Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lisa Gregory - The Rainbow Season

Luke Turner has always been an outcast-known as "bad blood" from his boyhood in a tarpaper shack, to his nights in a prison cell. Sarah McGowan's roots are deep in the Texas soil. But her secret, shameful love for her sister's husband has kept her from happiness. Pride and their love of Texas throw Luke and Sarah together in an unlikely marriage. Then, as unexpectedly as a spring flood, long pent-up passion explodes in a storm that consumes them both.

Comment: This is an old historical book by author Lisa Gregory (also known for her work as Candace Camp), initially published in 1979. This book is 40 years old. It's older than me! It just seems amazing how time flies.
The old paperback covers are really alike the bodice rippers of the time and so unlike what really happens in the plot. I mean, yes the main couple has sex, they are intimate but not to the indecorous extend the covers aim at, like this one on the left. 
Recently, many older editions have been "brought back" as ebook editions, with more conservative (dare I say elegant as well?) covers, like the one below in the text.

In this story we have a very basic story with heroine Sarah and hero Luke meeting after he gets out of jail for a crime he didn't commit. 
Since no one gives him a job, his last chance is Henry McGowan, a man renown as being fair, and if that doesn't work, Luke plans on leaving as soon as he gets a bit of money somehow. However, not only does he get a job but also the concern of his employer and the fascination of his daughter Sarah.
Sarah still lives in the shadow of her more attractive sister and she hides the secret of loving her husband in a way a sister-in-law shouldn't.
When rumors spread and a tragic event shapes the future of everyone concerned, will Luke and Sarah find things in common to have a lasting relationship and prove everyone they aren't just what other think of them?

If one is to base an opinion on what are contemporary views, contemporary things we accept or not, then this book certainly has issues in its content. However, romance is often seen as a means to escape reality and in that perspective, many unacceptable things now had a reason or a tradition that was the norm in another time. It's often complicated to put these things aside: the time when something was written and the time in which one lives.

This said, I wouldn't go as far to say this is a traditional bodice ripper. The characters are quite fair in how they deal with one another and the relationship between hero and heroine is respectable, even when they give in to their attraction. This means, both thinking about contemporary expectations and knowing how some older books were, this one is tame, sweet and more focused on the evolution of the characters than in how the hero can prove he is stronger/better than the heroine.

The plot is not too complicated, is more character driven and wants to show the reader how well suited the main couple actually is. There isn't as much talk about what they did in their pasts, about their overall feelings... but we see in actions, in choices made how they start respecting each other. This was quite a positive surprise, to have the characters be drawn more in relation to how their personalities were than things they said. It's not that often we have as much show rather than tell in these types of books (older and romance focused).

I'd say the two main issues why this wasn't a better book for me - and that certainly affected my final grade - were the following, both plot related:
First, the sense I got we had to be forced to change out opinion on Luke just because he was contrasted to Stu, one supposedly great man, hero potential, the husband of the better looking sister. Sarah apparently loves this man so of course Luke had to be a character developed as in opposed to Stu. I mean, why make Stu such a big deal? Just so we could believe Sarah actually loves Luke and was just attracted to Stu? I found this to be silly and unnecessary.
Second, there's a specific situation which happens and when it did, caught me by surprise on how avoidable and carelessly it was. I can understand why, it forced the characters into a certain action but... why, why couldn't the story follow the same path as it did without that detail? I got furious because it didn't change anything in how the characters behaved from that on.

There wee also some situations between hero and heroine that could have been presented with more tact, more sensitivity but well, there's still the year it was published in and some things were yet acceptable then as they wouldn't be now. I can think of this and not loose my mind over it. It's a dated romance, it wasn't impossible to be redeemed as the relationship between them evolved... but still, the little notion of it remains.

All in all, this was a good enough story, a travel back to an older point in time when things were thought a different way. The story has good moments, some silly ones but overall it were a few entertaining hours at least.
Grade: 6/10

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