All I want is forever
Am I asking too much
Asking for all your love forever
“All I Want Is Forever” (1988)
Lynn Emery’s third novel for Harper Collins shares its title with the 1988 duet by Regina Belle and J.T. Taylor (formerly of Kool and the Gang).
It is the story of Talia Marchand and Derrick Guillory, two close friends who grew up amidst difficult circumstances in Rougon, a small town in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Talia and her siblings grew up in a series of foster homes while her drug-addicted mother tried unsuccessfully to turn her life around. Derrick and his siblings were raised in an atmosphere of domestic violence. Talia and Derrick were drawn together as kindred spirits. They became best friends and later, lovers.
Educational opportunities provided Talia a means of escape from shame, poverty and her mother’s reputation. She seized her chance to leave and only occasionally looked back on “Mama Rose,” the kindly foster mother who provided stability in her otherwise chaotic life. When the novel begins, Talia has established a successful career as a political consultant in Washington, D.C.
Derrick has chosen to remain in Louisiana, where he is a private investigator. He often handles cases for the Pointe Coupee district attorney’s office. Derrick and Talia are thrown together when he is sent to Washington to get help from her firm on advocating for sentencing reform in Louisiana. Their reunion is bittersweet. They are still attracted to each other but drawn apart by the different paths their lives have taken - and her decision to leave Louisiana. The chasm is widened by Derrick’s support for her mother’s case as an illustration of abuses in the state’s mandatory sentencing laws. It opens old memories Talia has worked hard to put behind her.
Talia’s vow of never returning to Rougon is overtaken by Mama Rose’s illness. She is determined to look after her foster mother and quickly return to her life in Washington. But Derrick, a reconciliation with her brother, and her conflicting feelings about her mother pull at her. Derrick and Talia resume a relationship both know will end when she returns to Washington.
All I Want is Forever is, in my opinion, Lynn Emery’s best work. It draws upon her experience as a social worker to examine the impact of the foster care system and domestic violence upon children. It also explores flaws in the criminal justice and child welfare systems and in truth-in-sentencing programs. However, the author’s look at these social programs does not overshadow the romance between the two main characters. Nor does it diminish the unsolved mystery subplot.
The relationship between Derrick and Talia is credible and emotionally charged as the two grapple with the repercussions the past and present have on any possible future they may have together. All I Want is Forever, like my other favorite Lynn Emery romances - Sweet Mystery and One Love - is stronger because of the main characters’ shared history. The author does not have to waste time and space establishing the parameters of their relationship and is free to develop her story. As in all Lynn Emery novels, the Louisiana landscape, political corruption, dysfunctional families and class distinction provide an interesting backdrop.
Most of the secondary characters provide basic support for the main characters. However, Talia’s mother is an overwhelming character whose compelling story and presence steal every scene she is in. The author wisely gives the character her space but reigns her in so she does not overpower the novel.
All I Want is Forever combines all the best elements of Lynn Emery’s work in her best work to date.