03 April 2013

Finders Keepers, by Fern Michaels


Synopsis: Raised in a magnificent Charleston house, Jessie Roland wants for nothing. But as she grows into young adulthood, all she feels is loss and a desperate need to break free from the stifling possessiveness of her “parents”. Somewhere, in the deepest part of herself, Jessie believes that the world she has always lived in is not the one she came from…or belongs in.

Now, at age nineteen, she has escaped to Washington, D.C., where no one knows her, and where she is swept into a whirlwind marriage to a Texas senator’s son. But the past will not release Jessie, who is once again haunted by a sense of lost happiness, of simple, tender gestures buried in her memory. Only in Lucas Palmer, a reclusive rancher, will she discover the strength to penetrate the darkness and find her way back to the place she can call home.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, a Zebra Book, published by Kensington Publishing Corp., 1998; 411 pages; received from a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts: About a year ago I read my first Fern Michaels book, LATE BLOOMER, and I loved it. It was an emotional roller coaster. It made me want to find everything else she’s written, and I’ve been steadily collecting her books ever since, though I didn’t read another one until this one. And I’m sorry to say if FINDERS KEEPERS had been the first one I read instead of the second, I probably would not have bothered to look for any others.

The story itself was good. It was an interesting premise. We meet Jessie as a child, growing up within a rich and affluent family, but terribly unhappy. As soon as she is of age, she drives away, and with Sophie’s help, creates a new identity for herself so that her parents won’t be able to find her. That aspect was a little unbelievable to me, and was glossed over. We don’t know how Sophie got this new identity for her, but Sophie is rich and knows people and can get anything done. Despite the fact that Jessie has a new social security number and a fake background to tell people about, she still uses her real name.

Through Sophie’s connections, Jessie gets a job working for a senator, whom she comes to be very fond of and vice versa. One year, knowing she will be alone for Christmas, he invites her to spend the holiday at his ranch in Texas, where she meets his son, Tanner, and Luke, a neighboring rancher. (One little nitpick I had here – the back cover copy says “Lucas Palmer”, but his last name in the book is Holt and the name Palmer never appears.)

Towards the end of the book I stayed up way past my bedtime because I didn’t want to close the book without finding out what happened next. But the writing. Or rather the writing style I guess. There was a lot of dialogue. Which is fine, characters talking to each other is great. The first scene where Jessie meets Tanner and converses with him was hilarious and made me want to see them get together. But often one character would talk and just ramble on. For instance, Jessie would answer the phone and hold a conversation, and we would only get her side of the conversation. Instead of a back and forth, she says something, the other person says something, we only heard her side of it, but she would repeat what the other person said, almost as if narrating the other person’s side so we, the reader, wouldn’t be lost. It was annoying. Even in person though, sometimes one character would begin talking and go on and on, and you know the other person is responding, but instead of that person’s dialog being written down for us to read, the first character would almost narrate the conversation.

And the mothers in this book! They are all over the top! Jessie has grown up with a mother who is incredibly overbearing. She ran every aspect of Jessie’s childhood, and made all of her decision, right down to what clothes to wear, what to eat for her snack, what to do with practically every minute of her time. Growing up, Jessie only had one friend. Sophie’s mother and Jessie’s mother used to be best friends, but apparently drifted apart after Jessie’s family moved away from Georgia. Jessie and Sophie, however, maintained their close friendship, seeing each other during the summer and whenever else they could. While Jessie was at school every day her mother would go through her room. Her father knew she did this, wondering what she could be searching for, but not interfering. When Jessie would come home, she was expected to change into the clothes her mother had laid out on her bed, and then instead of playing like a normal kid, she played games with her mother or did some activity with her. When Jessie’s father gave her a pair of overalls, her mother had a cow, insisting that Jessie take them off and that she cannot possibly appear at the dinner table dressed like that. And on and on and on, until Jessie could not wait to get away.

Then there’s Sophie’s mother, who roamed around the world with her latest boy toy, leaving her daughter home with the household staff. She missed birthdays, Christmas, even her daughter’s college graduation. And the senator’s wife was also incredibly overbearing with her children, but whereas Jessie’s mother loved her to pieces, smothered her with that love and seemed to live only for and to be with Jessie, Tanner’s mother was distant and formal and lived to put on a good appearance for all the neighbors.

Overall, I liked the book, liked the story, despite how implausible it all was. The synopsis hints at a secret about Jessie’s parents, and even though that secret is revealed to us, the reader, in the prologue, I don’t want to say what it is, but it is the driving force of the book, right up to the last chapter.

I will say one last thing that some might construe as a spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you want: I was disappointed when I read the epilogue. I don’t like the way it ended, and how one of the two men just seemed to disappear from Jessie’s life without any explanation.

Oh, and one other comment – if Sandra Brown had taken this plot idea and written the book, I probably would have loved it rather than just liked it. Yeah, I think about stuff like that.

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