Since You've Been Gone
I took one look at the cover and decided I wasn’t going to like this book. A Hawaiian-shirted hero at the beach, holding a large bottle of some kind of alcohol is trying to nuzzle a resistant, tank-topped, short-shorted heroine. Not my style. I read the inside cover where the editorial director claimed Since You’ve Been Gone to be “uproariously funny.” Didn’t mesh with the cover at all. I read the first couple of pages, shook my head and began making notes, quotes I could use in my review to demonstrate what a horrible book this was. Then I discovered the story takes place in Florida – Dade and Broward counties of all places. God forbid! Not there again! Then I discovered the heroine’s husband has just been rescued from the Amazon after having been thought dead for seven years. Shades of Cast Away (or, for you old movie fans, My Favorite Wife, Something’s Gotta Give, or Move Over, Darling). Stuck with a loser, was all I could think.
I read a few more pages. I got engrossed in the story. I finished the book. I liked it, despite its cover and a few more problems integral to the story. Like my mama used to say: Never judge a book by anything but the book itself. Or words to that effect.
Amanda Tate is a woman who has been forced to mature from young widow to career woman in seven short years. Her husband, arrogant, spoiled, self-serving plastic surgeon Dr. Bailey Tate, was on a mercy (read publicity) mission to the Amazon when his plane disappeared into the jungle. With a pregnancy to go through, a nasty and critical father to deal with, all Bailey’s medical school debts to pay off, and a boring, dead-end job as obstacles, Amanda has worked hard to become the Cookie Queen (think Mrs. Fields) on a Florida PBS station. She’s a local celebrity, has a beautiful little girl named Tori, and a loving fiancé, her late husband’s partner, Dr. Marcus Stone.
As the book begins, Amanda arrives home only to find her late husband has come back from the dead and has taken up residence in her house. Er, his house. He’s got long hair, a beard, and a black patch over one eye. He claims to have changed, that seven years in the jungle treating stone-age Indians has matured him and set his priorities straight. All he wants now is her, and their future together. No more lucrative plastic surgery, he wants to be a family doctor in a small town in the country.
Shocked to the core that Bailey is alive, Amanda’s irritated that he’s returned and upset her apple cart. She’s worked hard to make a career for herself, raise her daughter, live up to her father’s expectations. Why, oh, why did Bailey have to come back and spoil everything! Torn between thankfulness that he’s not dead, and angst over how she feels about his sudden re-appearance, Amanda has a tough time coping.
Where Tori accepts her long-lost Daddy without hesitation, Amanda has many reservations. What if Bailey hasn’t really changed after all? Where is her guarantee? And what does she do about her fiancé – they were to be married within two weeks? Seven years is a long time, and I tried to imagine what something like that must be like. It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Amanda’s reaction is plausible under the circumstances, and she does begin to remember how good it was between them. She agrees to give Bailey thirty days to prove himself, then she plans to file for divorce and marry Marcus.
Bailey is charming and ingratiating, and really gets the short end of the stick. No one welcomes him. Everyone acts as though he’s done something wrong by returning. He takes it in stride and tries to be understanding. But he’s not the least bit understanding when he realizes that Marcus wants his wife and is prepared to steal her right from under his nose.
Other than what I mentioned above, there are a few problems with the book itself. Amanda has a catch-phrase: “Oh, my Gawd!” that gets tiring very quickly. This is her spoken and unspoken response to nearly everything. Some important details are never addressed. After seven years missing, Bailey hops in the car and drives (keep in mind, he has only one eye). Wouldn’t his driver’s license have expired sometime in the last seven years (but being it was Broward County, I didn’t question this too closely). Marcus and Amanda discuss Bailey’s sex life while he was in the Amazon. What did he do? How did he do it? With whom? But we are never told whether Marcus and Amanda had sex. They’ve been engaged for three years, but the reader never knows, and Bailey never asks, if they have slept together. This is really something that should have been put to rest, one way or the other. Also, how long is it before somebody is officially declared dead? I think it’s seven years, but that legal detail is never addressed in the story and to add to credibility, I think the author should have worked this in.
There’s a lot of sexual tension between Amanda and Bailey and their first love scene is very nice. The small secondary cast is good, Amanda’s supportive mother in particular. Tori is kept wisely in the background.
As for the uproariously funny part, I smiled a few times, but if there’s outrageous humor in this book, I missed it completely. Oh, and the cover? That scene does actually happen in the book, but I feel the cover totally misrepresents the story. Besides, where’s the eye patch that Bailey wears through the entire book? The artist missed that completely.
If you’re looking for what I call a “small read,” something not too heavy, something nice, but with a bit of substance to it, Since You’ve Been Gone may work for you. Just ignore the cover and don’t ask too many questions.