As part of Keishon’s TBR challenge 2009, I read a category romance: A Rose for Maggie by Kathleen Korbel, published in 1991. I have quite a lot to say about this book, not all about the story.
First off, the reason I have this book—and it took some effort, ordering it online from a used bookstore some years ago—was because it was lauded as a classic Silhouette Intimate Moments. With good reason. It also won the Rita for best long contemporary.
I used to want to write for Silhouette Intimate Moments. I started reading SIMs in the early 2000s, a few years before their demise, just as they were moving toward a very tight focus on romantic suspense and away from the more angsty family dramas of previous years. It was my favorite category line. I discovered authors such as Virginia Kantra, Karen Templeton, Lindsay Longford. Then SIMs went all RS all the time, and got renamed Silhouette Romantic Suspense (and Karen Templeton who always wrote family dramas moved to Silhouette Special Edition).
Anyway, getting far afield here. I did read one Korbel in 2003, Some Men’s Dreams, which was very well written, even if it didn’t fully convince me of the HEA. And I ordered this classic, A Rose for Maggie.
I’d assumed Maggie was the heroine’s name. It’s not. Maggie is the daughter of Allison, the heroine, and Maggie is six months old, with Down’s and a serious heart defect. We don’t know if she’ll make it past open-heart surgery. Allison (and Maggie) have been abandoned by Allison’s ex-husband who rejected the baby, and by Allison’s parents who have no interest in their daughter. So Allison is struggling on her own, with the help of Lucille—a woman who shows up whenever she’s needed in a way I found frankly puzzling (given that Lucille has two high-needs children of her own). Even if Lucille is a likable character.
There is a sense of grieving and sadness that pervades Allison’s point of view, and can be quite moving.
Anyway. Allison is an editor and Joe is her author (of children’s books), and they meet and fall in love rather quickly. I’m not entirely convinced about this falling in love, especially on Joe’s part, but I wonder if part of that is this was written eighteen years ago, and some of the assumptions and expectations are simply different. In fact, I kept noticing things that made the romance feel like it was not written today. Here’s my list:
- The point of view was not quite so tight. No headhopping or anything, and I enjoyed the looser point of view. But the occasional omniscient did appear.
- The hero and heroine aren’t together much in the opening third of the book. Though to be honest, I should read some of today’s categories to be sure that I’m right about this being a difference.
- Sex was very late in the book and the sex was very not-detailed. This isn’t a criticism but an observation! Again, I should probably see what SRS does now to really know how different this is.
- Language. Specifically, the words retarded and retardation. I have come to really dislike these words. This is no criticism of Korbel, because no doubt they were used back then, and I would have read it differently back then. (One cannot blame a book for being written in its time!) Nevertheless, as someone reading this in 2009, every time those words came on the page, I was jolted out of the story.
I did feel distanced from the book because of this sense of its being dated.
On top of that, I felt we visited and revisited the relationship issues of Joe and Allison too often. These revolved around Joe coming to terms with the idea of parenting Maggie and of the possibility of future Down’s children, and Allison’s fears of abandonment. It felt a little repetitive.
And yet I found the climax, where Allison and Joe discover exactly how they want to move forward with each other, and Maggie, very powerful. So definitely worth the read, despite all my chattering here.
It has a very heartwarming epilogue that I simply adored. But perhaps not for those who aren’t fond of happy-family epilogues a few years on. For the record, I’m an epilogue fan, though you need to keep them fairly tight.
So, that was January’s book!