Love Gently Falling
About This Book
Rita Jansen is living her dream as a hairstylist in Hollywood when her father calls with news that her mother has suffered a stroke. When she gets home to Chicago, Rita finds her mother is healing but facing a long recovery. Worse, without being able to run their family-owned salon, her mother could lose the business. Rita decides to help, but she only has until Valentine’s Day to come up with a plan.
As Rita takes her mother’s place at work, the nearby skating rink she loved as a child brings back memories. Rita also finds herself renewing friendships with her childhood best friend, Marley, as well as her classmate Johnny. Although they now lead such seemingly different lives, Rita is surprised by how well she and Johnny connect and how far he will go to help her. Though Rita believes Johnny is only being kind, with romance kindling in the air and on the ice, their friendship may just fall into something more.
I wasn’t aware when I received this story that it was a novella, but it turned out to be exactly the right length for this sweet little Valentine’s Day story. Though I have frequently wished with Carlson’s full-length novels that she would include more than just her leading lady’s point-of-view, the single storytelling voice worked for this shorter story. Rita was a heroine I could immediately relate to as a single woman who’s forged a new life for herself, only to have circumstances force her to return home after years away. She throws herself into restoring her mother’s salon, a labor of love that ends up leading to romance.
Being a contemporary romance of course makes elements of this story predictable—of course Rita is going to end up with Johnny—but there were some elements that made their story stand out for me. For starters, I don’t think I have ever read a story in which the hero was . . . a janitor! And the salon redecorating project they take on together was a pleasant throwback to the kind of makeover shows I enjoy watching on cable. The secondary characters were a bit formulaic, but in a shorter-length novel, there really isn’t room to develop them. Still, they added a lot of flavor for me, and overall gave the story a great sense of ordinariness—Rita and her family are just average folks, like many I know in my real life. They didn’t need to be rich or have glamorous jobs (though being a Hollywood hairstylist is certainly something!) in order to tell a good, romantic story.
As usually happens for me when a story has only one point-of-view character, I felt the overall telling of the story was just that . . . telling. I wasn’t able to really get inside any of the characters’ heads to truly experience the story through their eyes; instead, I felt like I was watching it all happen from a distance, as though it was a made-for-TV movie. Sweet and entertaining, but not really engaging. Also, with only Rita’s point-of-view, the story at times veered from romance into women’s fiction—or perhaps I should say it veered from women’s fiction into romance. Either way, it felt a bit disconnected and choppy at times, going from heartfelt scenes with her mother and family to obviously-romantic-minded scenes with Johnny and her other gaping, giggling childhood friends.
This little story is a perfect antidote to a cold, wintry night—the kind of lighthearted story to curl up with in your favorite armchair with a blanket and a cup of cocoa and get lost in someone else’s life for an hour or two. Fans of sweet romances and home improvement shows will enjoy this predictable but entertaining little tale of a savvy hair salon redecorating project and all of the restored dreams and relationships that come with it.
Available January 6, 2015 from FaithWords