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Friday, September 29, 2006

***** Home by Starlight by Jerri Corgiat. Contemporary romance.


Home by Starlight is the 4th in this series of romances set in small town Cordelia, Missouri, about the O'Malley clan.

You don't have to read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one, but they're not to be missed, either, and you might as well read them in order.

Patsy Lee O'Malley's husband died, leaving her with a pile of debt, three kids, and another on the way. His family, headed by the very loving and very forceful Zinnia, rode to their rescue, but she's been doing her best to stand on her own ever since.

Which is a little hard to do when she breaks her ankle.

In true O'Malley family fashion, a family meeting is held, and Zinnia and eldest daughter Lil decide what's to be done: they rope Zeke Townley into moving in with Patsy Lee to help out, Zeke being at loose ends anyway.

Zeke's the best friend and former bandmate of Lil's husband Jon, and since the band, er... disbanded, he's become more and more dissatisfied. He ended his long-term, but casual relationship with his sister's friend because he wanted more.

There's so much going on in this story, emotion-wise, but it's primarily about needs and expectations and independence. Everyone thinks they know what's wrong with Zeke and Patsy Lee, and everyone thinks they know what's best for them. Nobody, however, really bothers to ask them. So in the name of affection, Zinnia and Lil in particular, simply take charge and arrange things as they think best.

Zeke helping out at Patsy Lee's house is a very mixed blessing for them both. The proximity and getting to know each other better definitely increases their attraction, but neither believes the other is interested. Patsy Lee, used to doing everything on her own, sees every change Zeke makes as criticism, and her forced inactivity makes her even more irritable.

Hmmm. Better stop before I simply retell the whole story. Patsy Lee and Zeke are, in a nutshell, real. Their characters are complex, and their problems are the natural result of the combination of character and circumstance. I love how Zeke both supports and challenges Patsy Lee--my definition of a great relationship. And I love how each has something the other needs.

The children, well, I normally say children don't belong in romances, but these kids are realistic and an integral part of the story. They break my heart, particularly the older two, but they're great.

Mostly, I'm thrilled with an over-40 couple being portrayed so sympathetically and convincingly. It's so refreshing that, while Patsy Lee and Zeke are definitely grown-ups, they're not comfortably settled; they don't have all the answers; they're still learning and growing.

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