by Monica Jackson, contemporary (2000)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-107-3
Who says romance belongs only to the young and restless? Never Too Late For Love is a fine romance between 47-year old Tiffany Eastman and 55-year old Jason Cates. It is also the story of healing of a remarkably strong and fine woman.
Tiffany has left behind a lousy marriage and an alcohol addiction problem to start life anew in St Louis.
Twelve hours of gritty highway miles filled with adrenaline-charged anticipation had rolled by for Tiffany Eastman. She didn't put the pedal to the metal on the trip north from Atlanta like she usually did. She drove just below the posted speed limit. It wasn't that she didn't want to hurry to her new life in St Louis. No, it was that she didn't want to mess it up. A speeding ticket would be a bad omen, an accident disastrous.
With such high hopes for the future, Tiffany is going to her own woman at last. And as a bonus, she is going to be boarding up with hunky Dr Jason Cates, heart surgeon, who is the father of her roommate/surrogate daughter back in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, Jason is still reluctant to let go of the memories of his wife Diana. Hmm. But no fear, Tiffany will fix that. Never Too Late For Love is the story of just that. No murder, no screaming fits, just a nice, slow and easy romance. And it works, although many things could go wrong.
I for one, can't see the attraction of a man who is still controlled by his guilt/memories about his late wife. Every boinking most of the time ends with his guilt party, which can put a damper to the whole mood. But Jason didn't irritate me as much as he could, because I grow to be quite fond of him. Don't know why, maybe it's the author's style, sometimes witty, sometimes acerbic, always easy and readable. Jason is a nice balance of sensitivity and inertia.
But Tiffany is incredible. She isn't the typical oh-where's-my-backbone survivor of unhappy marriages. Her head is held up high and proud, and heck, she isn't afraid to get into an affair with Jason for the sake of intimacy. And when Jason gets too mulish about his obsession with Diana, she isn't afraid to throw a shouting match and walk out. Her alcoholism sometimes seems forced, especially the way it looms strong towards the end of the book, but it gives her a touch of vulnerability that makes me ache for her. I adore this woman: she still has her sense of humor, and she takes no nonsense from her man.
There are some problems, of course. The first few chapters and that cringing use of wrong-bedroom plot device make me cringe. But the writing tightens up tremendously thereafter. Also, I tend to get confused when characters from past novels by this author make cameo appearances. It takes awhile for me to piece who Jenny, Dante, Taylor, Stone, etc may be (I still may be wrong). Also, much of Tiffany's past is alluded to, but never told. I haven't read the novels where Tiffany appeared in before Never Too Late For Love, and while Tiffany is a very good heroine here, much of the impact of this story is lost on me, because I have no inkling just how bad her first marriage was. If there is a prologue that can piece all these matters for me, I would have savored Never Too Late For Love even more.
But as it is, Never Too Late For Love still makes my grade. It's romantic, it's funny, and it's heartwarming. And I find myself cheering for Tiffany who tries her darned best to come up on top despite all the hard knocks life has given her. And when I find myself dissecting every tiny details about the characters, even to creating ghoulish torture sessions for Jason's cowardly son Jared, I realize I'm hooked. Somehow Tiffany and Jason have become some fascinating characters to me, and I find myself wishing I can know more about their future, their past. And since it's been awhile a book prompted such postmortem dissections and an urge to reread, I'd have to give this book a space on my keeper shelf.
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