Thursday, January 6, 2011

Love Triangles and Daisy Bellamy

Caveat: Those of you who loathe spoilers may want to skip this post if you haven’t yet read but plan to read Jennifer Haymore’s Tristan Family books or Julia London’s Summer of Two Wishes. I’m not reviewing these books, but I do mention them in a spoilerish manner.

I am not a fan of love triangles; I usually avoid them. I dropped off the Stephanie Plum bandwagon long ago. I’m talking about true triangles now, books where the hero or heroine has to make a choice and is genuinely pulled in two directions. There are a lot of second-banana characters in romance novels, some endearing and some villainous, who are there to add conflict but who are never real threats to the hero or heroine. If Gone with the Wind were really a romance, Scarlett would have been smarter and she and Rhett would have had their HEA. I think of Eloisa James’s Mayne, one of my favorite characters ever, but there’s never any doubt that Helene and Rees are the H/H in Your Wicked Ways. The fun is seeing how James is going to bring them together. The same thing holds true for another favorite of mine, Sherry Thomas’s Private Arrangements. I adored Freddy, but I never questioned that Gigi and Camden would be reconciled. Of course, my affection for the two not-heroes I mentioned accounts for the fact that the books where they are the true heroes, Pleasure for Pleasure (James) and His at Night (Thomas) rank high among my list of favorites. Still, I maintain that the books where I first encountered Mayne and Freddy are not truly love triangle books.

However, I admit that I have read—and doubtless will continue to read—some novels that do feature true triangles. Sometimes I read them because they are by an autobuy author, and sometimes I read them because they generate a lot of buzz and I feel compelled to check them out. Julia London’s Summer of Two Wishes falls in the first group. I started reading London more than a decade before SOTW, and even though I knew it was a love triangle, I couldn’t pass on a book by a favorite author. (Only vampires and serial killers lead me to that decision.) Even though Summer of Two Wishes ended the way I hoped, I have still waited impatiently for well over a year to see Wyatt, the “loser” in that triangle, get his HEA. (The wait will be over on February 25 when A Light at Winter’s End is released.) Jennifer Haymore’s A Hint of Wicked had many of my friends talking, and I was curious. I ended up fascinated by the book, but Garrett broke my heart. Of course, I had the see him get his HEA in A Touch of Scandal.  In a different genre,  Inara Scott hooked me on her YA series, Delcroix Academy, with the first book, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates despite an ending that I knew would generate Team Cam and Team Jack. (I’m leaning toward the latter.) None of these “books I have enjoyed even though they feature love triangles” prepared me for the most recent I read in this category, Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs.

Like a lot of Wiggs fans, I have read all the Lakeshore Chronicles and watched with fascination and sympathy as Daisy Bellamy grew from a young teen dealing with her parents’ divorce (Summer at Willow Lake) to a character faced with tough choices as a pregnant teenager (The Winter Lodge) to a young woman asserting her independence (Dockside) to a single mom struggling to balance college studies with other responsibilities (Snowfall at Willow Lake) to a photographer developing her skills (Fireside) to a working single mom (Lakeshore Christmas). Throughout all these books, Julian, the adrenalin junkie with a romantic soul, and Logan, the troubled, privileged kid turned sober, devoted father, have been part of Daisy’s story. I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader saying “Oh, please, no” when Wiggs ended Lakeshore Christmas with a Daisy-Julian-Logan cliffhanger proposal scene. Then, the next book was not Daisy’s book, but The Summer Hideaway with its focus on new characters. The Summer Hideaway was a good read, a four-star book for me, but ah, the agony of waiting until 2011 for Daisy’s book. Well, 2011 is here, and Marrying Daisy Bellamy (Mira) will be officially released on January 25.

Daisy Bellamy has grown up. A successful wedding photographer in Avalon, she has dreams of doing something bigger with her art. Her three-year-old son Charlie is a joy, the center of her life and her heart, but she still thinks about Julian Gastineaux, who has had a starring role in her dreams since she first met him. She’s pleased that Logan O’Donnell, an almost life-long friend and the father of her son, has settled in Avalon and become a hard-working businessman, a homeowner, and a father very much involved in Charlie’s life.

Julian Gastineaux is about to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He has received his first assignment, one that will challenge him on all levels. He’s also set to propose to Daisy.

I hesitate to say more for fear of spoilers. I’ll just say that I had given the possibilities of Daisy’s HEA considerable thought before I read this book. The romantic in me hoped she and Julian would end up together. The pragmatist said, “But think how good it would be for Charlie for his mom and dad to be together, and there are different kinds of love.” The writer thought that a new man for Daisy, who would choose to leave both Julian and Logan as just important parts of her past, would be different. But I never once imagined what Wiggs does with this triangle. I was totally surprised and totally engaged. I will say if I didn’t have the habit of reading the end first, I might not have finished this book. But knowing the payoff, I could endure the emotional roller coaster.

