The cover and blurb of Glory Days promise a book that’s light and funny – a perfect read for a day at the beach. The story line is something else. It’s a serious book with characters all wounded by their past but hoping for a better future.
Years ago, John Preshin and a group of his buddies spent a glorious summer in a rented beach house doing what bachelors do – mostly with their very obliging blonde next door neighbors. Retired from the FBI, John is now a private detective in Asbury Park, New Jersey. His office/apartment is above Flo Zanetti’s luncheonette. When Flo develops gout, her granddaughter Liz Atwater comes to help her since she loves the old lady and hopes the change of locale will her get over her own broken heart. When their son died of SIDS, Liz’s husband blamed her, got a divorce and promptly re-married. On her first morning at the luncheonette, Liz and John meet cute – early in the morning he goes to Flo’s kitchen to get some coffee and Liz runs into him while he’s wearing only a towel.
Later that day, a young teen comes to John’s office. Her name is Carly Snowe and she’s an emancipated minor. She wants to find her parents and has a list of men’s names she stole from her file at the orphanage where she was raised. When John sees the list, his heart sinks – the names on the list are the men (including himself) who were at that beach house years ago. Carly is a blonde, and John doesn’t remember the names of the two blonde women from the beach house, but one of the other men on the list might so he starts to track them down.
Since she has no family, John takes Carly under his wing and she begins to bond with Liz, Flo, John’s parents and John himself. During his search for Carly’s mother and father, John uncovers a graveyard full of skeletons from his past, and the pasts of the men on the list. As time goes on he begins to think that it might have been better if all those skeletons had stayed buried.
Glory Days is not really a pure romance novel since Liz and John’s relationship is secondary to the main plot. They do fall in love, and the romance is a sweet part of the book but it isn’t the most prominent feature of the story.
John is the main character and he’s a very sympathetic one. His past has not been a good one – his partner was paralyzed in a shootout and John blames himself. So does the man’s wife, who has kept John away from visiting his old friend in the nursing home. After he left the FBI, John buried himself in work, and had casual relationships, but cut himself off from anything deeper. Liz had been buried in grief over her child’s death and her former husband’s betrayal. Carly is the catalyst that brings John and Liz out of their grief and guilt and the three of them form a family.
Glory Days isn’t perfect – there are some themes in it that I wish could have been developed more fully, and the book is filled with wrong terminology when it comes to the Catholic church. It’s Sacred Heart, not bleeding heart, it’s Precious Blood, not sacred blood ,and the title of the school where Carly goes is Mary Immaculate of the Grotto, which is a silly one. Just Mary Immaculate would have been better.
However, this is a promising debut book and one that kept me interested all the time I was reading. Thumbs up to Irene Peterson for a good story and thumbs down to Zebra’s art department for the most misleading cover ever.