by Samantha Lucas, contemporary (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-317-2
Anything After Sunday? pairs two very different people who meet on a romantic cruise in the Caribbean.
Westley Dean Hollins, who'd like to be called West for obvious reasons, is a lifelong bachelor who believes that women can't be trusted and are good for one thing only. He is always at the center of attention and he's only here to accompany his friend who's been jilted at the altar. This cruise is supposed to be his friend's honeymoon, you see.
Francis "Frannie" Louise Songer on the other hand is the overweight sister, always overshadowed by her more attractive sisters to the point that she protects herself by being cynical and stand-offish. Years of being picked on in high school do that to a person, after all. She's dragged by her sister to this cruise (the sister and her husband are having a second honeymoon) and, well aware that she's only here because her sister views her as a no-life person in need of something, anything, to make her life more interesting, she's trying her best not to get her feelings hurt too much.
One thing that stands out very well here is the author's portrayal of Frannie, which can cut quite deep to the bone in how accurate it often is. Frannie's loneliness, insecurity, her tendency to say things that may come out as hurtful because she's scared that a pretty boy may get close to her and once again make her heart break when she starts feeling things that she knows will never be reciprocated - Ms Lucas portrays Frannie's antisocial nature as one created both by circumstances beyond her control (her looks) and enforced by her own instinct for self-preservation. Ms Lucas has succeeded in making me feel as if she has put me in Frannie's shoes. I find myself thinking I can recognize parts of myself in Frannie.
Which makes Anything After Sunday? a perfect fantasy, doesn't it? A very good-looking committed bachelor falling for the invisible heroine because she touches that special part of something in him that no other women can - with her smile, her cynical sense of humor, that kind of thing? West makes it clear that he only does flings and one-night stands, yet he wants to see Frannie again. Wow. Frannie realizes that she probably shouldn't expect too much from that man but at the same time she also realizes that she will spend the rest of her life wondering what could have happened if she doesn't throw caution out the window for once. So. There they go then.
Anything After Sunday? could have been a humorous autobiography of any character played by Molly Ringwald in those John Hughes movies if those movies take place in an adult instead of high school setting. West predictably ends up breaking all his rules about socializing with the opposite sex for Frannie and Frannie can't believe it. To be honest, I don't really believe it either since Ms Lucas overdoes the whole "Frannie is actually hawt" thing by having Nick, West's friend who was jilted at the altar, finding her hot too, but some readers with higher flights of fancy may enjoy that particular extent of the vicarious escapism more than me.
Characterization isn't too deep here but it's enough to give me a clear sense of who these characters are. While in other stories Frannie's self-esteem issues could be irritating to follow, here Ms Lucas doesn't have Frannie continuously wallowing in self-pity. Instead, Frannie decides to grab what West is offering her, even if it will only last as long as this cruise, because she knows this Cinderella style experience is worth risking her heart for. Seriously, West is such a sweet and charming fellow. Some of his lines feel too scripted to me, but then again, so were some of the lines of Lloyd Dobbler and I love that movie Say Anything.
The last few chapters are very over the top and even ridiculous at times but I love every word as it gives West a chance to show the dark and dangerous Protective Boyfriend underneath his polished good looks facade as he demonstrates his affections for Frannie in such a melodramatic way that I can't resist. But on the whole, Anything After Sunday? is pure escapist fun.
Readers who refuse to buy the escapism this book offers should rightfully stay away as this book is so over the top that it leaves not much else for these readers to savor, but readers who love and swallow the whole "Plain Jane of the Prom catches the eye of a Paul Walker lookalike who falls so desperately in love with her that he can't remember which way is up and down anymore" premise may have as much fun as I do with Anything After Sunday?. Dang, what am I going read now when I have Simple Minds' Don't You Forget About Me still playing in my head?
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