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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Trouble with Playboys by Margaret Tanner

The Trouble with Playboys by Margaret Tanner
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full (228 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Edelweiss

When a wealthy Englishman, Paul Ashfield travels to Australia in search of the birth mother he thinks deserted him, he never expects to meet and fall in love with Daphne Clarke. Upon meeting her parents, Paul is horrified by the possibility that they may have the same mother. He beats a hasty retreat, leaving Daphne heartbroken. Amidst the turmoil of WW2 they meet again in Singapore, just before the Japanese pour into Malaya, and in the chaotic aftermath each believes the other is dead.

Daphne is a small-town Australian girl, of working class background, studying to be a nurse. Paul is an aristocratic English playboy, bored with his life and friends, except that he would like to know who his true mother was. It is 1938, boy meets girl by accident on a Sydney street, and their romance carries them into the vortex of World War II.

This is a well written book, with spare, smooth prose that draws the reader into the story like a riptide. Clear your calendar for this one because it is hard to put down once starting. A bonus is that it also packs suspense, with tantalizing plot twists that keep you guessing about the final outcome. On top of that, this story ranges wide, exploring themes that give the love story unusual depth and tension. We see characters struggling to overcome their very real faults. We see love’s bliss wrung out by the voluntary call to patriotic duty. We ourselves are torn by the very upheaval of war: of desperate decisions, of lives teetering in fate’s balance, of the place of privileged social status as the maelstrom approaches.

The only flaw in an otherwise stellar work is the character Paul. The author spends an entire chapter convincing us what a bored and spoiled aristocrat he is. No girl matters to him, he can take his pick of any, but they all bore him. Then he literally bumps into Daphne and falls instantly, and I mean instantly, in love. Sorry, but it doesn’t compute. Fortunately, the author comes back to the Paul we know, and we see him struggle with his pampered ways as they create multiple problems for a lasting relationship. The challenges that the lovers face in a wartime situation are very realistic, and they make for an exciting plot. It you can overlook the characterization gaffe, fortunately an early one, then this is a worthwhile read, a story that will not let you go till the final page.