Briar Rose

Magic

The Mother's Day Garden

 
Lighthouse Cove by Kimberly Cates
(Pocket, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7434-1887-5
**
After finishing Lighthouse Cove, I wondered if a shot of insulin might be in order. Now I like sweets; I even like sweet stories. But this book was so unbearably sweet that I felt in danger of going into shock. Too bad, because it has one of my favorite plots, the reunion of two lovers whom fate has torn apart.

“Jack” Murphy is a renowned photojournalist who has come to Lighthouse Cove in Maine to fulfill the last wish of her partner. Ziggie Bartolli had died while the two were covering a nasty little revolt in Africa. As he died in Jack’s arms, he made her promise to finish the book of photos of his favorite place in all the world, a century old lighthouse. Jack would rather be just about any place else than on the beautiful coast of Maine, staying in a lighthouse.

We know that Jack is brilliant at her job, but lousy at her personal life. We learn that nine years ago a young and enthusiastic Jack had fallen in love with a handsome veterinary student. We also learn that after two wondrous weeks of love, something had happened to separate the two. We realize that Jack has never gotten over her lost love. And we’re pretty sure that said lost love is going to turn up at the lighthouse door.

Ah, the inexplicable coincidence, the improbable turn of events that brings Tom Brownlow to the same place at the same time as his lost love. How nice that an author can make the improbable happen. Never mind; the plot required this unlikely turn of events.

Tom arrives one stormy night but not alone. With him is his eight and a half year old daughter, the unwitting cause of that long ago separation. Tom has brought Lucy to Lighthouse Cove because his daughter wants to see where her long missing mother spent her summers. The seeing is very important because Lucy is gradually going blind.

Jack would have cheerfully shown the pair the door, but that oh so convenient storm makes this impossible. So Tom and Lucy spend the night and when morning comes, Jack simply doesn’t have the heart to send Lucy away. She wants so much to be where her mother set the story she wrote, the story that is all the little girl has of her mother.

Predictable: that’s the word that immediately comes to mind in trying to characterize this story. Lucy predictably melts Jack’s heart. Tom and Jack predictably have never gotten over each other. Tom predictably has trouble with the dangers of Jack’s job. The predictable locals charm in predictable ways. Even the nature of the crisis that forces everyone to face the truth is completely predictable.

The hero and heroine are as predictable as the plot. Jack is tough on the outside, but hurting on the inside. Tom is the noble hero and devoted father who has done his duty at the cost of his own happiness. Neither is really all that interesting or unique.

Lucy is at the center of the story and her bravery in the face of the advancing darkness is just so moving and heartrending. Yes indeed, my heart was rended all right. Cates used every trick in her author’s bag to make the reader feel so sorry for little Lucy. Unfortunately, she created not a real child but rather a little doll.

All in all, Lighthouse Cove did not satisfy. Rather than providing real food for the soul, it offered the emptiness of artificial sweetener. And like saccharine, it left a less than pleasant aftertaste.

--Jean Mason


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