Matt's Family by Lynnette Kent
(Harl. Super. #938, $4.50, G) ISBN 0-373-70938-2
*
The prologue of Matt's Family is a real attention-getter: A military man named Matt Brennen has been presumed dead for the past five years. He returns home to find that his fiancée Kristen has borne his child, but much to his shock and hurt, she has also married his brother. Sounds like a page turner, doesn't it?

After reading the prologue, your mind begins plotting all the various ways this situation will work itself out. How will Matt and the heroine Kristen get back together? What will happen to the brother Luke? Curiously you turn the page to Chapter One and...Matt and Kristen are married and Luke has remarried another woman. (Huh?) Aren't the unmentioned events that occur between the prologue and the first chapter what the plot of Matt's Family revolves around? What could there possibly be left to read about?

Unfortunately, nothing. The prologue is the entire plot. What happens from there on out is simply a lot of crying on the heroine's part (at least every five pages and usually more often than that), a lot of self-blame on Matt's part (although I never did figure out what he had done wrong to blame himself about), and the unfolding of melodramatic event after melodramatic event.

It is arguable that what the author intends for the story line of Matt's Family to consist of is how the Brennens come to terms with all that has happened in between the prologue and the first chapter. Unfortunately, the reader is told very little of how Kristen went from being married to Luke to becoming Matt's wife. The result is that the remainder of the novel revolves around...nothing.

Matt has a shaky relationship with his daughter Erin. Does the story line revolve around gradually bringing them closer together? When the duo rarely speaks to each other until the epilogue, the answer is no. Matt and Kristen have a barely intact marriage. Does the story line seek to remedy that situation into romantic bliss? When no serious overtures are made on the part of either protagonist until the final scene of the final chapter, the answer is no.

So what is Matt's Family about? As previously stated, a lot of crying on the heroine's part, a lot of self-blame on the hero's part, and a lot of melodramatic events that keep the protagonists from discussing the problems they are having in their relationship. From a runaway dog, to the chicken pox, to a ruptured spleen, (and so on and so on), all sorts of events happen to keep the hero and heroine from focusing on their relationship. By the time Matt's mother is hospitalized with pneumonia, I could only roll my eyes.

On top of having no plot, a weepy heroine, and enough dismal events to comprise a modern day Shakespearean tragedy, Matt's Family is also depressing. Nothing in the way of upbeat happens until the last four pages of the novel. Most readers, however, would have given up and closed the book long before then.

--Tina Engler


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