Two of a Kind
Regina Sutherland and Will Creeden were devotedly in love through their college years. They shared the same goals and dreams, and they knew they wanted to spend their lives together. When Will proposed to Regina, she had every intention of accepting – but first wanted to have one last vacation as a single woman, so she went to Europe for six weeks. When she came home, she discovered that not only had Will cheated on her while she was gone, he had gotten his lover pregnant and married her.
Now, twelve years later, Regina is a junior professor of English Literature at Idlewild College in upstate New York. She is horrified to hear that Will Creegan has just been hired as the new head of the English department – her boss. Although she has gotten on with her professional life, she never got over her love for Will, nor her anger at his betrayal.
Of course, the old attraction is still there between Regina and the no-longer-married Will, but they have many obstacles to overcome. One is the gorgeous blonde professor who intends to make Will hers. Another is Regina’s lingering distrust of her old flame. And then there’s all those things that Will isn’t telling Regina about.
Smith’s depiction of college life is spot-on; she deftly evokes the routine of staff meetings, classes, and office hours, the petty campus politics, the coffee houses and libraries, and the love of learning and scholarship that draws people to such surroundings. She made me miss my own college days.
I also liked the poetry-loving Regina, who doesn’t hesitate to rise to the intellectual challenge of a difficult project, or the more personal challenge of loving Will again. I’ve read so many books lately in which heroines do things that I can’t imagine anyone ever doing. Regina wasn’t like that. She wanted to begin again with Will, so she chose to trust him. When it seemed that her trust was once again misplaced, she cut him loose. I respected her for both decisions.
Will, alas, is more of a problem. Since he’s the same age as Regina – thirty – he seems way too young to be the head of a college English department. I have three friends who are thirty and only just now getting their Ph.D.s. This book would have made a lot more sense, and nothing would have been lost in terms of story or character, if both hero and heroine had been five or even ten years older.
Then there is Will’s Big Secret. Smith does an excellent job explaining to me why he keeps the secret, and I found him quite sympathetic – I really did. But as with most Big Secret novels, there comes that moment when it would make sense for Will to just blurt out the secret rather than lose his every chance of happiness. As with most Big Secret novels, he doesn’t do what makes sense. It frustrates me every time.
I believe that this is Elise Smith’s first romance. It’s a good one. The Big Secret plot, and the stereotypical evil blonde other woman, are signs of a writer who hasn’t hit her stride yet. The competent writing, excellent setting, and strong, likable heroine are signs of a writer who, once she does hit her stride, will be very readable indeed. I’m looking forward to her next book.