Everything She’s Ever Wanted
by Mary J. Forbes
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1702, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24702-8
****
A little sentiment, a little heart, a little angst, a lot of sexual tension and many well-written characters make Everything She’s Ever Wanted an enjoyable romantic tale. The downside is the few nagging questions that remain despite some rather implausible explanations. But it is still a good reading experience.

Breena Quinlan is a recently divorced social worker/therapist from San Francisco who is in the middle of a bit of a mid-thirties crisis. Her husband of ten years had been sleeping with her sister and when she got pregnant, he dumped Breena, who is unable to have children. She has decided to move to Misty River, Oregon with her Aunt Paige to get her life together and try to decide what she really wants to do with her life. She has become partners with Aunt Paige in her little shop that sells tourists and locals knickknacks, homemade goods and a variety of other artsy items.

Seth Tucker is a local. He grew up in the infamous Tucker clan, where Ma Tucker got tired of being beaten, and killed Pa Tucker. Seth’s two older brothers (one a lawyer and one a sheriff) were old enough to be on their own. Seth, however, was put into the foster care system and has never forgotten it. Meeting a therapist who used to do child and family therapy for Child Protective Services makes him a little edgy, but he agrees to do some work for her. He is a contractor and builder.

Seth has his own complicated personal life. His ex-wife is Melody Owens, the daughter of the rich car dealer in town. He and Melody had to marry and now share a beautiful daughter, Hallie. Because of their differences in power and money, the divorce went all Melody’s way, along with custody of Hallie. Seth is a weekend dad, but wishes he were more. Melody is the least well-drawn character – she is, to put it simply, a loose woman who is so insecure she is actually starting to compete with her 15-year-old daughter. This behavior is an embarrassment to Hallie, who is turning to her dad for help.

The stage is set for romance. Seth invites Breena to move into the apartment above his garage when he discovers she is living in the storage room behind the store. (Nagging question number 1 – why doesn’t Breena live with her aunt rather than the store? Explanation: she wants to be independent.) Once Breena moves in, they are attracted and they develop a friendship. As Hallie begins to spend more time with Seth, Breena and she also become good friends.

The story is really about this set of relationships building and growing. Seth is ready to move into a relationship, but doesn’t want anything to mess things up with Hallie, now that she finally wants to spend time with him. He is caring and yet suffers from angst over the path his life has taken. He is now ready to fight Melody, which he didn’t do before.

(Nagging question #2 – why didn’t his lawyer brother help him in the first custody battle and why did he wait so long to try again? Explanation: no real reason given besides Seth’s insecurity.)

Breena is a strong independent woman who has been dealt a raw deal. But what I really liked about her is that she accepted that part of the problem was hers. She should have realized her husband was having an affair. She should have realized they were not so close anymore. She is willing to accept that there were two people in that marriage and neither person contributed to its success. How refreshing! Rather than wallow in self-pity, she accepts she is hurt and needs to move on.

Hallie is a teenager with depth. The author clearly shows us her thinking and she is a typical bundle of uncertainty and child-like needs, yet she is trying to be mature and grow into an adult. Her issues seem real and add to the strength of the story.

Melody is the one sour point. She is a caricature rather than a flesh and blood person. If she is such a horrid mother, why don’t the townspeople see her that way? This is nagging question #3 – If she is as bad as she is made out to be, why does she still have a good reputation in such a small town? Explanation: none really given.

Despite these nagging questions, the strength of the three main characters keep the reader invested and the story moving along at an even pace. The romance between Seth and Breena seems realistic. Their attraction is based on friendship as well as lust. They are adults and recognize the consequences of their actions at all times. When Hallie has a need, they easily put their feelings aside, as any true mature parent and adult would do.

Everything She’s Ever Wanted isn’t everything a romance story should be, but it is close. Just don’t think too hard about the nagging questions and you will enjoy the tale.

--Shirley Lyons


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