Desert Isle Keeper
Perfect (#74 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on January 21, 2001
Anyone who has even a passing knowledge of soap operas knows that doomed love is the most interesting. A couple who face insurmountable obstacles, whose time together is limited, whose love is forbidden by law or society will always tug at my emotions. I am a recovering Guiding Light junkie, which may explain why Perfect is one of my favorites. Or it could be that it’s like no other book I’ve read, before or since.
Zack Benedict is a Hollywood movie star accused of killing his wife. He serves two years as a model prisoner, earns the privileges of a trustee, and makes an escape while in Amarillo with another prisoner and two guards. He hitches a ride with Julie Mathison, a sweet school teacher, takes her as a hostage, and eventually becomes her lover. It’s a heck of a fantasy, snowbound in a cabin with a handsome movie star. Where do I sign up? Real life intrudes eventually, and Zack and Julie must leave the cabin separately. They swear not to have contact but they can’t help themselves, which is when the law gets involved, making a big old mess of things.
I loved both Zack and Julie. At first they seem very different. Zack was raised and abruptly cut off by his cold grandmother; Juile was nurtured by a loving religious family. But upon further reflection, you discover they have things in common. Zack was cast out by his family as a teenager; Julie’s early childhood was spent being bounced around through the foster care system. Both have learned self reliance the hard way. As an adult, Zack is pretty stubborn and moody, and he does some awful things, but he’s dreamy and gives good grovel. Julie is impossibly sweet, but somehow I didn’t want to kick her. I liked that she wasn’t a doormat; she challenges Zack when he’s difficult. She even assaults an FBI officer. I didn’t even question her virginity because her upbringing had been explained so thoroughly. Because she was so damn likable I believed Zack would love her, even if he could have had Julia Roberts.
As I stated before, this is an unusual romance. The hero and heroine don’t meet until well into the book. Their romantic days of seclusion at the cabin are followed by a long separation, which for some is off-putting but to me it made the emotional scenes which followed pack more of a punch. There is one particularly romantic scene where they talk on the phone; I could read it a million times.
The first time I read this book I was obsessed with it. I could not be away from it for more than a few minutes. I had a physical reaction to it; my stomach got all quivery and fluttery. I was concerned when I opened the book recently to do this review that some of the magic may have faded. I am older and many books have come and gone since then. Although I saw flaws in it I didn’t notice before, it still captures all the elements of an exceptional love story: chemistry, conflict and good characterization. Perfect will always have a special place in my heart.