After The Parade
by Dorothy Garlock, historical (2000)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-60811-4


After The Parade is the continuation of Johnny Henry and Kathleen Dolan-Henry who first appeared in With Heart. In With Heart, they battle an evil mayor and his secretary and find true love.

But all is not blissful in the Henry household. In the years between With Heart and After The Parade, Kathleen and Johnny lost a handicapped baby, Johnny's low self-esteem adds to the rift, and now both are tripping around each other, each thinking the other wants a divorce and waits for the other to wave the papers at his or her face. Johnny returns from World War 2 a war hero, but he's still in love with Kathleen. And Kathleen is still in love with him. But each thinks the other doesn't, and hence, we have a Tiptoe and Pussyfoot session.

It can be irritating. Especially when both characters cry and cry and cry but just can't meet and talk in the first few chapters. But after a while, they do meet, and slowly come to settle their differences. Just in time for Christmas, of course, for the all warm and sweet seasonal epilogue.

Of course, all marriages are never smooth sailing. Happy marriages only happen to the TV families of the Brady and Crosby bunches. Thing is, I'm quite annoyed that the author decides to make Kathleen being stalked by a loony killer the main impetus for them coming back together. And Johnny conveniently sees the light that he is One Silly Mule after a short - what, an hour? - visit to the friendly cheerleading doctor. Where is that good doctor one hundred pages earlier? Grrr.

Yes, After The Parade is a pretty good read, and it is a rare book nowadays that tries to tackle post-honeymoon life of lovers. But thing is, it is also the same old loonybin thriller with lots of predictable stuff thrown in. The He/she deserves better so I'll stay away nonsense. The way the heroine goes boo-hoo when she sees a baby and the happy mother. The reunited-by-danger scenario.

But more damaging to all this is the fact that even when the marriage of Kathleen and Johnny is supposed to be an all-time low, I never feel any worry for them. After all, practically everybody else in this book are nice, perfect, decent, kind people whose function is solely to be cheerleader for both our hero and heroine. What sort of danger can ever endanger our two main characters when we have - at last count - twelve safety net buddies? Where's the danger, the suspense, the emotional involvement of the reader?

When I know everything is just a smooth sailing cruise to a sappy happy ending, it's hard for me to invest any emotional involvement. Hence, (pretty good) autopilot comfort reading is what After The Parade offers at its best.

Rating: 79


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