My One And Only Love
by Melanie Schuster, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-423-4


Melanie Schuster must have done something really nice to get a cover like the one for My One And Only Love. It is easily one of the best covers I've ever come across for a romance novel, if you ask me - classy, beautiful, and so romantic. And isn't that man's jawline the sexiest thing ever?

I have a nice time reading Melanie Schuster's latest book. The evil trolls never bring in the author's previous two books to Singapore, so this is my first book by this author. My One And Only Love is a nice and sweet - maybe too sweet at times - story. The characters have familiar baggages (faithless ex-wife, faithless brother, nasty mommy), but still, it's not too bad.

Ceylon Simmons is a rising star in the entertainment business, but alas, her brother (also her manager) wasn't entirely honest with the IRS. Today, she is working her fingers to the bone trying to recoup her finances as well as her reputation. Finally, she decides to decompress by taking a holiday to St Simon's Island somewhere off the coast of Georgia. There, she meets the scarred Martin Deveraux whom she has a crush on for the longest time. Martin doesn't want love, not after what that faithless wife did to him (yeah, yeah, same old story, whatever), but he feels protective over Ceylon nonetheless. A large cast of friends and family members cheer them on.

What I love about this book is how the interactions between the characters in this book come off as natural as well as endearing. The dialogues are fine and only a little too Hallmark at times, while the large secondary cast actually enhance the story instead of clamoring for sequels. I also enjoy the author's use of flashbacks to flesh out her characters more vividly.

But as much as I enjoy reading about a really nice gathering of loving people enjoying each other's company, I must say that Ms Schuster makes a huge misstep in a way. If we have Ceylon and Martin surrounded by loving and supportive people, it doesn't make sense that these two people should even be a little miserable, is there? I am puzzled at how Ceylon's friends can talk and condemn Ceylon's brother and his perfidy, but I wonder - if they know about Ceylon's troubles so well, why aren't they helping her out more? Likewise, Martin keeps going on about how he has given up people (or more specifically, women) after that accident that had him all scarred up, but I look at the supportive people around him and scratch my head. There is really no reason for Martin to be as melancholic as he is, just as there is no suspense in Ceylon's dealing with her troubles. It's hard to be worried for the main characters when they are literally surrounded by Love and Friendship.

So there I have it. I like reading about nice and happy people. Ceylon is a little on the helpless teary-eyed waif side, but she and Martin aren't too bad for stereotypes. It is their interactions with the secondary cast that make this book an above average read. The double-edged sword is that this well-done interaction renders the characters' angsts as exaggerations rather than serious plights. My One And Only Love is all about shiny and happy people - which is good, of course, even if quite a lot of the angst don't really fit in well. If the author has done away with the "bad slut wife" and "evil momma" stereotypes, I'll probably be dancing with the happy people in the story. Maybe one day.

Rating: 84


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