Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday Review: Promise Me a Rainbow

Promise Me a Rainbow
(Reissue of original published in1990)
By Cheryl Reavis
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: May 21, 2012

Catherine Holben is trying to build a meaningful life for herself in the wake of a divorce from the man who had been not only her husband but also her best friend. She finds consolation in her job teaching prenatal nutrition and early childhood development to a group of unmarried, pregnant teenage girls who have been segregated from the rest of the public school population in a minimally funded classroom. One rainy day as she is returning to her apartment, a sculpture in the window of The Purple Box catches her eye. The piece is an expensive, retired collectible, a gnome mother with her sleeping child at her breast entitled “Daisy and Eric.” Catherine finds it irresistible and, in a rare gesture of indulgence, buys it. The sculpture holds particular poignance for her since her marriage ended because she was unable to become pregnant. Her husband had “wanted children—not adopted children and not borrowed children. His children. He had loved her, and he had left her in spite of it.”

“Daisy and Eric” had been the property of Joseph D’Amaro, a builder and stained glass artist and a widower with three children—Della, 16; Charlie, 15, and Mary Frances, known as Fritz, 7. The building industry in Wilmington, North Carolina, has taken a hard hit, and Joe has been forced to sell the sculpture. Even though he discussed the sale with his children, he failed to realize how attached Fritz is to the figures. Joe and Fritz visit Catherine’s apartment to assure Fritz that Catherine will sell the sculpture back to them if Joe ever has the money. They arrive just as Catherine is angrily ending a meeting with her former husband, who has come to tell her that he is soon to be remarried and he and his pregnant bride hope Catherine will attend the wedding. Clearly it is not the moment for the D’Amaros’ request, and Joe insists they leave.

But Fritz is persistent, and when her father drops her off at home while he returns to complete a job, she slips away without Della and Charlie knowing she’s at home and uses her milk money to catch a bus that will take her back to Catherine’s apartment. Fritz, whose mother died when she was two, explains to Catherine that she “likes things with mothers,” thus her affection for Daisy and Eric. Fritz and Catherine bond over hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream, stories, and their shared fondness for things with mothers, but when Joe comes to retrieve Fritz, he and Catherine clash. Joe is uncomfortable with Fritz’s revelations to Catherine, and Catherine finds Joe stubborn and hot-headed. Even when attraction flares, neither welcomes it. Joe has been slow to recover from the loss of his wife, and Catherine is scarred by the rejection of the man she believed would love her forever. As if their histories were not complications enough, Joe’s predatory sister-in-law and manipulative teenage daughter are determined to separate him from Catherine. Even great sex and a love that neither expected to find may not be enough to overcome all these problems.

Reading Promise Me a Rainbow makes it easy to understand why Cheryl Reavis is a four-time RITA winner. This is an emotionally powerful story about the extraordinariness of ordinary people. Catherine and Joe are likeable, interesting characters. Catherine is a wounded creature struggling to find herself in a world more difficult and lonelier than the one she thought was hers. She must come to terms with Jonathan’s betrayal of their love and her own body’s betrayal in its inability to bear Jonathan’s child. That there is no physiological reason for her barrenness makes the issue even more complex. But despite her pain, she has a vast store of compassion and understanding from which her students, her cancer-stricken friend Pat, and Fritz and Joe benefit.

Joe is a good-looking, hard-working guy with a tender heart and a determination to do the right thing. He wishes life were less complicated than it is, but he does his best with all it throws at him. He feels guilty because he was so immersed in his grief over his wife’s death that he wasn’t the father to Fritz that he wanted to be. His is not a contemplative nature, and he often speaks and acts impulsively. But his love for all three of his children is strong, and once he commits to Catherine his love and need for her are just as powerful.   

Fritz is a delight. A solemn child, older than her years, who sees more than the adults around her are aware of, she feels responsible for the happiness of those she loves. And yet with her love of gummi bears and stories and her need of mothering, she is all-child. Della and Charlie are less fully developed, but Charlie’s charm and nerdiness and Della’s stylishness and attempts to be adult make them credible characters. Even the girls Catherine teaches are individuals presented with humor and heartbreaking vulnerability.

