Tara Taylor Quinn
July 2008, Series Romance
Harl Superromance #1500, $5.50, 242 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373715005 Part of a series
Tara Taylor Quinn’s Trusting Ryan begins with a storyline I like: An older woman and a younger man fall in love. The scenario does not happen so rarely in real life as it does in romanceland, and I am always glad to pick up a romance with this setup. Although the story starts beautifully, for me it lost its impact when, later in the novel too many other issues were introduced.
Audrey Lincoln is a lawyer who works as a guardian ad litem; courts appoint her to represent the interests of abused children. In the course of her work, she became friendly with police detective Ryan Mercedes. Both Audrey and Ryan are workaholics obsessed with helping others, but they spend the spare time they permit themselves together, having meals or watching movies. They realize they have stepped beyond friendship, and feel prepared to take their relationship a step further and become lovers. The description of their first night together is both funny and hot, and then there's the aftermath, when suddenly they get to discussing each other’s ages. It so happens that Ryan is a wunderkind who advanced very quickly through the ranks, whereas Audrey had to interrupt her studies for several years to earn money for tuition fees, so she thought him older than he is, whereas he thought her years younger.
That scene is hilariously written while the misunderstandings are revealed, but it takes a serious turn when both begin to consider whether a relationship with a woman so much older than the man will actually work. And it made me consider: In real life, from what age difference onward would I think a relationship odd: five years? ten? fifteen? Is the double standard that exists in society regarding this matter – an older man is okay while an older woman is not – justified to some extent, and am I really free of it? The book made me reflect on my own values, and I thrilled at the challenge.
However, I wasn’t happy at all with the second half of the novel. Audrey and Ryan begin a tentative relationship and introduce each other to their respective families. In each case, the mothers react badly. These scenes are described, and we hear Audrey and Ryan’s reactions, but that is that. No development is shown; we are only told that there may be a change in the mothers’ attitudes. The focus of the novel instead switches on the emotional baggage Audrey and Ryan each carry from their family backgrounds, and how that hinders them from building a working relationship. Each family background is complicated enough to raise the term “patchwork family” to new level, and would in fact have provided enough material for two novels. (Ryan’s family is actually explored in Sara’s Son, which you needn’t have read for this novel.) Unfortunately, the age difference issue is more or less dropped.
The same applies to the working background of the two characters. In the beginning of the novel, the author inserts a number of case histories into the narrative, to illustrate the nature of Audrey’s and Ryan’s work. These also mostly fade into the background, and we are left with an intense chamber play about two people who must come to grips with their feelings regarding their parents. Which may be fine if you like that sort of thing, but this was not the novel I had started and enjoyed in the first hundred or so pages.
So, yes, I felt cheated. You may argue that with Trusting Ryan you get two stories for the price of one, but I would have preferred to finish the first, and would happily have exchanged the problem overload of the second half for a real exploration of the issue of age difference raised and then discarded without any real examination.
-- Rike Horstmann
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