The Reunion

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saving Toby by Suzanne Mckenna Link

One could build a library to house the romance novels in which a bad boy with a good heart is rescued from the darkness that surrounds him by a good girl who sees a diamond in the rough and who is willing to give up her dreams in the name of love. At first, it seems as if Saving Toby is simply the newest addition to this library.

Toby Faye is a stereotypical bad boy. The son of a dysfunctional family – his father took his own life and his brother is in prison upstate for murder – Toby has no direction in life. He likes beer, girls, and an occasional joint. His anger flares at the least provocation and fighting is always a possible response. He spent several months bumming around Florida, taking whatever job presented itself. He is at home as the book opens because his mother is recovering from recurrent cancer and needs assistance while she receives radiation and chemotherapy.

Claudia Chiametti is the opposite of Toby Faye. The daughter of a police officer, she studies hard, does well in school, is enrolled in college, and has direction to her life. She plans to study gerontology, perhaps at USC, and she is employed part-time at the local senior center. She knew Toby when they were in middle school, and they meet again when she accepts a second job, caring for his mother three afternoons each week.

In a typical story, Claudia would fall head over heels for Toby the day they met, and they would fall into bed together three pages later. Not in this book. One of the book’s strengths is Claudia’s character. She is not a starry-eyed little girl who is easily impressed by a cute smile and bulging biceps. Instead, she is assertive, self-confident, and she will not give up her dreams to please either boyfriend or her father. She knows what she wants from life, and she does not want guy like Toby Faye. She has standards, and even as she becomes attracted to him, sex is not a foregone conclusion.

Of course a romance develops, but it is so much more realistic than those we frequently encounter in novels. Their relationship moves from dislike, to thinking he is cute, to being attracted, to being willing to date him, and finally, to falling in love. It’s a sequence that most romantic relationships follow (perhaps omitting the very first step!). The reader can easily imagine that the story is based on fact.

The romantic scenes, too, are realistic. They grow out of the plot, and they advance the story. This is high praise for a romance, where such scenes are often seemed to be tossed into the story, almost at random, to maintain interest.

The plot is interesting, and the reader is never positive where it will go. I was surprised, even on the final page.The writing is excellent –the dialogue is believable, the descriptions are vivid. You will love this book. I’d give it a six out of five.

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