Wednesday, June 20, 2012

After the Storm by Janet Dailey

"You are still legally my wife," Rad pointed out bluntly. "All I'm asking is that you resume those duties once more."

Lainie stared at him. What a fool she had been not to accept his previous offer. But that refusal had been dictated by her pride, and now need had replaced pride.

What frightened Lainie was that she still loved him. She was beginning to wonder if she had ever stopped!

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**Warning: Contains Mild Spoilers**

This book runs high on emotions, mostly stormy ones, and does it pretty well. The basic scenario is fairly stereotypical - married couple that's been separated for several years is suddenly brought back together, first by a chance meeting at a concert, and then more deliberately due to her mother's illness. They fight and snarl at one another, but also have moments that show they clearly still get along quite well in some ways at least, and it's made clear that she still loves him, but he doesn't seem to love her - and so it goes until eventually they have their tear-filled and oh-so-touching happily ever after at the end when they finally admit/discover that they both love the other one and always have. (Apologies if that's rather spoilery, but isn't really all that spoilery since that's pretty much how every book of this sort plays out.)

Lainie is a young woman who's shouldering some pretty large responsibilities in caring for her terminally ill mother while also trying to keep a roof over their head and food on the table and the doctors and hospital at least nominally paid. It's plain to see from the start that the strain is steadily taking its toll on her and that she's likely headed for a breakdown at some point if things don't change. And change does come fairly soon when she runs into Rad at a concert and all of her dormant feelings for him are brought suddenly back to life, chiefly her lingering resentful anger at him from before, but also a wildfire attraction to him that hasn't died. From then on it's a stormy, bumpy ride through the rest of the book, with Lainie going through the whole gamut of emotions from buoyant happiness to flaming rage to abject despair. In many ways, the emotional roller coaster, or at least the various situations that bring it about, is all pretty predictable and cliched, but the writing is good enough to make them all believable, and to make it easy to get caught up on the roller coaster along with her as you read through it.

In contrast to Lainie's fairly developed character, and that of some of her friends, Rad is never really developed beyond the stereotype of the overbearing and autocratic rich man who's used to giving orders and having them obeyed. With only a few exceptions, his attitude toward Lainie is sarcastic at best, coldly cruel at worst, and rarely lends much credence to the knowledge that he must really love her despite his callous treatment of her. Thus, when we finally see his facade crack at the very end when the truth that we've known all along finally comes out, it seems fairly abrupt and uncharacteristic. While he's never quite made the villain of the piece, neither is he often a very convincing hero of it either.

The emotions in this book, and the author's skill in getting you caught up in them, is the main thing to recommend it. Without those, this would be a fairly trite and very predictable story that would probably be more than a little cheesy. The vivid characterizations, and the volatile emotions rescue it from that fate though, and so I'd recommend this to anyone who's a fan of this type of book.

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