Please Remember This
by Kathleen Gilles Siedel, contemporary (2002)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-101387-0


Before I start, I have to get one peeve off my chest first. Ms Siedel, I know it is a nice fantasy, especially for authors, but fans of a cult fantasy classic do not adore the author. Nobody wants to dress up or talk like Tolkein even if they call themselves Whores of the Ring (by the way, there's really one such group of people), much less imitate the dead humorless git's hairstyle. Whores of the Ring just love the books, the movies, and they want to rob Orlando Bloom of his virtue.

So the whole fascination with the late Nina Lane, an author with bipolar disorder, just don't ring real. Unless Nina Lane is a movie star, that is. But she's just an author (ouch, that must hurt). Last I check, nobody cares where JK Rowling does her hair. Harry Potter groupies are just waiting for that day when that nerd loses his virginity to a wookie.

Okay, okay, let's get back to the story. Please Remember This is a beautifully written story that only gets to its destination sometime around the late third of the story. For too long it's either a travelogue to a beautiful, idyllic place or a celebration of country bumpkin ignorance starring the biggest bumpkin of them all, Tess Lanier. She doesn't like her birth name, neither do I, and we won't mention it here.

Her mother is Nina, who committed suicide, they say, after seeing her lover Dave Samson with his new girl. Tess is raised by two stern grandparents and spends her life whining that she is not her mother. Of course not. One look at drab, boring, timid Tess and one may mistakes her for a drowned rat, but never the glorious, defiant Nina Lane who is punished for her sins. Dave calls her one day, though, and asks her about her mother's book contract.

"No idea," is basically Tess' answer.

Dave asks her to call up a lawyer.

"No idea." Tess calls one up anyway (Daniel supplies the list of lawyer contact numbers).

Next thing you know, Tess is very, very rich thanks to Momma's books. Woo-hoo! Orgies! Mardi Gras! New Orleans! Harem in Tahiti! Private strip club! "I have no idea what to do," Tess wonders aloud. Still, she decides to be Miss Kitty of the Gunsmoke shows her grandpa loved (don't ask) and heads back to her mother's hometown Fleur-de-lis in Kansas.

There she meets historian Ned Ravenal, the latest in a long line of open, friendly, and happy people who always are there to give a city gal a rescue fantasy her $6.99 can buy. Ned has a brother, Phil, a slick politician who seems to be close to getting Tess, but this love triangle is ruined by the back cover blurb, which tells me right away that Ned is the one for Tess. A pity, as Phil is a nice guy too, and a love triangle maybe provide some genuine urgency to this story. Let's douse the idiot who wrote that blurb with honey and drop him into a pit filled with rabid Care Bears.

Ned is supervising the excavation of an old riverboat, The Western Settler, which also happens to the riverboat Nina was fascinated with when she was alive. Maybe her unfinished work The Riverboat Fragment is based on that boat? Actually, it's based on more than that, and soon Tess will embark on a soul-searching that will also put the ghosts of her past to rest.

For too long, though, Please Remember This has clueless Tess stumbling around wide-eyed in bewilderment all over Fleur-de-lis. In fact, when people are talking, her mind is wandering, not even paying attention. Daydreamy and mousy is one thing, chronic shyness another, but Tess is skirting close to roadkill territory here. Her relationship with Ned is another bummer. No doubt if given time and space, these two may fall in love. But the author rushes their relationship, causing it to feel forced and contrived. Ned and Tess are tacked on when it comes to their snogging.

But I do cry at the last few chapters, where Tess finally opens her eyes and thinks for once. She has to finally face her own insecurities and make peace with the memory of her mother. How that is done is an incredible reading experience. This is my first book by this author, but if she has written the way she did in the last few chapters, I'd be raiding the bookstores for her backlist by now.

Please Remember This is a very well-written book that even at its slowest, still manages to draw a sigh from me. It's too bad that I am more enchanted with the genealogy and the scenery than the main characters. Tess would have been a well-rounded, more sympathetic character if she isn't so... well, clueless, and Ned is pretty much a stock trophy character for our heroine. The romance is quite blah, but there are times when Please Remember This is almost magical.

Rating: 86


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