The original Loveswept tagline was “Love stories you’ll never forget by authors you’ll always remember.” Random House is using the same tagline for the electronic reissues and original releases. In this case, I think the tagline is more than an advertising strategy; it’s an accurate description of the reading experience for many Loveswept books. I certainly found it true for my second Loveswept reread.
Remember the Time
By Annette Reynolds
Publisher: Random House/
A Loveswept Classic Romance Ebook
Release Date: August 8, 2011
(originally released 1997)
Four and a Half Stars
Paul Armstrong and Mike Fitzgerald have been best friends since third grade when Kate Moran walked into their high school English classroom one day and both of them fell for her. At sixteen, Paul and Kate became a couple, and Mike had two best friends. But his love for Kate was a steady flame through their last two years of high school, through college, and through Kate and Paul’s thirteen years of marriage. Mike goes through a series of short term relationships, unable to commit because of his love for Kate. He even marries a woman who reminds him of Kate, but he can only regret the pain he causes his wife when she realizes that she has been a poor Kate substitute. Mike’s divorce is years behind him when Paul perishes in a flash flood and leaves Kate a grieving widow.
“Grieving widow” becomes Kate’s identity: “Paul Armstrong had died two and a half years ago, and the only thing Kate had shown any interest in since then was his grave.” She allows her home to deteriorate, bills to go unpaid, dishes to go unwashed. She drinks too much, eats too little, and keeps human contacts to a minimum. Through it all, Mike has been there—supporting her, loving her, enabling her to continue in her grief. One day he responds to a request help her avoid one more thing with a firm no: “Saying no to Kate was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do. He’d watched as she’d gone from vital Kate Moran to needy Kate Armstrong to ‘Paul’s wife’ with nothing left that resembled the girl he’d grown up with. He didn’t want to watch anymore.”
That moment marks a turning point as Kate slowly and painfully returns to life and begins to discover and return Mike’s love. There are real obstacles to overcome, more than either of them suspects. They must come to terms with the past, accepting the flawed, spoiled golden boy who was Paul Armstrong, major league baseball player, adulterous husband, selfish friend and acknowledging his strengths as well as his failures. Kate has to see Mike as he is, Mike has to forgive Kate, and they both have to forgive other betrayals. Every once in a great while, I read a romance novel that makes me doubt the HEA is possible. Even as a reread, this is one of those books.
Remember the Time is a powerful story. Reynolds uses flashbacks and multiple points of view to allow the reader to understand not only Kate and Mike but also Paul and a couple of important secondary characters as well. There are no perfect characters in this story, only imperfect, broken people—some of whom learn, to borrow words from Hemingway, to be “strong in the broken places.” Mike is a historical preservationist architect, and the story’s structure borrows from the vocabulary and activity of his profession in its main divisions: Abandonment and Ruin, Preservation, Renovation, Reconstruction, Restoration. Anyone who has battled through profound grief will sympathize with Kate’s experience, and if some of us think that grief was unduly prolonged, we might do well to remember that grief is also a peculiarly individual experience. Regardless, that’s a minor quibble in an emotionally intense, unforgettable book.
In addition to the two Loveswept novels I have reviewed, the August reissues include Talk, Dark and Lonesome by Debra Dixon, The Vow by Julianna Garnett, The Baron by Sally Goldenbaum, This Fierce Splendor by Iris Johansen, Legends by Deb Smith, and Dream Lover by Adrienne Staff.
This novel has some of my favorite romance tropes? What are your favorites?