Desert Isle Keeper Review

Kiss and Make Up

Judy Griffith Gill
December 2012 reissue of 1994 release, Series Romance
Open Road Media, $3.99, 226 pages

Grade: A
Sensuality: Warm
Note: This book is available in digital from Amazon and other eBook retailers.

Divorced Rand Waddell persuades his ex-wife Kat to let him move into the basement apartment of their British Columbia house to be their children’s new nanny. He wants to prove he’s changed and win back his family; she’s skeptical and wants to avoid raising false hopes in their two kids. If it’s hard to write the story of a couple falling in love, it’s even harder to write the story of a couple falling in love again after credibly falling out of love. I strongly recommend Kiss and Make Up for its realistic depiction of two adults navigating gender roles, finances, and time constraints in the pursuit of an HEA for the whole family.

Rand, determined to be the ideal 1950s-style provider husband, took on foreign journalism assignments for British Columbia’s largest paper, boosting his prestige and paycheck but leaving Kat alone, even for the births of both of their children. Kat’s desire to go back to work at her survey company chafed Rand, and the tragic loss of close family friends was too much for their fracturing relationship. Two years, a new career, and therapy later, Rand says he’s changed - but Kat doesn’t know what to make of the man who resented her dreams and might have even cheated on her. Is he the man she fell in love with, or the lousy husband he became?

I loved the realistic interactions between Kat and Rand as they come to terms with their previous relationship and cautiously establish their new one. Sometimes they fight, tossing hurtful insults, but they learn to apologize and focus on making progress on their issues. Sometimes they remember the good times, and sometimes they cry about the bad ones. Though this book was originally published in the 1990s, the conversations still feel real, and capture the sort of genuine struggles inside so many modern marriages. Why didn’t you make me feel appreciated? Would you just listen to what I really want instead of assuming you know?

Although Rand has already made up his mind to try to save the relationship before the book starts, he still has changes to go through or to demonstrate to Kat, and the author shows these very believably. Kat wanted more romance (silk for her birthday, not new car seat covers); Rand learns to deliver. They fought and sniped; Rand learns to apologize. One criticism I have is that while Rand shows a maturation and change, Kat mostly seems to change in her ability to accept the new Rand. She is definitely - as both characters say - “bitchy” when pulled into arguments and learns to swallow some of her more bitter comment. Overall, though, the collapse of the marriage is too much Rand’s fault. The story would have benefited from more of Kat recognizing and overcoming some flaws, too.

If you shy away from child characters in books, never fear - the two kids, Katie and Nathan, are neither precious nor plot-moppets. Obviously, kids are central to the lives of parents, and Katie and Nathan’s need for caregivers gives Rand the opportunity to move in in the first place. Subsequent scenes, however, are realistic (Kat gets mad that Rand used all the flour to make cookies with the kids; they worry over who’s going to take the kids on custodial weekends now that Rand lives in) rather than cutesy.

I also mark the book down to an A- because Rand’s backstory, once we finally learn it, felt over-the-top. Rand could have had all of his traditionalist/gender role issues without such an extreme childhood. Still, it’s nowhere near enough of a problem to knock the book out of DESERT ISLE KEEPER range.

This review is based on the original Loveswept paperback of this book which has been on my keeper shelf for a decade. If there are formatting or other issues in the new digital re-release (free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers!) I don’t know about them. There’s also a new audiobook on Audible. Whatever format you prefer, do give this book a try. It’s a true buried treasure.

-- Caroline Russomann.​​​

Here's a link to this book: http://www.openroadmedia.com/kiss-and-make-up ​​
Every now and then, a blast from the past encourages me to keep going even when what I'd rather do is keep going back to sleep. But my phone pinged this morning saying I had a message, so I rolled over to see if one of my kids was calling.

It wasn't that at all. It was a surprise review for a book I wrote a long time ago.
An Exceptionally Good Inspirational Romance--SHATTERED VOWS
​ by Linda LaRoque
I have read and enjoyed other books by Ms. Laroque, starting with Born In Ice, which I also reviewed. Since I like her work, I am glad I read Shattered Vows, though inspirational romances are not high on my list of reading preferences. Never, though, in the reading of this novel, did I feel the author was preaching, which I found to be a real plus.

In SHATTERED VOWS, the reader follows the Rayburns, Stuart and Annie, thorough a journey of sin, loss, betrayal and heartbreak. Both thought they had the “perfect” marriage, though the SIDS death of their baby daughter had put a terrible strain on it. For months, Annie could feel nothing, give nothing. During that period, she turned her back on him in their marriage bed. Slowly, she recovered, turning to him again and just as hope flowered anew that they would make it after all, another devastating blow crashed into their marriage.
   Months before, following one stupid, unthinking mistake made during Annie’s deepest depression, Stuart broke a vow he’d made to his wife before God—to love and honor in sickness and in health. There are consequences he cannot deny, will not deny, because to do so would diminish himself as a man in his own mind and heart. He must tell Annie what he has done, and about the result. He begs her forgiveness, her understanding, and her help.
   Annie can give none of that to the man she still deeply loves. Hurt and anger rage through her. Not only has Stu betrayed her, she feels God, Himself has abandoned her. How could He have given her such unbearable burdens? With a newly broken heart, she retreats even farther than she retreated in the months following the death of their baby, this time not only turning her back on her husband, but leaving him and returning to the community where they both grew up. There, with her mother’s emotional support, she begins to question her own actions. Was it she, in her deep depression over their baby’s death, who had driven Stu to another woman? If she had been more loving, more understanding of his needs as a man, would he have strayed even the one time he did? The fact remains, though, he did stray. Can she ever trust him again? Does she want to take that chance? And what about her faith in God? If He can let such disasters befall her, does she want to accept that He loves her, that He even exists?
   When Stuart shows up in their home town with the baby he fathered, whose mother died and appointed him sole guardian, Annie sees how much the little girl resembles her own lost daughter. Pain strikes anew. She wishes he had never forced her to look at the baby, a baby who is not hers, can never be hers. Though she knows she will never be anything but Stuart’s wife—at least in her own heart—she finds this child of his an unforgivable sin. She, too, made vows before God, a God she continues to rail against, though her pastor assures her everyone questions their faith at times.
   Stuart has never really questioned his faith, and prays for Annie’s forgiveness, for God’s forgiveness, and for the strength to go on doing what he knows he must do—being a father to the unexpected child he loves, and fighting for a chance to regain Annie’s love and her belief in his for her. When Annie’s mother falls ill, Stuart moves into her home to help Annie, and though she doubts her ability ever to be a mother to his child, she soon discovers she can no more blame this lovely little girl for being than she could blame a flower for growing in a barren field.
   Will that be enough, though, for Annie and Stuart to regain the life they swore before God to live together, to love and cherish each other, until death would them part?
Though it takes the wise and kindly counsel of their pastor, much prayer, and God’s help, Ms. LaRoque’s characters prove that love and faith can triumph even over tragedy.
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