Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Goodbye, My Love - paranormal romance through the eyes of a cynic

Greetings, commies and lovers and kinky nannies!

Today's spotlight is on Maggie Tideswell, a South African romance author and her latest release Goodbye, My Love. As you all know, I am the most unwholesome, twisted soccer mommy in Connecticut, and I find something ugly about everything beautiful thing. I also find something beautiful about every ugly thing. In fact, pretty-ugly things are my favorite things in this world. I like ambiguity and uncertainty, room for dirty fantasies and doubt.  But how ambivalent can be a novel in such a seemingly straightforward genre as romance?

Jessica James needs a new job and her only prospect as a nanny is with a remotely located veterinarian who only wants a “mature” candidate. But youthful Jess has faced tougher challenges, and she is determined to show the very handsome yet rude widower that she is the perfect choice to care for his autistic 4-year-old daughter, no matter how much he scowls.

Dr. Ben Arnold is still grieving, and not only about the recent death of his beautiful wife. He is still coping with the knowledge his profound love for her was unreciprocated. The demands of working and taking care of Amber, his autistic young daughter, have Ben overwhelmed and the last thing he needs is an insanely strong physical reaction to a nanny who is the first to seem to connect with his beloved delicate daughter – and the last he thinks he can handle in his life.

Jess is an unseasonal storm to suddenly sweep through Ben’s life, and may be the balm he needs. While strange occurrences all around them defy answers and explanations, the unexpected arrival of Ben’s late wife’s sisters, including her identical twin, on the one-year anniversary of her death does nothing to help dispel the intense and instant desire between Jess and Ben – and Jess’ glimpses of a life long past only adds to the surreal sense of the estate called Weltevreden.

My thoughts:
They say behind every cynic there is a frustrated romantic, and I guess, the same is true in the reverse. I got a free advance copy of this novel, and even though it's labeled as a paranormal romance, I read it through the prism of my own cynicism and misanthropy. My impression is that the author Maggie Tideswell is mocking some of the traditional tools that romance authors employ to solicit an immediate emotional reaction from the reader. There's nothing like a widowed dad seeking a caregiver for his daughter Amber who also happens to be autistic (and blonde, and beautiful, and ethereal). You have the main ingredients for a classic tear jerker. But it's also how you mix them and how you present them that affects the overall impression. There are subtle clues in her narrative that suggest that the author might be mocking the genre itself. The very title Goodbye, My Love borders on tongue-in-cheek. Her choice of profession for her male protagonist Ben is also interesting. He is a veterinary surgeon, so he spends his days serving the needs of creatures who are non-verbal. I am not comparing an autistic child to an animal - I'd get crucified for it. But I can see the parallel between the way he interacts with his animal patients and the way he interacts with his child. Also, I know firsthand that veterinarians are often socially awkward and have trouble communicating with fellow human beings. Ben certainly does not come across as suave or even civil in the beginning of the novel, when Jess, a vocationally frustrated young woman, comes to interview for a nanny position. He greets her with a few rude comments regarding her age and - gasp - a boner. In a way, their interaction reminds me of that of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. The lovemaking scenes, I must remark, are very traditional. Do not expect anything kinky. Eventually, Dr. Ben Arnold melt and evolves (or devolves?) into a traditional romantic leading man with bronzed muscles, even though his breath smells of whiskey and cigarettes. Being a sadistic pervert, I would have liked to see more bondage and S&M and dirty talk. But then again, I am not a typical romance reader. If you like more tame, traditional romance novels with just a touch of black pepper on your vanilla scoop, Goodbye, My Love is for you. 

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