Monday, September 08, 2008

A Personal Matter by Karyn Langhorne Hits the Spot

I finished this book about an hour ago. It was a wonderful book. I haven't read a mainstream contemporary romance that I have enjoyed this much in years. I am so glad that it was recommended because it inspired me to get back into my interracial romance books. There are quite a few that I am ready to dive into now.

Alayna is someone that I identified with. I come from a family with lots of drama and it affected my life in various ways. I had to learn to step up and be strong, and take on a heavy leadership role in the family. Being a younger sister and a shy person, it was hard for me. Alayna certainly isn't shy, but she had to take on even more responsibility than I did. I am amazed at what she has accomplished for her age, even if she had to put her own personal life on the back burner. It's refreshing to see heroines like this, who haven't been out partying and going through men like a fish through water in their so-called carefree 20s. It's great fantasy to think all strong, beautiful, worthwhile women date their socks out. But truth is some of us don't have that opportunity because we're too busy trying to keep the roofs over our heads and meet our responsibilities. I think it's great for those of us who haven't dated as much because we were busy trying to get an education, get a career going, and taking care of family responsibilities, to have a heroine who shows us that we can find love too. And you want to see Alayna finally get a chance to have something for her. Thankfully, Ms. Langhorne delivers that in this book.

This book sends you through the whole gamut of emotions: hilarity, anger, joy, pain, passion, acceptance. There are no cookie cutter characters, no stand-ins. No person in this book always does the right thing or says the right thing. As a matter of fact, the so called good guys, might actually be bad guys, and vice versa. You have to read it to find out what I mean. It is like real life. It shows the good and the bad, and also shows that there is a payoff for the people who continue to do the right thing day after day. Because there are days when you ask, why I am doing this when it won't really matter in the long run?

When the book starts, it looks like things will finally get easier for Alayna, but her sister drops two bombs on her, and then it seems like the world is collapsing around Alayna's head. At the same time, she is asked to work as a paralegal with the most difficult lawyer in the practice, Ben "Ice Man" Richards, in exchance for a raise and a hefty bonus, that will come in handy to help to fulfill her mother's deathbed promise towards Alayna's sister. This seems like hell at first, but it is a turning point in Alayna's life. I have found in my own life, that things always, always get so bad that you think you can't handle it, right before things change in wonderful and incredibly good ways.

This is exactly what happens to Alayna. By accepting this assignment she finds love with the last person she thought she would. And she gets the strength to do something for herself that she has wanted to do for a long time, go to law school. Alayna has always tried to draw a very clear line in the sand between work and personal life. She is deeply distrustful of all White people, and doesn't even give them names in her head, but names them by their looks or characteristics. I believe that this is a manifestation of her attempt to keep herself isolated from things that can hurt her or change her focus. As a person who has worked in a hostile work environment (not always due to racial issues), I could identify with her drawing that line in the sand. You feel like that knife is waiting to plunge in your back, and that you cannot confide in anyone else. It's a very hard, lonely road.

Unbeknownst to her, Ice Man has been doing the same thing, but for different reasons. I really like the way the author showed both characters at their very worst at the beginning, and slowly peels away the armor to show that both Alayna "the extremely intelligent Black girl with the attitude", and Ben "the arrogant, jerk wonderkid with the really bad attitude" are really good people trying to do their best by their respective families, and keep their coworkers out of their business.
I love that it turns out that the one person that Alayna can count on when things really hit rock bottom is the "Ice Man," and he certainly comes through. He can handle her tough girl attitude, because it's his own defense mechanism.

Athough even the first scene between Alayna and Ice snapped with sexual tension, I thought that the tension built between the characters at a really realistic pace, as they came to see each other through discerning eyes, although I believe that Ben has had feelings for Alayna for a long time, and finally maybe got the chance to make his move. The author shows that the reluctance for people to consider dating interracial is not always do to the reluctance for one group to date outside their race, but sometimes it's because they are not sure that person would return their interest. Alayne certain is not the type to date a White man, as is made clear early on. And as Alayna asks herself "why not," the reader goes along with her as she opens her mind to the possibilities. Why not date someone who is right for you in all the right ways, even though they may be of a different race or ethnicity? I have never felt a reluctance to it, but I can see why some people might have those issues. Although it is certainly not a drawn out PSA about interracial dating as some interracial romances can be, the issues are there to consider in this book.

Now let's talk about the Ice Man. He is officially one of my favorite heroes (I came to that conclusion before I ever finished the book). I posted a question about metaphorical Knights in romance novels on my romance book groups. One of my fellow book reading friends suggested Ben the "Ice Man" Richards. She couldn't say enough good things about him. This made me search through about ten boxes of books in my garage to dig it out. I finally found it in the last box I looked in before giving up. Thank God I did. I really needed Ben in my life this past week.

Ben is definitely a knight. He is a little tarnished and shining at the same time. I don't want to spoil those who have not read the book, but I am awe that he managed to have a handle on his family issues and still manage to kick butt as a trial attorney at the same time. Even with all the stuff on his plate, he is the one who is there to help Alayna when her personal issues come to a head. Ben is no perfect hero. He is rather rude and very sloppy, but he has a heart as big as Texas as they say. He's also a little nerdy (a good thing to me as I like nerdy guys) but totally hot at the same time. Tall, built, handsome, with lovely gray eyes, and wears glasses. But he isn't one of those men that knows he's totally "the stuff". His arrogance is more related to his reputation as a good lawyer. But even still, this is a facade to keep people away from real Ben who is in some ways a complete marshmallow.

His interactions with Alayna are classic. She definitely keeps him on his toes, but he does the same to her. Even though the book is pretty much third person from Alayna's perspective, Ms. Langhorne does an excellent job describing Ben's body language and facial expressions that reveal a lot that is not said. I felt like I knew him very well by the time the book ended. And truth be told, I still want to know more. I'd love to revisit Ben and Alayna a few years down the road, and they better still be together! I believe they will. I believe in their love.

Well I could spend a lot more time talking about this book, but I think you should just read it. I sincerely doubt you will be disappointed. In fact, I wish I had read it sooner. But then, maybe I read it just on time.

1 comment:

writer84 said...

I love this book. I seriously read it over and over.