marginalia || Second Chances, by Sharon Sala

I’ve had Second Chances by Sharon Sala on my shelves for a couple of months now (I won it from an Avon Books contest), and last night I finally picked it up. I’ve realized that I read more historical romance novels than contemporaries, so I figured it was time for a change. I have never read this author before, so I really didn’t know what was in store for me. This is a new printing of the book originally published in 1996–which must account for that ambiguous horse running through a green landscape. Which leads me to suspect that 1996 must have really been a terrible year for romance. Bah.

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Billie (20) and Matt (35) meet each other, chance-meeting-style, in an airport one snowy New Year’s Eve. The strangers kiss, and there were fireworks galore. It was one of those everything-hinges-on-this kind of kiss, and we spend a couple of pages seeing the two characters marvel at the chemistry, as well as grappling with their insecurities (yes, this early on, there’s the I-word). And then Matt walks away. Boo. But of course, that kiss lingers in both their minds for a long time after. || And then Fate steps in. I love it when Fate makes an appearance in romance novels–it’s practically mandatory for it to do so. Anyhoo, Billie and Matt meet each other again about two years later. Billie happens to be friends with Matt’s grown son, Scott. Oooh, conflict. And what happens for the rest of the novel is akin to the cha-cha (you know what I’m talking about, right?) Augh.

What was odd about this novel is that I was aware that it was a disaster, but something in it made me allow myself to be dragged to its underwhelming conclusion. [Think early Diana Palmer, with her virginal cowboys and young heroines with small breasts. Huh.] What did you do to me, Miss Sala?

There just wasn’t enough development between Matt and Billie–which makes the rest of the story too in-credible. Do they love each other, or did they just rest all their emotions on that New Year kiss, as dog would to a bone? Did they even like each other? Billie was a damaged person, with a lot of baggage with her. Baggage that grows heavier by the page, by the encounter–the last part of the novel’s just a big heap of WTFBaggage. Matt, on the other hand, was just too damned nice. Sighs. I really don’t believe Matt and Billie will be happy. I bet Matt’ll grow tired of her senseless stubbornness, of how Billie refuses to give herself a happy ending. And that happy ending was dubious at best. And let me give you a keyword when it comes to this book: catatonia.

And the age difference became a non-issue. Not that it was ever the issue Sala wanted us to believe. Trust me, I know all about those issues in age difference. I beat Billie by a year so HAH. Ahem.

One more thing: The writing was terrible. I wish I could say it any other way, but darn it, it was terrible. It was graceless. For one thing, the POV kept shifting. And it did so by the paragraph. And not only between Billie and Jean, but with all of the goshdarned characters. In several scenes, there were about five characters in the byplay and Sala made sure to get inside the head of every freaking one of them. And Sala refuses to just show us what’s happening; she feeds us with every motivation of the characters–it was lazy, and it was maddening! [And the characters were stock too: the blonde best friend, the evil father, the grouchy widow neighbor who happens to be very very nice. Lazy, lazy.]

STILL, something has to be said about that hook Sala embedded on me. But first, I have to know what that is. Maybe that way, I can avoid being hooked by the same thing again. Bah. [Random English-Filipino(Tagalog) translation: in Tagalog, sala means miss–as in, you didn’t hit it, okay? Just saying.]

I don’t think I’ll read this again, but through Googling, I’m aware that there’s a big Sharon Sala following. So off it goes in the box I’m bringing to the University library. Maybe it’ll make someone happy.

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