Sunday, June 22, 2008

LETTING GO by Viviane Brentanos

Letting Go was a scary read for me, in a way. The heroine, Rachel Warner, is trying to raise her young son with too many bills and not enough money, even though her ex is well-to-do. Having to explain to her son, Alex, why she can’t get him the latest trendy stuff without frightening him about the electricity being turned off is a plank I’ve walked many, many times.

Rachel’s ex, Richard, is a coward and a bully who doesn’t give a rat’s fanny about his son. He emotionally abused Rachel until she was a shell of her former vivacious self, and then dumped her to marry his mistress. His powerful father has dictated that Rachel live her life as he sees fit or he’ll see to it that she loses Alex. His idea of a proper environment for his grandson is, basically, that Rachel live like a nun. He’ll provide for her house and the boy’s schooling, but little else. Rachel has to work for that. Consequently, she doesn’t have much of a life.

She works at a hotel that is known for catering to an upscale, celebrity clientele who like their privacy. She’s good at soothing divas and calming spoiled stars; and cannot understand why pop superstar Daniel Haines seems interested in her. She doesn’t remember that she and Daniel have met before.

Daniel was an American exchange student in Rachel’s English school ten years ago. Though two years behind her, he fell in love with the kind, lively girl. She was his dream come true, and even all these years later he’s never forgotten her, hasn’t quit having fantasies about her. He’s not been a monk by any means, but she still owns a big piece of his heart. The scrawny kid with braces who liked classical music has become a gorgeous, talented man with throngs of adoring fans; it’s understandable that Rachel hasn’t connected the two.

Rachel is very attracted to him and against her better judgment, starts seeing him covertly. She’s terrified that her ex father-in-law will find out she’s seeing a musician, especially one who would not fit his bill of moral uprightness, and Daniel doesn’t want her and her son dragged through tabloids. But the inevitable happens, and Rachel is in for the battle of her life.

And even though I wanted to strangle Rachel throughout this story, I loved the fact that she was not strong; she was not superwoman. In fact, she falls apart. She lashes out at those near her, hurting even her best friend, and nearly collapses from the panic. She’s willing to do whatever they want to let her keep her child. And I got it. I understood. The thought of losing your child is the worst fear there is. Rachel has been beaten down so much, and her ex’s family is so very powerful, that she feels completely helpless. It was a brave writing choice for Viviane Brentanos to let us see Rachel at her worst; it would have been easy to have Rachel pull the strength from inside and become Xena. But in showing us her struggle, Viviane wisely lets us crawl inside and feel Rachel’s desperation.

Daniel is sensitive and sometimes melodramatic, but I get that too. I am a musician myself, and I’ve known enough of them to recognize the breed. And he just loves her so much! It’s impossible not to feel for him.

This relationship takes a long time to simmer, and I’m glad it wasn’t an insta-love situation. A woman as bruised as Rachel would take a while to trust a man, and herself. I should warn you now it is highly sensual, and Rachel’s best friend Lynn is a hysterically funny Irishwoman who swears like a trucker. Upon learning of Rachel and Daniel’s first amorous encounter, she remarks, “You bagged, or should I say shagged, the big one.” I loved her and her crazy family.

The were a few British cultural references I didn’t catch, but it didn’t stall the story. The only problems I had were with Rachel’s profession- if the hotel has that kind of clientele I would expect Rachel to be a little more knowledgeable about celebrities (she didn’t know who Daniel was although he’s touted as the next Bono) and I certainly would expect her to make more money.

It was an emotional read that had timely moments of humor, and when I finished I thanked God that my husband and I will celebrate 21 glorious years this August, and my babies are home and safe. Check it out, and go hug your kids.


Kimber An said...

Excellent review, Robyn! Oh, yes, Viviane does sound like a very brave writer. Kudos to her!

Margaret Tanner said...

Viviane, Great review.Know wonder youa re pleased with it Letting Go sounds like a great read.