Thursday, October 30, 2008

Silhouette Romance Then and Now

Last Friday afternoon I was looking for something to read over the weekend. Since I had a lot to do and had to work on Sunday, I wanted something quick and light. I grabbed two Silhouette romances off of the spin racks. Navy Wife by Debbie Macomber is a reissue of a 1988 release, and
The Guardian by Linda Winstead Jones came out in May of this year. I have never read anything by Macomber and her Navy series is very popular, so I figured that would be a good place to start. I’d read Jones’ entry into the Raintree trilogy and really liked it, so I figured her romantic suspense would be good as well. What I hadn’t counted on was how glaring a difference there would be between a category romance published twenty years ago and one published a couple of months ago. Though I enjoyed both stories, I had a few frustrations with Navy Wife that I think had much more to do with the age of the book than any lack of skill on the author’s part.

Silhouette Then: Marrying a man in uniform

Macomber’s heroine, Lindy Kyle, is just about 22 years old when the story opens. Having just graduated from college, Lindy has come to live with her brother in Seattle. Armed with a degree in computer science, she is looking for a job and a place to get over being dumped by her fiancĂ©. This is the first thing that brought me up short: engaged to be married before graduating from college? What was the kid thinking? But then again, in 1988, that was a little more common. Also, heroines Lindy’s age were more common too. Nowadays I am used to seeing women who are older and have careers populating the pages of romance novels, but this is relatively new. But back to Lindy. Her brother Steve is a naval officer who shares an apartment with another naval officer. Since both are supposed to be at sea for awhile, Steve sees no problem with Lindy crashing at his place while she looks for a job and an apartment. As these things go in Romanceland, the roommate, Rush Callaghan, ends up back on land unexpectedly. He finds Lindy in her pajamas in his apartment and promptly concludes that she is some scheming hussy out to take advantage of his newly divorced friend. These wild leaps of illogic punctuate the entire novel, and are the main source of tension between Lindy and Rush. Granted, both are damaged from previous bad relationships, but at times I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking “Oh, come on, people!” Lindy often just came off as immature, but Rush, at 32, should really have known better. And that’s another throwback feature: the older more, experienced man and the younger, more innocent heroine. Fortunately, Lindy is no dummy and has plenty of backbone, so she never becomes the clichĂ©d sweet little woman letting the older wiser alpha-male run the show. Rush, while a little harder to get to know, is occasionally high-handed but not overbearing, and his actions are in keeping with his character and his life as a career naval officer.

Overall, I liked this book, even though I got hung up on some of the “old-fashioned” elements. Macomber has the ability to create believable, likeable characters; even when their behavior makes you groan, you are still rooting for them. I can understand why she has such a huge fan base. When I finished the book, I couldn’t help but think, “How cool would it be to see a new addition to this series, one set in 2008 and featuring, say, a female Annapolis grad dating a single father?” Could that scenario be made into a sweet, believable love story? One that would show the new stresses of military family life as well as Macomber demonstrated the more traditional ones in her older books? There may be some of those out there that I just haven’t found yet, but I’d still love to see Debbie Macomber tackle it, because I am sure she would do it justice.

Next up: Silhouette Now – A small town mayor meets a bad boy from her past!

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