Forever After
by Kimberley White, contemporary (2004)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-470-6


There are some well-done sentimental moments in in Kimberley White's Forever After, but it's just too bad that the author chooses to add in a bunch of unrealistic cardboard villains that sends the story skidding right off the track straight to the Land Where Everything Doesn't Make Much Sense. Oh, and a little variation in names wouldn't hurt. I often find it too easy to confuse the hero Davan with his uncle David while "Jova and Davan - true love forever" sounds a little too much like a special new brew at Starbucks to me.

Salon owner Jova Parker doesn't have much luck with men. Her car is wrecked in an accident and her now ex-boyfriend Herman has the nerve to sue for damages related to the accident. Bye, bye scum boyfriend! Unfortunately for Jova, the mechanic fixing her car, Davan Underwood, looks like one lean love machine himself and she's tempted to forget why she's given up men in her life. Love will have to fight with other matters vying for their attention though. Jova is besieged by a nasty business rival as well as by Herman. Davan has to deal with his beloved uncle David who is dying slowly but surely.

Ms White has created a very poignant - if sometimes too heavy-handed and sentimental - relationship between Davan and David. David is obviously the Sage Dying Old Man With Lots Of Wise Words character designed to be matchmaker and tearjerker all in one, but Ms White manages to make Davan's reaction to David's fading health very real and sometimes painful to follow. David won't be the most realistic character around, but Davan comes off as a pretty real character thanks to his interactions with David. Davan's patient and determined courtship of Jova, who predictably has no time for men and romance blah blah blah, only makes him an even more appealing character who is just crying out for some love and reassuring comfort from a good woman.

On the other hand, I find it hard to care for Jova because she comes off like a stereotypical heroine-in-distress. There's nowhere in this story that explains to me why she put up with Herman in the first place, unless Ms White wants me to assume that Jova is just plain dumb when it comes to men. Herman is just plain nasty. In the meantime, the Jealous Woman is a painful caricature of everything ugly about female villains and is even worse than Herman. Jova's story and her conflicts come off like some unfunny and shrill one-dimensional adventures of a dim-witted heroine trapped in the land of Skankville. Compared to Davan's well-done Hallmark channel tearjerker story, Jova comes off really poorly thanks to her stereotypical whine and cheese personality and her interactions with cardboard villains that are designed just to create conflict without any consideration as to how bad the heroine comes off for even interacting with these villains in the first place.

In conclusion, Forever After could have been a satisfying Hallmark-quality soap opera if the author chooses to focus on Davan, David, and Jova alone. But perhaps for the need of some conflict, Ms White also adds in ill-advised cardboard villains, along with some sequel-bait clutters, resulting in a story that comes off as mostly artificial and contrived. Some of this story feels real, but most of everything else don't.

Rating: 74


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