From Summer at Willow Lake on, I have been captivated by the Bellamys, their extended family, their friends, and their neighbors and looked forward to the next book. One of the strengths of the series is Wiggs’s ability to create a world that seduces her readers to enter this idyllic community filled with interesting, likeable people who struggle with real world issues but who find healing and happiness in Avalon. Small wonder that most of us are so eager to return. In the case of MDM, that strength in creating a full world also led to my one dissatisfaction with the book. It answers readers’ questions about the earlier cliffhanger scene. It fills in the backgrounds of Julian and Logan, allowing readers to understand more fully the men they became. A number of old friends make appearances, and I for one hope Sonnet’s story will be further developed in future books. But all of these pieces of the Avalon world, and the triangle itself, mean that the H/H actually have little time for the two of them. I wanted to see them together more. Therefore, I give Book 8 in the Lakeshore Chronicles 4.5 stars. I did find it lacking in this one area, but it was a memorable, engrossing read. And maybe I’ll be more willing to consider the next love triangle romance that comes my way.

Are you a Lakeshores Chronicles fan? Who do you want Daisy’s hero to be? How do you feel about love triangles in fiction?


TerriOsburn said...

The only Wiggs I've read - and I actually listened to it - is Snowfall at Willow Lake. Which I see is the fourth in the series. I did enjoy it and now I'm interested to read this new one. Think I'd enjoy it without reading all the books in between?

My next WIP is a love triangle, but it's as you say, there isn't going to be a big "Who will she choose?!" element to it. My biggest concern is how to handle the bachelor who doesn't win the girl since the plan is for him to eventually be the hero. :)

Janga said...

Terri, Wiggs provides enough details about the relationships to make the book work as a stand-alone novel. I think it's like EJ's Pleasure for Pleasure in that the story can be read and judged on its own merits, but there's a level of meaning there for readers who have watched the character arcs develop over several books that's not as fully available to new readers. Does that make sense?

And I love those faux triangles where the rejected lover, who is clearly marked for that status, gets his--or her--own HEA in a subsequent book. And the redeemed villains turned hero--I love those too.

TerriOsburn said...

Makes sense, Janga. I'll have to figure out if I can check out the previous books and get the full effect of Daisy's story. Maybe I could listen to a couple, I'll check the library.

I'd like to say my book is going to be a mystery who she'll choose. But then look how Sugar Daddy fired up the readers when Liberty didn't end up with who they wanted. LOL! Thank goodness I knew how that would turn out before I read the book!

Janga said...

I should have included Sugar Daddy in my post. It's a great example, but a couple of things saved me from being indignant that Liberty made the choice she did. First, I read the end first, so I was prepared. LOL Then, the book was as much women's fiction as romance, so my expectations were different anyway.

I'm sure I'll love your book, triangle or no--so long as the loser in book 1 gets an HEA in book 2. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Just so you know, when I send you my MS for a beta read, I'm holding the last two chapters back until you read the rest. :)

quantum said...

Terri! I didn't know that you had a sadistic streak. LOL

It reminds me of a Tony Hancock episode where he reads a thriller,only to find that the last page has been torn out!

I can't recall a triangle or polygonal relationship in romance that I have really enjoyed.
The married man/woman having an affair is probably most common, but strikes me as rather sordid and full of latent stress. Not a theme that I want to relax with.

Reading about all of these titles leaves me feeling that I am sinking in books. I just gotta learn to swim faster!

Having read most of the Virgin River books and become hooked, I'm quite attracted to series that build up communities. The Lakeside chronicles seem to be in that category so I will probably give Wiggs a whirl, when I can.

Another fascinating blog Janga.

I have now bought 'surfulater' to collect all my web info in one place (highly recommended software) and I have a very special spot for Just Janga. *smile*

Janga said...

That's cruel, Terri! LOL

Janga said...

Dear Q, you are so good for my ego. Thank you!

I do think you will enjoy Wiggs's Lakeshore Chronicles. Avalon is a different sort of place than Virgin River, but the books share the same warmth, sense of community, and collection of interesting and likeable characters.

irisheyes said...

I'm not a fan of triangles, Janga. I think it is because I have such a hard time myself making a decision or choosing one way or the other in my own life that being thrown into that situation vicariously in my reading would just stress me out too much! LOL

I did love Sugar Daddy, though. I was definitely okay with the decision she made. I had no problems with it. I guess I wouldn't like it if the author doesn't make me believe that the 2 that end up together definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt belong together. A lot of times that is hard to do when you don't have one of the contenders turn out to be a real villain. So, an author who can pull it off is, most likely, extremely good at what they do (ie. Lisa Kleypas).

I've read the first 3 or 4 Lakeshore Chronicles from Wiggs but dropped off and haven't read the last couple (probably for the reason you rated this one only 4.5 - not enough time spent on the main H/H). So, that being said, I'm not really sure I know who I would be betting on as far as Daisy's one and only. I know I really liked Julian, but then again I also like how she's reformed Logan. I'll have to catch up before I dive into Daisy's story. I may just do what you did and read the end first. I like a little suspense in my reading but too much is more stress than suspense, IMHO.

Janga said...

Irish, there were a couple late in the series that were just ok for me too. But once I'm hooked on a series, I'm usually in for all the books. I think some unevenness is inevitable in a lon-running series.

I've read the ending of most books first for a l-o-n-g time now. As I've said frequently, if I don't like the destination, I'm not interested in the journey. LOL