Bell Bridge is making available some of the best romance fiction of past decades to new readers. Cheryl Reavis is a writer of the same high caliber as Jill Barnett and Kathleen Eagle. If you like intelligent stories about characters who are adults with believable pasts and problems and potential, who are driven by emotional needs as much as sexual desire, I highly recommend Promise Me a Rainbow.  

I know some readers don’t like books with kids in them. I do when the kids have a purpose in the story and are real kids who act their age. Cheryl Reavis does a superb job with the kids in this story. Do you like stories with children? What are your favorites?


MsHellion said...

I like it when Julie Garwood has kids in her books, especially her Scottish historicals. :) I think I'm more tolerant of kids in historicals than contemporaries. I know too many contemporary kids. They're not that well behaved. *LOL*

irisheyes said...

I LOVE stories with kids in them. They can really flesh out certain characteristics, especially in the men, that aren't so easily told or shown to the reader otherwise. In fact, I had been toying with not reading the latest Nora series until I read an excerpt someone posted on our Goodreads Monday Puzzler that contained a scene with the kids. That pretty much sealed it for me. I waited until my sister gave me Book 2 and now I'm all set to dive in.

Nora has some great stories with kids in them. I love Seth in the Chesapeake Bay series. He brings out something different in each Quinn brother. I also loved the relationship that developed between Jared and Bryan in The Pride of Jared Mackade. I think I would have liked that more if it were a full length, but even within the category format Nora did wonders with that story.

The relationship between Zach and Rose in Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas was precious. SEP brought out Mat's tender side in First Lady, not only with Buttons, the baby, but Lucy the troublesome teen. Then there's Teddy in Fancy Pants and his relationship with Francie and Dallie. I could probably go on forever, but I think you get the idea.

I'm excited about this Cheryl Reavis book, Janga. I found a copy of The Bride Fair by her at the library and then found out it was out of print. I really liked that book. It was set during the reconstruction after the Civil War and the characterizations were very well done. I believe I finally found it at a UBS.

Janga said...

Hellie, I know there are kids in some contemporaries that are totally unbelievable. My pet peeve is the three-year-old who thinks and talks as if he/she were a decade older.

But I can think of lots of contemporaries with great kid characters. SEP, Nora, Susan Wiggs are just a few who do a great job. I just read a new Molly O'Keefe category with three terrific little boys, and the children in Jo Goodman's first contemporary were wonderfully drawn.

Janga said...

Irish, I don't think Nora's new series is the equal of her best work, but I do like the characters. I just don't like the Inn ad feel, and she's done the ghost before.

I love the Quinns and the MacKades. The kids in The Pride of Devin MacKade are well done too. And SEP's Button may be the best baby in contemporary romance fiction.

Blackberry Winter, which is really women's fiction, is my favorite by Reavis, but I've liked everything I've read by her. I recently reread Little Darling and The Long Way Home, both more than a decade old, and they are still exceptional books. And she wrote an Amish romance way before the current trend.

quantum said...

I'm neutral on children in stories and a good author can enthral me with almost any scenario.

At present I'm half way through Catherine Anderson's 'Forever After' where the hero is a rottweiler with an instinct to protect children. There is a frightened child who needs protecting. The dog's owner is falling for the child's mum. The child is in love with the dog. So far its a perfect square but I'm expecting to be surprised any time soon! LOL

Anderson says that the story is based on a real situation which adds poignancy.

'Promise me a rainbow' sounds good. I had not heard of Reavis before so will try a sample to see if her voice resonates.

Mrs Q likes children's stories and has introduced me to quite a few. My favourite so far is 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Published over 100 years ago. They don't write 'em like that any more! LOL

Janga said...

Q, I love The Secret Garden. It and A Little Princess, also by Burnett, were among the books my mother loved as a girl that she shared with my sister and me when we were very young. There was another garden book among them, The Magic Garden by Gene Stratton Porter, which I also loved.