Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Books: One That Made me Happy

Since I keep kvetching about the things that annoy me, I thought I would share one that made me happy. (Disclaimer: I actually do read more books that make me happy than don't, but some seem to call out for further discussion more than others). I started and finished Suzanne Brockmann's The Admiral's Bride yesterday. It's a Silhouette re-release, so it's a fairly quick read. (Especially if you stay up to finish it). I discovered Suzanne Brockmann through her Troubleshooters series and have been backtracking to the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series as they get re-released (or I find them on Paperback Swap). I don't want to spoil the plot too much for anyone so I will stick to the basics.

First - this is a combined mission - hence the heroine's entree, since women can't be SEAL's. (Sorry - there's a SEAL team also - forgot to mention that). One of the plot points is that many of the team members are concerned that one team member isn't really up to the task. The twist (if you will) is that it is not the girl they are all worried about. It's the titular Admiral. He's been behind a desk, he's too old, technology has changed (how they think he keeps getting promoted if he doesn't understand the technology no one really answers) and so on. And yes it's another broad cultural stereotype. But it's so nice to read a book where other than the brief, "You're who they sent?" moment - no one questions the female member's competence. (In fact she at one point is given credit for a little too much dedication, but that's far into the storyline).

Second, there is an age difference between our hero and heroine. Apparently Suzanne Brockmann got some pushback on this when it was first released (way back in 1999) because of this. Because the guy is 50 and we all know 50 is old and not heroic. (I present exhibit A - Mark Harmon. Brockmann said she imagined a Mel Gibson character. One reviewer suggested Harrison Ford.) And the heroine is not 50. She is 29.

And here's the thing. I may have an "Oh!" moment when I see a couple with a clear age difference (I'm working on it). But in the end, I know couples with age difference and they are wonderful together. As with so many things, just reading the stat one might think - ew - but in reality when you see it, it often makes sense. I know really immature people who are my chronological age who I wouldn't consider dating because they're too young. The story and the age difference are beautifully handled.

Note: For this third bit - I'm not spoiling major plot points, but I am going a little farther into the character development, so you may want to stop now.

Third, the hero in question had a long term relationship with a wonderful woman who died. And one of the things he struggles with is the fact that - while she died three years ago - she was the love of his life. So, how could he even be selfish enough to expect that he would ever fall in love again? Which I found a fascinating question. In our one true love society - when so many people are trying to find their first great love, is it fair for someone to expect that they could be two people's great love?

And then there is the question - can you fall in love again when you're still in love with the deceased partner? One of my favorite episodes of "Designing Women" was when Charlene was first dating Bill. His wife had died of cancer and he felt it wasn't fair for him to date other people because he was still in love with his wife. And Julia, who was a widow, invited him over for tea. She told him that when she had started dating Reese, he had said to her, "You just go right on loving [your husband], because I wouldn't have any respect for woman who stopped loving a man just because he was dead."

And this is all very timely since I had a conversation with someone over the weekend about this. There are people in my life who have died. And whether you believe they are angels in heaven or ghosts walking around or they have disappeared into the ether - I'm not ready to give them up. I still feel them in my life. I'm not letting them (or anyone living for that matter) hold me back. I have gotten to a place where I am no longer ruled by the grief their loss caused me. But I'm not giving them up. I am accepting that the way they are present for me has changed, and that's it. And really, that's plenty.

So, back to the book. As I stated, I thought this progression was very interesting, and - as with the rest - really wonderfully handled. So - I highly recommend this one.