Safe Harbor
by Luanne Rice, contemporary (2003)
Bantam, $7.50, ISBN 0-553-58395-6


Luanne Rice is now publishing two books a year. If Safe Harbor is any indication of the quality of the products of this author's new Luanne Kleenex Hour Channel, she may be better off joining the crew of a soap opera show as the chief writer. Overwrought and filled with showy scenes of contrived melodrama and minus any characterization that gained her her huge following of loyal fans, Safe Harbor is at best a forgettable afternoon read.

Dana Underhill has lost her sister Lily and is now coming back to take care of Lily's daughters Allie and Quinn. Dana and Lily were two annoyingly oversensitive and overartistic women, with Dana choosing to travel around the world searching for the perfect seascape while Lily stay home to be the perfect housewife and mother to an underwritten non-entity. How do these people even live with the high sugar levels in their blood? Allie is the childish one, Quinn is the rebellious one, neither of them even close to sounding off like real kids. Of course, in this book the adults are so wrapped up in their issues they let the Annoying Drama Queen Miss Thing Aquinnah run amok, if only for the obligatory Drama Hour that proves in the end, there's nothing a hug and too much melodrama can't fix.

Then there's the younger man, Sam, waiting and being there for Dana. I'm sorry but this equally underwritten guy comes off like an overearnest border collie panting for any scrap of attention from Dana. Dana isn't written any better as the stereotypical Ms Parfait Artiste whose problems only end up emphasizing what a good, sensitive, artistic woman she is.

The book is filled with many scenes that will either drive the reader to using up an entire box of Kleenex or (to me) come off as fake. In this book, Letters From The Past Filled With I Love You's are pretty much in every corner. Sam writes D on the sand and Dana experiences a Dramatic Flashback - ooh, she saved him from drowning when they were kids, and D is for "distance, death, deauville, decision, determined, destination: France, and of course, Dana". Don't forget "drama queen" and "delusional". People stop in the middle of conversations to stare with pain-filled eyes as they experience Sweet Heavenly Reminiscences in Flashback. Warm, Maternal Women who live to be Perfect Mothers to Monster Children pop in to bring on the ya-ya lovin'. Luanne Rice seems to be going though the motions this time around, ticking off her laundry list of Deep, Important Water Imagery plot devices just to get this book done so she can move on to the next book as soon as possible.

Maybe I should have just waited for the Shannen Doherty star vehicle adaptation of this book on TV instead.

Rating: 57


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