Monday, March 7, 2011

What Are Friends For? "Sunny Days, Moonlit Nights" by Jean C. Joachim

Davis White is a well-known artist and married to a wealthy, controlling man. She has everything money could buy except one thing: love. Brad refuses to give her a divorce she so desperately wants. With no money, family, or friends, she flees to the Catskill Mountains where she spent her summers as a young adult.

Mike Foster has achieved success and made more money than he could have thought possible, but it destroyed his marriage and cost him his son. he is wary of every woman he meets, knowing his money may be more attractive than his good looks. Caroline reconnects with the life she had and friends from long ago. Mike stepped out of her teenage dreams into her life again, looking more handsome and tempting than ever. Caroline knew Mike back then, but is he still the man she fell in love with?

This is a very provocative love story about two hurting, disillusioned people who reconnect after many years but who now bring a sizeable load of baggage with them. Once they were young and carefree, spending their summers with friends, enjoying the mountains and swimming in the local lake, looking forwarrd to life's many possibilities. Now both have been hurt in significant ways and even though the old feelings seem to be alive in each of them, they both have secrets and along with those secrets come fears that revealing their true selves and the present dimensions of their lives, they could lose far more than they ever have before.

Caroline has been married for a number of years to a man who seemed to care for her in the early days of their marriage. Now, for the past two or three years, he has reverted back to his old ways and has been openly unfaithful to her, even to the point of discussing his affairs openly with her. He refuses her requests for divorce because in his mind, Caroline is a possession--a beautiful asset to his position as a wealthy man and a figure in New York society. Her fame as an artist has also become his "property" and no matter what she says to him, Brad takes delight in controlling every aspect of her life. Somehow she has amassed some funds and she is now walking out on him when he is out of town, hiding her location from him, and beginning divorce proceedings. With the help of a very good attorney who happens to be a good friend, Caroline tries to get her life back.

Her destination is the old summer cabin her family used for years in the Catskills. There she runs into the handyman who looks familiar--turns out he is her long-time friend and buddy Mike Foster. He is still doing odd jobs in the area and on several nights a week he appears at a local establishment with his rock band. Caroline is delighted to find her old friend who happens to be the man who made her heart sing so many years ago. He is now more handsome than ever, and while she is fully aware that she is still married, she knows that down deep she is still in love with him. Their old friendship is re-established and the old feelings re-emerge for them both. But Caroline and Mike are deeply fearful of being blunt honest--he is a multi-millionaire who has returned to his boyhood home, and she is a married lady in the midst of a messy divorce. This does not bode well for either of them or for their future together unless they can get past all these secrets.

This novel really digs into the heart of what it means to build trust between two people whose emotions become entangled. Obviously, withholding such basic facts about their individual situation is not a good foundation for building any semblance of relationship. While they are having fun reconnecting, their are others who are seeking to bring them both down publically. The media is seeking the "missing wife" of the wealthy New Yorker which places her ability to get her life away from Brad in danger, and any dirt they can dig up or manufacture on Mike is going to put his visitation rights with his son in difficulty. Lots of serious consequences for these two if all does not go well. Caroline has her art and Mike has his life and his music. Can they find a way past the fear and distrust and disappointment and find their way back to each other?

Both Caroline & Mike are like so many today who have become caught up in their lives, in their circumstances, and who have been injured deeply by persons in their lives they once loved and trusted. Those are the most painful kinds of wounds. There does come a time when the new and very vulnerable relationship between Mike and Caroline takes a beating--is really in danger of being destroyed, and how they get past that challenge with all its questions and sadness is a large part of the latter half of the novel. Their story reflects the kinds of challenges so many face when somehow they must find a way to rebuild what was once a good and emotionally satisfying love. Sometimes it works out, but for others the relationship cannot every be rebuilt.

I found this novel compelling and as is true in so much fiction, it combines true literary entertainment with some insight on living that can be helpful to many. Certainly it is instructive to think carefully about the values of honesty and open communication no matter what. In Caroline's case, would it have really hurt her chances with Mike if she had been upfront with him from the beginning? I don't think so. Perhaps his experience of going through a painful divorce could have been a helpful resource for her. Is there really any value in "going it alone" if there exists a friend whose judgment is trustworthy? Again, I don't think so. These were two critical errors Caroline made that came back to bite her in the backside. Reading this story was a very good experience and the book is one that I am sure I will be re-reading in the near future. I don't think this is a simplistic story--too many interesting characters and too much at stake for it to be simply a "girl meets boy" kind of romance. The situations in this story are messy because human life and relationships are messy. That is one of the things that makes for good fiction.

So I recommend this to romance fans and believe it will be a book well worth reading. I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

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