Arranged in Heaven
Disgruntled. Isn’t that a great word? It’s one of those words where sound and definition match. I just finished reading Sara Jarrod’s Arranged in Heaven, and I’m feeling, eh, disgruntled. The first third of the book was irritating and even offensive at times; the middle got better and I found I liked the hero very much; the final third sort of dribbles off to a conclusion, with a little more irritation thrown in.
The two ghosts in this tale are the late Ruth Newman and the equally dead Sylvia Harris – both of whom are keeping their eyes on their respective children, Dan and Gayle, from the mists of heaven. Dan and Gayle are nice people (he’s a surgeon, she’s a swim coach) who need nice mates, so the deceased duo decides to pair them up.
Both Dan and Gayle are trying to overcome tragedies in their pasts: Dan lost the lower part of his leg to cancer when he was a boy and now wears a prosthesis; Gayle suffers from poor self-esteem due to the machinations of her overbearing father (also a surgeon, and head of the department at the hospital where Dan works). Gayle had succumbed to drugs and alcohol for a time, but is now clean and sober, and hopes to stay that way.
This isn’t a complex story. Dan and Gayle meet, have sex, fall in love, have sex, enjoy each other’s company, have sex, move in together, and have sex. When Dan and Gayle are not having sex, they are doing other things that are not described in nearly so much detail. Dan wants to marry Gayle, but fears the chemotherapy he underwent as a child has made him sterile; Gayle wants to marry Dan, but feels it’s only a matter of time before she falls off the wagon and returns to her old ways.
This book didn’t really do much for me. The ghosts were not sweet, funny ladies who watched adoringly over their children, neither did they take on any angelic characteristics, even given their heavenly address. At one point, Sylvia calls Dan a cripple “who can’t play golf or tennis – or even swim” with Gayla. And Ruth calls Gayla “a lush and a dope addict.” Most of the time, they’re not even paying attention to what their children are doing, and every other chapter is a ghostly recap of what had transpired on earth in the previous chapter. The ghosts served no real function except to give this book a lable of paranormal romance, and the story would have been much better served if it had been a straight romance, sans spirits.
Then there’s the ick-factor dialogue: “He felt her coax him with talented inner muscles.” Talented? Like tap-dancing or yodeling? At one point Gayla “cupped his scrotum” while Dan pushed against the “wet, hot tip of her cervix.” Sort of like going from purple prose to Gray’s Anatomy in one giant leap – not exactly romantic allusions – a little too clinical for me.
Gayla has had trouble all her life with her over-bearing father. That he has rejected her is hurtful enough, but this guy actively tries to turn her friends, co-workers, and potential husbands against her by calling her names and warning people she’s going to fall off the wagon and disappoint them the way she disappointed him. When Dad finally does come around, he doesn’t take the blame for anything on himself, he blames his dead wife, Sylvia, for being too afraid of him to speak up. Puhleeze.
On the plus side, Dr. Dan is a wonderful character, and is the only thing keeping this book from being a D. If he existed in real life, any woman would be lucky to find such a nurturing, protective, loving, caring, kind-hearted, great-looking, athletic, sensitive, beta mate. I mean, Dr. Dan’s a real catch – a nice hero to read about, and the only really redeeming character in the story.
With such a cute title, given the sweet premise, this could have been a nice little story. But with all its problems, Arranged in Heaven didn’t stand the ghost of a chance.
|Review Date:||May 6, 1998|