Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Perfect 10: THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO... by Susan Donovan

THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO... - Susan Donovan
A Perfect 10
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0-312-93951-5
January 2009
Contemporary Romance

Persuasion, West Virginia – Present Day

Twenty years ago, Riley Bohland was Kat Cavanaugh's knight in shining armor, always there for her, the center of her young life. The day she finds out she's pregnant, her aunt, principal of the school, tells her she will have to leave school as soon as she starts to show, Riley breaks up with her and tells her to "get lost", and she finds her father making love to another woman in his sculpture studio. After breaking the $250,000 bust he was doing, her mother told her to leave the house and gave her eighty three dollars. So Kat did what she was told, caught a ride with the driver of an eighteen wheeler and stayed with his dear sister, Phyllis Turner, for seven years, and remained lost for twenty years. Now Kat is back in Persuasion to tell Riley that he is the father of her son Aidan, and show the whole town she's made something of herself. But when Riley confronts Kat, he already knows he has a son, and demands to know where she has been hiding him. This isn't how her daydreams of returning to Persuasion were supposed to turn out!

Riley Bohland feels he is definitely the most hurt person in this situation. All those years ago, Big Daddy Bohland thought they were too serious and threatened to take away his car and his right to play varsity sports if he didn't break up with Kat. In those days that was a big deal for Riley. But when he went to Kat's house that night after changing his mind, she was already gone. Riley eventually became a doctor, and it was only a year ago when Kat's mother was dying of cancer that she told him he was the father of a son. Riley and his brother Matt spent three months driving around the country trying to find Kat and his son, but they never did. After that, Riley just existed in a sort of dream, until out of the blue Kat returns and he demands to know what has become of a son he knows nothing about.

Secrets. That's the whole reason behind everything that has happened to Kat her whole life. Keeping her mother's beatings from the people of Persuasion, keeping her child away from his hometown and father, keeping her hurt behind her outward facade as she went to school and made a new life for herself with strangers, far from her parents and the man who had been everything in her life since she was young. Kat decided she would get lost and stay lost. Now her son is almost twenty, and she tells him she has lied to him about not knowing who his father is. This almost destroys Aidan and his belief in his mother. But while Kat and her friend Nola are staying in Persuasion, Madeline, owner of the Bed and Breakfast where they are staying, tells her Riley is engaged and going to be married by Christmas. Once again, Kat is left feeling stupid for still harboring feelings for Riley and leaves to go back home and start a new life. Is a new life possible now that Aidan wants to meet his father, and will he ever forgive her for lying to him all his life?

Susan Donovan has a deft and impressive way of bringing each character to life and having their emotions explode inside of us. Oh, I can feel how Kat felt all those years ago, pregnant and afraid and kicked out by everyone. And years later braving the anger of both son and old boyfriend over their years apart. Each person makes me sympathize with him or her, and despair over Kat's home life. Feelings and life experiences abound in Ms. Donovan's writing, along with a sly comedic flair and lessons in life that we barely know we are reading about. It's clearly shown the trauma men leave behind in their families when they hurt their wives, and young women are forced to raise children without a man's love and caring.

The secondary characters abound in rich detail. Kat's friend Nola has been a friend for years; she might have been married three times, but she's still looking for the one man for her. Riley's brother Matt is a policeman and always has his back, except when he meets that hot friend of Kat's, and then everything in his life turns around. Virgil is Kat's father, still alive, and as mean and antagonistic as ever, despite his heart attack. Memories of Kat's mother, BettyAnn, who endured beatings from her husband and eventually kicked Kat out of the house have continued to haunt Kat; why was she not worthwhile enough for either of her parents to love? Caroline Mathis is Riley's ex-fiancée from over a year ago who has some kind of obsession with him and is determined they are getting married by Christmas, whether he knows it or not. She bribes Madeline, owner of the Bed and Breakfast, to plant the marriage information in their minds that is sure to send them running away from Persuasion and Riley in particular.

The GIRL MOST LIKELY TO... is a surprise early nomination for my first Perfect 10 in 2009. Tackling sensitive and emotional issues such as domestic abuse and not telling a man for almost twenty years that he is a father is not common fare for most romances. But the emotions are so honest and real, you can feel them well up inside of you as you sympathize with Kat for all she has gone through. Riley has his point of view too, but the story just reinforces how small actions taken at a young age can linger with you far into adulthood. An exceptional novel with humor and pathos and rich in detail, and the finely put together characters make this a story worthy of our Perfect 10 award and a must read this month. You'll laugh, cry, and your heart will break over this brilliant story of a man and woman—what most wondrous stories end up being about.

Carolyn Crisher

PS...don't forget the contest to win this book!


Estella said...

This sounds like a real tear jerker----I love 'em!

Pam P said...

Great review, have to check this out.