I'll admit I was eye-ing the Chicago Bears as a possible football bandwagon, but during last night's game where Jay Cutler threw four interceptions and Brian Urlacher suffered a season-ending injury, I wasn't much in the mood to keep watching. So I improvised and read a book instead.
Karen Templeton is one of my go-to category romance authors, mostly because I think she writes "real" characters. Characters that don't come off as silly or contrived, and act like "normal" people. From Friends To Forever is part of Silhouette Special Edition's on-going Famous Families promotion and is book four in Templeton's Guys & Daughters series (which I adored).
Lili Szabo is a nice Hungarian girl visiting relatives in the States. After taking care of her for several years, her mother has passed away and Lili is at loose ends, not sure what to do "next" with her life. A vacation to visit distant relatives seems like just the ticket, and it's there that she crosses paths with Tony Vaccaro, her cousin by marriage.
As teenagers, Tony and Lili spent a lot of time together when she visited one summer. They bonded, over the fact that a broken leg had effectively ended his athletic aspirations and that she felt like a square peg in a family full of colorful circus performers. Now they're all grown up, and Tony finds himself attracted to Lili. Unfortunately the timing sucks for everyone involved. Lili is set to return to Hungary in a few weeks and Tony is still coping with being a single dad to three young daughters after his wife's death.
One thing I've noticed about many of the Famous Families books is that they are very series "heavy." This book is no exception. Several past characters from previous books turn up in this installment and as a "fan," I got a kick out of seeing all of them. But for newcomers? Yeah, probably not going to care all that much and I suspect it'll feel like "series-itis."
The conflict takes a while to get moving, and it involves The Dead Wife and a secret from her past that effectively throws Tony for a loop. This bit of conflict is compelling, and has a ton of emotional juice to move the story forward. However it's really complicated, and so fraught with heartache, that I felt the matter was resolved a little too conveniently at the end.
Lili seems like a nice enough girl, although she spent entirely too much time in this story cleaning Tony's house. She wants to "feel needed" and Lord knows Tony needs an army of help. I like home and hearth as much as the next girl, but I also need some fire. Luckily the author gives Lili some of that, which is illustrated in the form of a conversation Lili has with Tony's mother-in-law. That sealed the deal for me. The gal had gumption and I like gumption.
Besides the conflict with The Dead Wife, there's the small matter of the happily-ever-after which is a little complicated since Lili is Hungarian and not an American citizen. The author glosses over this aspect, and while most readers aren't likely to give a damn, all I could think about was my Lil' Sis and Super Genius Brother-In-Law, who practically had to fill out INS paperback in blood after they got married. Just sayin'.
All in all? This was an OK read. This wasn't a dud, but it didn't have quite the same magic for me as some of Templeton's earlier titles - especially the other books in the Guys & Daughters series. If you're a fan, it's worth a look. If you're a newcomer? Start here instead.
Grade = C+
ISBN 9780373654703, Silhouette Special Edition #1988, August 2009, $4.99