Starlight on Willow Lake
There’s a trope in romance novels that I call The Saint and the Millionaire. In these stories a woman who is too good to be true is finally rewarded for her perfection when she meets a man who is not only breathtakingly handsome but wealthy beyond measure as well as anxious to solve all her problems and take care of her. It didn’t really work for me in this book.
Mason Bellamy has the Midas touch. It seems he can’t help but make money. It’s not a big deal to him – he doesn’t love filthy lucre, just the acquisition of it. He is happy to have a lot of it right now though. When his dad died skiing a really dangerous hill and his mother became a quadriplegic in the same accident, his money enabled him to buy her a lovely home and fill it full of staff. Or it would be full of staff if his mother wasn’t a shrew who keeps driving caregivers away. After a recent incident resulted in a broken collar bone for her and the loss of yet another caregiver he flies to Willow Lake to deal with the issue himself. This is normally the kind of thing he delegates but surprisingly all the delegates suddenly find themselves with other things to do. And right when he had a surfing weekend planned with his fiancée!
Faith McCallum is the kind of caregiver who can work miracles with even the most cantankerous patient. Oddly, in an industry constantly hurting for people she has been out of work for three months. Thanks to the medical bills left by her dead husband, her lack of employment and her youngest daughter’s expensive meds, she is not just at the verge of eviction but in the final day of it. She has twelve hours to find a place for herself and her children to live. I have quite a bit to interject here. I work in home health and someone with glowing references and transportation can almost always find work. I was a bit skeptical about her lack of employment. Faith also doesn’t want to fill out “humiliating forms at the Ulster County Housing Authority.” Well, unless these people work very differently from every other housing authority I know showing up the day you are evicted isn’t going to get you a house. So it looks like she plans for her children to live in a van. Guess that’s not humiliating at all.
Using her last bit of time at home, she manages to send out a resume and gets a response regarding a job. On her way to the interview, to which she has to bring her children on account of them having nowhere to stay besides her van, her daughter spies a hurt motorcyclist on the side of the road. Faith stops to help him and has her daughter run to the nearest home, where her potential employer (Mason) resides, to get help. Mason calls 9-1-1 and then heads out to help Faith. He’s totally awed by the combination of her emergency medical skills and her hard luck tale and brings her home to meet his mother.
It turns out all Alice Bellamy needed to resign herself to having a care worker was the woman bringing two cute kids to the interview. After verbally sparring with Faith’s oldest daughter and falling under the charm of her youngest, Alice gives Faith the job. Fortunately, employment comes with a small apartment on the property which has two bedrooms and is much nicer than anything Faith has lived in for a long time. Once she’s unpacked she has a night cap with Mason, who is all anxious to hear her full story. That includes a tragic and freak accident wiping out her grandparents, an absentee dad, a mom who died of congenital heart disease when Faith was just 17 and a Scottish motorcycle mechanic/ guitarist husband who thought that using his marriage to help him get a green card would be some kind of betrayal of their love. So apparently he was working illegally for a pittance without insurance knowing he had a rare form of diabetes that could kill him. But it was all romantic because he didn’t use his wife to get a green card and work towards a better life for his family.
At this point I’m a quarter of the way through the book and more than a bit overwhelmed. It turns out that Mason gets off on using his power for good and has hired his vulnerable mother a whole host of hard luck cases to take care of her. At one point, when Alice has an argument with another care worker and threatens to fire her Faith says: “Don’t be mean. It costs a small fortune to get a green card. She needs this job.” Well, so long as the girl gets something out of this lets not worry about the client.
The book gets more cliché-ridden from there. Having Faith and the girls around gives Alice a new lease on life. It opens the eyes of Mason, who realizes that averagely pretty women with two dependents are a way better bet than a supermodel beautiful woman who’s brilliant and successful. Faith’s oldest daughter realizes that nerds who help animals and train service dogs are way better people than hot jocks. The Bellamy money solves all Faith’s problems and it’s okay because she keeps her pride and assures them she doesn’t want to be a charity case. The happily ever after at the end of the story makes every Disney Princess film you have ever seen look like some sort of reality movie.
However, the happy-happy joy-joy feel to the story wasn’t my biggest issue. It was a problem but my real issues are the following: Poverty is not a virtue. Poor people can be virtuous and many are, but deliberately paupering yourself to prove you don’t love filthy lucre is not a virtue. Not accepting a helping hand from social services is not a virtue, especially if it means that your vulnerable children will be homeless. Not getting a green card after you marry an American citizen isn’t some kind of proof of love. It’s lazy and irresponsible – and freaking illegal! I mentioned these things above but I just felt like they bore repeating. Having the above lauded as some sort of proof of the heroine’s greatness definitely didn’t endear her to me.
There’s not much to say beyond what I’ve already mentioned. The characters are all saintly; even Alice, who finds out bad news on top of being severely handicapped, realizes that life is beautiful and she has no right to complain. And there’s no point talking about the plot which is all sunshine and roses. The romance doesn’t even start till the last tenth of the book so there’s not much to say about that. The prose is good but Ms. Wiggs is an experienced pro and that was not a surprise to me. It wasn’t a comfort either as I read what seemed to be a saccharine day dream.
I love the romance genre’s happy endings and I love a cheerful, sunny story. However, I felt this book was way too much of a good thing. That might not be the case for every reader since some are able to just accept things at face value. If you are like that, if you can just go with the flow, then you will easily enjoy this book. If you are not, then I think you might have the same issues that I did.