knowing You is published in a special "Make Me Your New Josie Litton" edition together with Finding You. It's part of St Martin's effort to catapault series author Maureen Child into being a household name. These two books, along with the next book Loving You stars the Candellano family. Three siblings, Carla and the twins Paul and Nick all exhibit a perplexing tendency to fall in love with people with caregiving baggages. Knowing You is Paul Candellano's story.

Let me get straight to the point: Knowing You is a stupid story. If you're an avid series romance reader, you may be more tolerant of the bizarre sexual and behavioral comedy going on in this book.

Paul and Nick are twins. Paul is the studious (and rich) one. Nick is the (rich) jock. Stephanie "Stevie" Ryan (loves her daddy, hates her mommy, et cetera) used to go out with Nick until he cheated on her. Never mind, she still remains in close terms with the rest of the Candellano family, especially with Momma Candellano. Paul, however, likes Stevie more than wise. Or as the author puts it most romantically, "when every time he saw her, all he wanted to do was to throw her onto her back" - ouch - "and bury himself inside her". When Stupid Stevie and Pathetic Paul end up doing that throwing and burying thing one night, that's when the agony starts.

Stevie, even when she has cut off Nick long ago, decides that she must not let the Candellano clan think her a "tramp" and so she must never succumb to Paul even when she realizes that she loves him. "Tramp"? It's not as if she's sleeping with the wrong twin by accident, and even if she did, that won't be "tramp", that'll be "bloody moron". She's also not sleeping with both twins at the same time, so it is hard to see where the "tramp" logic comes from. And for Paul's part, for no good reason whatsoever, he keeps deciding that Stevie must still be carrying a torch for Nick so they must not see each other. Their relationship then proceeds on schedule to follow the predictable rut: they sleep together and then they whine and flail and beat themselves up the morning after, repeat and rinse.

But even the author realizes that repeating this excruciating pattern in her book for over three hundred pages will be too cruel an act, so she decides to add in an unexpected subplot that sees Stevie realizing that she has a long-lost sister. This sister comes to light when the uncaring and bad mother's will is read. Upon the discovery of this Special Sister, Stevie then proceeds to cry like every other three pages. She becomes the poster girl for Political Correctness Gone Ugly. It is so nasty to call the mentally handicapped sister "mentally deficient"! And oh, what poor horrible life the Special Sister must have led (of course, this sister just has to live a Dickensian awful life of being pelted with stones by other kids)! Special People are like us too, only more Special! The irony, of course, is that the author is using her Special Sister character as a mere plot device to (a) pad the story and (b) create a last minute "my sister is missing!" scenario to give the story an appropriate "exciting" finish. If she removes this sister thing, the story won't suffer other than in length. So what's this about treating special people with respect again, Ms Child?

I like reading about Paul's interactions with his mother and his alcoholic brother Nick. These are the most real and unforced scenes in the book. But when he's with Stupid Stevie, both of them act like emotionally stunted adults unable to think or act like the intelligent people that the author claim they are. By using the special sister subplot and turning Stevie into a lachrymosal overemotional idiot incapable of rational decisions to pad the meager plot, the author only ends up ruining every last shred of genuine, unpretentious element in her story. By the last page, everybody is behaving most bizarre just to fulfill some plot twist requirement. Even Paul, the most realistic of the gruesome twosome (and sister), mutates into a mediocre series romance novel walking plot contrivance in the end.

Knowing You reads suspiciously like a Silhouette Desire hastily padded and overextended just to meet the word count. If the author is keen on reminding her series romance fans that she has not forgotten her roots (Sleeping With The Boss, His Baby!, The Oldest Living Married Virgin, Last Virgin In California, and Let's Round Up Whoever Titles These Books And Tar Them Out Of Town, et cetera) and it's still okay to fork out $5.99 because series romance readers will still be getting the same old stuff, only with more detritus thrown in for added value - well, surely there are better ways of doing this than to force Knowing You to the unsuspecting public?

Rating: 47


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