A Lasting Proposal
Maureen Shannon is at the end of her rope with her pre-teen daughter, Holly. A year ago her reckless, irresponsible husband Rod died in a mountain climbing accident, and since then Holly has become increasingly more depressed and difficult. Holly idolized her father, and has made it clear that Maureen is a very poor substitute. Maureen also feels guilty because her job as a lawyer keeps her so busy, but she doesn’t know whether she actually wants to spend more time with Holly, or if scaling back will actually be helful. When Maureen gets a lucrative business opportunity from a man from her old hometown, she doesn’t see how she can turn it down. She sells her house and moves back home.
Jake Hartman is doing fine financially, but to make the improvements he would like to make to Grizzly Peaks, his heli-skiing business, he needs an infusion of cash. He learns of Maureen through his cousin Dylan whose wife, Cathleen, is Maureen’s sister (their story is told in A Second-Chance Proposal. He is a bit intimidated by Maureen’s take-charge business demeanor when they meet, but can’t help but be attracted by her beauty. And her sisters, Kelly A Convenient Proposal) and Cathleen, are there to give encouragement in case he wimps out on pursuing their relationship. But will Jake, a devoted bachelor, be able to cope with the emotional baggage of a widow and her difficult child?
While there were a number of pluses in the book, there were an equal number of minuses. Maureen’s struggle to help her child was touching. She didn’t know where to place the blame for the rift in their relationship, and she was still very angry with her flaky husband. These two obstacles kept her from trying very hard to reach Holly, and while that isn’t perhaps erribly noble, or supermom-ish, it’s very understandable. Both the conflict with Holly and its resolution were well done. I also liked the fact that the conflict between Jake and Maureen was a fairly realistic one: he didn’t know if he had what it takes to make a family with her and her daughter. And, Maureen’s interactions with her sisters seemed authentic and, occasionally, very funny. Finally, the book was also easy to read, well written and reasonably interesting.
All that said, however, the Maureen’s relationship with her daughter overshadowed the development of her relationship with Jake, both in terms of actual story time and emotion. Maureen’s feelings about Holly seemed so much stronger than her feelings for Jake. And Jake and Maureen really didn’t spend that much time together or get to know each other terribly well. The book takes place over a summer, which is plenty of time for them to grow closer-if they spent that time together, but they did not. Weeks passed without them seeing each other. So the romance between them did not ring quite true.
Then there’s the mystery/suspense subplot that is superfluous to the main story. Holly, at age 12, takes it upon herself to solve a murder that is three years old. She spends most of the book collecting her thoughts and evidence, and then, towards the end, she acts upon them. This places both her and Maureen in some danger and left them both looking TSTL. At this point the plot temporarily degenerates from a decent story into some weird cross between a Nancy Drew mystery and an episode from Scooby Doo. How did Holly, with minimal effort, solve a crime that had stumped local police for years?
In spite of its good points, A Lasting Proposal is an average read. It wasn’t a chore to read and there were some nice moments, but having read it, I can’t say I feel the urge to track down the previous two titles in the series.