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Gentle Yearning by Rochelle Alers
(Genesis Press, $10.95, PG-13) ISBN 1-885478-24-0
****
"When a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall pay her marriage price and marry her. Exodus 22:16

One of these days, I'm going to ask Rochelle Alers why each of her novels begins with a Biblical quotation. Gentle Yearnings begins with an appropriate quote from the Old Testament.

Daniel Clinton was Rebecca McDonald's first lover. She was 18 when they met; he was 22. She was a college student. He was a New York City policeman. On her 19th birthday they became lovers. A year later, she proposed. He refused and they parted as friends. They never forgot the love they shared.

"...from the first time their coming together was passionate and erotic. She wanted marriage and a family, but he didn't. Not as long as he was a police officer. During his short tenure on the force he had attended three funerals, calmly observing the reactions of the grieving widows and their children. The images of their stricken faces haunted him in his sleep. This was not the image he wanted for Rebecca. But she did eventually marry, not to him, but it was to a cop."

Rebecca dated and married his partner, Michael Williams, several years later. Daniel, Michael and Rebecca remained very close friends. When the Williams' marriage began, Daniel was at Michael's side. When the Williams' marriage ended Michael was shot to death while on an undercover assignment Daniel was at Rebecca's side.

Gentle Yearnings opens at Michael's funeral. Shortly after her husband's death, Rebecca learns she is pregnant. Daniel, who has left the police force and runs his own company, makes good on a promise to Michael to take care of Rebecca "if anything should happen." He offers to marry her and raise her child. After nearly two decades, he is finally prepared to pay her marriage price.

"They were words she wanted to hear when she was twenty; she was now hearing at thirty-six. She had waited eighteen years -- eighteen years. It had taken him eighteen years from the first time she was introduced to him for Daniel Albert Clinton to ask her to be his wife. Now when she carried another man's child in her womb. Now when she had someone who would keep her from every being alone again. Now even though she still loved him, but did not need him."

It's no secret I like Rochelle Alers category-type romances. They are pleasant stories, good reads that are a welcome break from the rough-and-tumble action in the Hideaway series novels. Daniel and Rebecca are likeable characters in a sometimes predictable story. Although there are some surprises, plot twists and a few cute read-between-the-line scenes.

I liked the honest interaction between the main characters. Daniel and Rebecca have remained close friends throughout the course of her marriage to Michael. There is no lusting from afar between them, despite their romantic history. Rochelle Alers has presented an adult story about one woman who can love (and be loved) by two very different men in two very different (and basically satisfying ways). Flashbacks at the beginning of the novel help explain her relationship with both men.

The interplay between Daniel and Rebecca intrigued me. While they haven't grown apart, each has grown up. He hasn't changed drastically. However, Rebecca is no longer a 19-year-old college coed. She's a 36-year-old woman with life experiences he must respect. They are both mature adults and it is interesting to watch Rebecca remind Daniel in some not-so-subtle ways. As they get reacquainted, there are conflicts and insecurities to be resolved.

After Alers' dysfunctional Diaz-Cole clan, it is also refreshing to have main characters who get along with their parents!

On the down side, there were two potentially pleasant secondary romances and allegations that Michael Williams was a dirty copy that weren't fully explored to my liking. That said, Gentle Yearnings is a satisfying story about second chances that's worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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