Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Her Best Friend's Lover by Shiloh Walker

There are times in everyone's life when each person comes face to face with something they want that they can't have. For me it is an XJ-6 Jaguar sedan and a brand new Macintosh I-Book. For others it will obviously be other things, but the most difficult situation a person encounters is when the "something" one wants is a person--their presence in one's life, their love and loving. So it is with the two main characters in this early story from Shiloh Walker's creative mind.

Dale is a published author who is a great guy, loves women, and who never has any trouble getting a steady stream of them to fall for him and fall into his bed. Yet while he is making love to them, he is envisioning an old love from his home town, a girl who only dated him a few times in order to make the guy she really wanted jeolous. He has been living next door to his best friend Lauren, an artist whose paintings had gained national and international fame. For five years they had been best friends and Lauren had watched the steady stream of women in and out of Dale's life with interest and dismay. You see, the "something" she wanted and couldn't have was Dale. She had been one of those girls in high school that just didn't seem interested in the boys in her classes. She didn't seem much interested in men in general. Not that she didn't date, but she was more interested in her art and in making sure that her life was carefully under control.

These two very creative and interesting people were indeed best friends who sniped at each other about the romantic shambles each saw in the life of the other. Neither seemed to make any headway with the other--Dale couldn't seem to give up his obsession with the old love interest Nikki, and Lauren knew that no one would do for her except Dale. So she kept him in the "friend" category carefully and with some emotional distance between them, while Dale chafed under her accurate and perceptive analysis of his profligate lifestyle. He was constantly trying to "fix her up" with guys he knew, believing that she was lonely and needed romance in her life. She was and she did, but she didn't want it from anyone other than Dale. That is, until one night, when Dale had once again found out that the old love interest was again pregnant, another proof that she was well and truly married to the man she wanted--and not to him. Having consumed a fair share of beers and a goodly amount of whiskey, he is drunk and bawdy and irreverant when Lauren comes to the door to apologize for a "fight" they had a week earlier. For the first time ever, Dale "sees" her sexually and unbeknownst to him in his inebriated state, he takes her virginity while shouting Nikki's name. He does not even remember their encounter later, so Lauren does not tell him that he is the father of the child she is now carrying.

This is a love story in the truest sense of the word--two lonely and emotionally scarred people, both seeking to avoid the hurts of the past, both needing to love and be loved. Both Dale and Lauren are on a journey of discovery that will eventually force them to face their past and to make some important decisions about the present. Each must decide not only if they have faith in their growing relationship but whether they have faith in themselves.

This novel, like all Shiloh Walker's stories, challenges the reader to look deeper than the obvious. We all have secrets but how do we handle those? Do we share them with those we love? Do we trust them enough to let them see us as we are, or do we screen them out for fear of being rejected? These are the core questions I think this novel poses. And even though I know that Ms Walker likes the HEA as much as the next author, sometimes getting there is painful, just as life's reality can be painful. Fictional Happily-Ever-After's are often easier to obtain, and life can dish out some fairly overwhelming realities. We don't plan for them, or perhaps we don't realize that we are setting ourselves up for the let-downs that come. And perhaps that is the other core truth that is operative in this story. Dale and Lauren were both honorable people, but their difficulties were not so much the result of normal relational wear and tear. Both had what we now call "issues" that kept intruding into a relationship that needed to be open, honest, and filled with trust. Is that not the way we should all live? Risky? Yes, absolutely. But there are no for-sure kinds of relationships in real life. These fictional characters remind us to give up the fear and embrace the hope that comes when someone is brave enough to say, out loud: "I love you."

This novel is well-written and the story moves along beautifully. It engages the reader's attention from the first paragraph and keeps one "hooked" until the very end. I know that I kept wondering how these two could be getting along so well--there had to be trouble on the horizon. And there was. How they weathered the storms is a great part of this tale.

Ms Walker has given romance fans many stories to celebrate and embrace. As one of her early works she shows the promise that we all now see continually fulfilled in her recent publications. It is another reason to go back and enjoy what came early on. It is a reminder that really good love stories never get old. I give this story a 4.75 rating out of 5.

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