A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

A Love Untamed by Karen van der Zee

on November 9, 2013

What tickled my fancy: Strong, independent heroine

What ticked me off: I seem to be having a run of bad endings, but this was the Worst. Ending. Ever.

Who might like it: After that ending, I dunno.

She scraped and sanded and painted and cried. She installed a new back door, replaced a cracked pain of glass in one of the windows and kept on crying. She laid Mexican tiles in the sun-room and wept. She rented a sander and sanded all the wooden floors, dripping tears on the raw wood, making dark stains.

You can usually count on a van der Zee book to have a good heroine — it’s just a shame that the competent and resourceful Livia spends so much of the book utterly miserable.  Actually, I didn’t mind that at all, because I love me some angst. I just mind that there’s no good payoff for all that misery.

Livia is restoring a house she just bought when Clint Bracamonte appears, claiming ownership. As they work out the issue, they grow close, although Clint warns her that he’ll be returning to his work in the rain forests of Indonesia soon. Livia isn’t too concerned — she’s always been a traveler and even speaks Indonesian. But Clint is aghast when he discovers her dreams — he has no intention of continuing their affair.

Livia tries to get on with her life and get over it, but then Clint’s life once again intersects with hers in a complicated way, requiring her to go off to find him after all.

Although the plot is kind of episodic, I mostly enjoyed this. The characters are believable and mature and the writing about other cultures is pretty respectful, barring one cringe-worthy moment when Livia thinks, regarding the heavy earrings weighing down the ears of the Indonesian women, “if you grew up with the things you wouldn’t know any better.” The chemistry between Clint and Livia is very strong, making her anguish all the more compelling.

But Clint just holds out forever. After everything he put her through, the ending cried out for something big to happen; an “I’m sorry, please marry me” did not cut it. It was one of the least satisfying endings I’ve ever read and simply spoiled the book for me.

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