The Love Lesson
Best friends Polly Sutherland and Amy Jo Baxter are as different as night and day, on the surface, when we meet them as young girls in the American Midwest. Amy tells a shocked Polly that she allowed a beau to kiss her, and underneath Polly’s prim and proper façade lies the romantic desire to find the perfect man, one who can both quote Shakespeare and chop wood.
Years later, Amy finds herself happily married and pregnant, while Polly has become the beloved town schoolteacher still dreaming of her prince.
Handsome Englishman Cameron Hawke and his two children, beautiful daughter Raven and “little actor” Ashby, move to Flint, Kansas, where Polly and Amy live, fleeing from a painful past and causing all sorts of speculation. Much to his anger, the whole town nearly demands to find out why Cameron’s wife is not with them. Is she dead? Is she back in England? Was there a big scandal? Day after day, nosy mothers with their eligible daughters in tow visit the increasingly aggravated Cameron, who begins to get a reputation as a surly, arrogant man with no manners. Predictably, there is an instant, noticeable attraction between Cameron and Polly, who likes to get to know her students’ parents, and predictably, Raven and Ashby, along with Amy Jo, begin plotting to get the pair together.
Playing matchmaker is all very well and good when done competently, but having Polly believe that Cameron was physically abusing his children was illogical for me. In response to being accidentally shot in the foot by Polly (don’t ask), Cameron blackmails her into acting as housekeeper for him and his children, surely a challenge for the pampered, domestically-challenged Polly, who must initially resort to smuggling entire dinners from best friend Amy in order to feed her new household.
Aside from the various scenes in the book that nearly fall into the slapstick category, with characters screaming, and jumping, and fainting, I had various problems with both plot and characters. The attraction between Polly and Cameron was of the instantaneous, love-hate variety. Polly can’t take her eyes off Cameron even though she thinks him a brute, a beast, and for a while there, an abusive parent. She is also the respectable, virginal heroine who needs only the slightest encouragement from the hero to drop both inhibitions and morals and jump into bed with him. This sort of behavior seemed more suitable to Amy’s character, not Polly’s.
Cameron, meanwhile, is indeed surly and rough, understandably, given how small-town people are portrayed here, but his treatment of Polly bordered on the old-fashioned behavior of heroes who pull the heroine into an embrace while simultaneously scorning and insulting her. He adores his children, however, and is earnestly trying to give them – and himself – a new life.
Ashby and Raven were not as annoying as I feared they would be, but their behavior was not believable, either. Considering how much they claimed to hate their mother, wouldn’t they be a little leery of any female stepping into those shoes? They, like Cameron, plant eyes on Polly and decide she is the one for them.
The Love Lesson was my first read from Jove’s Friends imprint. The tag line for this Friends Romance release is, “When it comes to matters of the heart, you can always trust your friends.” Well, any friend of mine who leads me to believe (however temporarily) that the man I love is a child beater is certainly no friend of mine.
|Review Date:||December 13, 1999|