by Lori Wilde, contemporary (2010)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-180890-6
The True Love Quilting Club advances Lori Wilde's agenda to conquer the hearts of sweet grandmothers and Precious Memories figurine collectors everywhere. With its clichéd small town sentiments coating every page like turpentine, this is going to be a tough read for those with low tolerance for sugar in their stories.
You are going to find the synopsis very familiar, I believe. Indeed, this story is made up of all the overused tropes associated with small town fiction. Get your checklist and pencil ready because this is going to be fun.
We have Emma Parks, our heroine who finally comes home to Twilight after too many futile years in New York trying to pursue a career at Broadway. After a few TV commercials and some off-Broadway plays, her pursuit of stardom culminates with her kneeing a hotshot Broadway producer in the you-know-where when he wants her to play the casting couch. Down to her last cent and kicked out by her apartment-mates for being a nuisance, she soon finds her way back in Twilight to act in some local production. She's a bit of a loser when it comes to pursuing fame. Her birth name is Trixie Lynn Parks, and she changed it legally into the more boring Emma Parks! Shouldn't it be the other way around? And she doesn't seem to understand that if you want instant fame nowadays, you get on a reality TV show and start cavorting with fellow desperate wannabes. No wonder she's going back to Twilight with her tail between her legs.
Naturally, her first love, Sam Cheek, is waiting in the wings. He's a veterinarian. He was married to a woman who was more of a good friend than a passionate darling (this book insists that the first person you fall in love with is your true love). He married Valerie mostly because she was called to serve in Iraq and she had no one to care for her son Charlie. Sam married her, therefore, and adopted Charlie. Valerie went to serve the military in Iraq and died in the line of duty, causing poor Charlie to regress into silence ever since.
Emma and Sam quickly bump into each other shortly after she returns to Twilight. He is confident that she won't stay, while Emma is still not sure of what she wants in life, so they merely skirt carefully around their attraction. But because Emma is afraid of dogs and she needs to get used to being around a canine who will be sharing the stage with her, she has a good excuse to go to Sam for advice on handling those canine fools. Ms Wilde somehow knows that my weakness is dogs, so she uses this excuse to put some really cute dogs in this story. She's not playing fair, hmmph!
The people of Twilight are of course amazing. They welcome Emma with open arms and make her feel like she belongs for the first time in her life. They are also obsessed with matchmaking and telling Emma that she is "one of them". Emma will eventually realize that she loves acting but she is not cut out for the fame game, while conveniently enough a top producer - one of those constantly traveling around the country to attend barn productions in romance novels - decides to give her a starring role in his movie. And yes, the play is a historical one, because in romance novels, no other movies or plays exists (just like how the only music in romance novels is rock and roll, never anything else).
Oh, and Emma will get Charlie to open up, of course.
There is nothing unexpected or unusual here, I'm afraid. Still, the author tries to make this story palatable to folks who happen to swing a little to the left where political beliefs are concerned. Emma may decide to give up her pursuit of a career, but she is also allowed to keep at it as Sam is willing to compromise for love. Emma isn't a natural mother and wife material - in fact, there is something very real about her lack of confidence when it comes to dealing with Charlie. Therefore, if you don't like apple pie stories and you happen to buy this book for your Great-Aunt Rachel, it's okay if you accidentally read this book - it won't be fatal, really. Speaking of fatal, do be careful when you let your Great-Aunt Rachel read this book: the love scene in this book may be mild to me, but it may cause someone used to tame fare by Debbie Macomber and such to experience a culture shock.
While the story is pretty lacking in terms of offering anything new to the reader, it's actually a pretty entertaining read. The ending chapters are way too saccharine for my liking, but I suspect that many readers - the same ones who buy books by Debbie Macomber - will have no problems going with the flow. I have to admit, I feel a lump in my throat when I come across that scene in which Charlie finally speaks. The author also allows Emma to have some poignant soul searching during her stay in Twilight. I find Emma's journey a little too heavy handed and even sentimental, but I appreciate the author's effort to give Emma some depths and complexity instead of resting her laurels and letting Emma become a stereotypical one-dimensional poster girl for some small town "Give up your dreams; just get married because you'll be happier as a wife and mother!" propaganda.
The True Love Quilting Club is not a bad read, just a story that I have read many times before. Because of the overwhelming sense of familiarity in this book, I suspect that I won't remember much of it a few days down the road.
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