by Paula Detmer Riggs, contemporary (1999)
Fawcett, $5.99, ISBN 0-449-15019-4
Taming The Night is a really fine romance story. It tells the story of two wounded people finding love despite their differences, with little covenient pop psychology or soap opera contrivances in-between. The result is a story that smoulders with poignancy.
Dr Summer Laurence went through hell when she was seventeen, when she was a junkie. Seduced by an undercover cop that leaves her with child, she finds herself abandoned by the scum to fend for herself when the cops sweep in. As a result, she is imprisoned and her child taken by the social services. Now, older, cautious, and wiser, she is a certified child psychologist shopping for a location for her new drug rehab center for kids. She doesn't want to save the world, she just wants to save the kids from themselves.
A good elderly friend Dottie allows her to rent her place for the rehab center. But Dottie's nephew Brody Hollister is suspicious. Even after the zinga's have sparked in their eyes, there's still one hurdle to overcome: Brody doesn't believe in rehab, and a past brush with a drug addict makes him prejudiced against Summer's stye of treatment.
Adding in the jam is Brody's daughter Kelly coming into adolescence. She's confused, and Brody doesn't know how to deal with his now rebellious daughter.
What I love most about Taming The Night is the sheer chemistry between Summer and Brody. They're real. Brody is a dedicated cop but he isn't always appreciated for it, and no, he isn't a multi-millionaire. His problems is real, and despite his lousy childhood, he doesn't make everyone around him wallow in his self-pity. Brody is a survivor in all the sense of the word. Likewise, Summer may be cautious but she is intelligent enough to let a good thing like Brody into her life. Both can let go of their past without much silly misunderstandings.
And do I doubt that these two are made for each other? No way. The sexual tension is amazing. And Brody's vulnerabilities are slowly exposed in small charming yet moving ways. Like how he tries to buy Summer flowers, or how he stutters. Brody is a man with all his weaknesses and strengths - he's human, and he's all the more adorable for it. Summer too is his perfect match as a woman who is strong without crossing the martyr line.
There's also a subplot involving Dottie and the local doctor, a too-short tale of a woman who has traveled far to see the world, only to realize what she loves most is right under her nose. Kelly and a new boy in town has a dark, disturbing relationship - sociopath-in-the-making Mark reminds me of that Wes Bentley character in American Beauty. What I wouldn't give to read about his story when he's all grown up.
Little details are done right too. Brody's relationship with his cop colleagues are real, and not like those sissified conversations in many contemporary cop romances. But best of all, Taming The Night doesn't rely on easy stereotypes to carry the story. Real people with real issues finding love is the story here. Generic title notwithstanding, it is all in all a great story.
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