Monday, September 9, 2013

Love Overdue, by Pamela Morsi

Harlequin MIRA, ISBN 9780778315377, August 2013

Dorothy Jarrow--D.J.--has just landed her dream job, director of a small town library. It's in Verdant, Kansas, the heart of Kansas wheat country, and the library, long neglected, is in desperate need of revitalization. Offered the job based on her resume with no interview, D.J. packs up her possessions and her dog, Dew (Melville Dewey), and moves from Texas to Kansas without a backward glance.

D.J. presents herself as the librarian stereotype come to life, glasses, bun, severely modest, respectable clothes, but in her mind, she has a reason. Eight years earlier, on her twenty-first birthday, she tried to break out of her emotionally stunted upbringing and went to South Padre Island on spring break. She had an exciting one-night fling with a guy she met in a bar--and when she woke up in the morning, was utterly humiliated by what a stupid, reckless thing she'd done. This fling turns out to be central to the story, as D.J. discovers that the hot guy from South Padre is in fact Verdant's town pharmacist--and the son of Viv Sanderson, her new landlady and member of the library board.

In her professional capacity, D.J. is open, friendly, innovative, and responsive to the needs of her library patrons. She's eager to learn about life in Verdant and the central fact of Verdant life, the wheat harvest cycle that is the town's life blood. On a personal level, though, her emotionally isolated upbringing, with parents in their forties when she came along unexpectedly, and who packed her off to boarding school as soon as that was a viable option, compounded by her embarrassment and humiliation over her South Padre fling, leaves her closed in and prone to make assumptions and leap to conclusions about other people. This includes her old fling, town pharmacist Scott Sanderson. She assumes he's an experienced player. When she learns he's divorced due to infidelity in the marriage, she assumes he was the cheater. She's understandably confused as to whether to feel relieved or insulted that he doesn't recognize her, but it reinforces her image of him as a cavalier player indifferent to the presumed parade of women she assumes he's seduced.

This really is a charming story, as D.J. slowly learns to overcome her assumptions, learns about her new community, and makes new friends and connections--including getting acquainted with Scott in a more normal way. Scott also has his own challenges to overcome, having been hit hard by the brief disaster that was his marriage, and the more recent loss of his much loved and respected father. And it is frankly a lot of fun watching a fictional librarian be a real librarian, not just a book-lover but a woman with a professional education and experience, who looks at the long-neglected library that has been run by a rigid and unhelpful non-professional for a decade or so, and sees what it needs to be a real asset to the community. The other library employees, initially wary, and all having their own quirks, respond to her enthusiasm, insight, and refusal to be daunted by the glowering Amelia Grundler.

Morsi does a wonderful job with all these characters. There is a huge, weird gap at the end, though. All through the book, we get interludes from eight years previous in South Padre, seeing the Scott/D.J. fling first from her viewpoint and then from his. At the very end, though, when All Is Revealed, and we ought to get two confrontations--with Scott, over D.J.'s unfair assumptions about him, and with Amelia Grundler over some trickery of hers, we instead leap directly into an epilogue, eight years later, on South Padre Island. While some of what we see there is obvious from the fact that this is a romance, other things would be serious spoilers for one of the subplots.

Overall, it's a very enjoyable story, but it ends abruptly, and cheats the reader of what ought to be the big payoff scenes.

Good light reading.