by Teresa Hill, contemporary (2001)
Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-40931-0
Another story to use the Convenient Letter method as closure. Hmm. TV Movie Material, anyone? Okay, apart from that letter device, Unbreak My Heart is a very readable "woman returns to smalltown to find secrets about her parents" story whose only flaw is its determination to make the readers feel good to the exclusion of credibility towards the end. Things fall together so neatly, this derails the story.
By the way, this is also a story where the "romantic hero" lies to the heroine about several key points, either by deliberate fudging or by exclusion, and there is very little space allocated to his cover being blown and his (lack of good) grovel. I feel cheated by this, because I feel that the heroine deserves a really grand gesture of apology that never came.
Allie Bennet is a woman haunted by her childhood memory of her mother taking her away from her father. Why is this? She doesn't know (or remember), but she is surprised when her mother dies and the lawyer reveals that her father knows where she is all these years. Why doesn't her father try to contact her? Why was her mother so determined to keep Allie away from her father?
She is also haunted by the disappearance of her then-fifteen-year-old sister Megan all those fifteen years ago. Megan died in a car accident soon after her disappearance.
With everyone who could clear things dead and buried, Allie decides to return to her hometown Dublin to find some clues. There, she meets Stephen, her former next-door neighbor who offers to help her seek the truth. In truth, there are some people who don't want Allie to discover the truth of the matter between her, her sister, and her parents, and Stephen may be one of them.
Allie and Stephen are decent characters, but while Allie's confusion and need to find peace with herself are well done, Stephen is inconsistent in his character. Why should he keep lying even when things seem clear that his own family may be involved in the mystery fifteen years back? His "family loyalty, and oh, I didn't think it'll be THAT bad" excuse at the end is just pathetic. The fact that he can say he loves Allie even while doing his part in sabotaging her Nancy Drew attempts make him, in my books, deserving of the lead rolling pin.
All this pales towards the end when things start falling to place so neat, so inexplicably neat, all for the sake of a happy ending regardless of how bizarre the happy ending could actually be (considering the previous few hundred pages). It's one of those "together, together, we are one big famileee!" happy endings that seem written in for the sake of closure, nothing else.
Right until the last few chapters, Unbreak My Heart is a pretty good woman's fiction. Then, at those last few chapters, it degenerates into one of those sappy Hallmark stories calculated for maximum feel-good huggies. While that's not a bad thing, it doesn't do justice to the story.
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