The Trouble With Joe

Emilie Richards
1997 reissue of 1994 release, Contemporary Romance
MIRA, $5.50, Amazon ASIN 1551662795

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Warm

My used book store has a table where they sell older series romances for $.10 each. I have bought quite a few from that table. I've purchased my share of duds and bought a few that were just so-so, but for only $.10 each, I figure I can take a chance. Recently, I bought The Trouble With Joe by Emilie Richards. I defy my sister Anne, The Pickiest Reader In The World, to dislike this one.

The conventional romance novel follows the hero and heroine through a courtship and ends with marriage. The Trouble With Joe begins with the hero and heroine already married. They are working on fixing up their old house and are planning a big party. It is evident thay they love each other deeply, but something is wrong.

Through deftly handled flashbacks, we meet Samantha Whitehurst when her parents take her out for dinner when she is 21. Joe Giovanelli is the waiter and for both of them it is a case of love at first sight. Joe is everything Sam's own family is not. They are reserved, rich and truth be told, kind of cold. Joe is warm and loving. He is working and going to school and right now he is poor. But Joe will never be rich like Sam's father because he wants to be a teacher and have a big family like the one he came from. Sam is swept up in Joe's plans. Money? She's had it. Family? She wants one. Joe? She adores him.

As the story picks up, we find that Joe is a high school principal, Sam is a first grade teacher. They have been married for several years, they love where they live, they love their work, and they love each other. So what is the problem between Sam and Joe?

The problem is Sam and Joe want children and she could not get pregnant. Finally, after much frustration, Sam went for tests which showed that there was nothing the matter with her. When Joe reluctantly went to be tested, he found out that he had a low sperm count to begin with and he was allergic to his own sperm. Treatment did not help and there was nothing he could do.

Joe was devastated. His brothers and sisters all have children, and he who wants a family so desperately cannot father a child. Joe withdraws. He refuses to even consider adoption and, even though he never blames Sam, he won't talk to her, he won't listen to her and their relationship suffers despite their love.

Just as it seems Joe and Sam's relationship can't get much worse, Sam takes in Chloe, a little girl who had been in her first grade class. Chloe's neglectful mother has been killed in a car accident and she has no place else to stay. Chloe becomes the catalyst for some self-examination on the part of Joe. Joe and Sam have taken a real journey in this book and have come out stronger, wiser and even more united.

There is no silly Big Misunderstanding in The Trouble With Joe, instead the characters face a very real problem and we readers meet a very real man who is hurt and suffering down to the core of his deepest self. It is a tribute to Emilie Richard's skills that the reader will empathize with Joe's pain and hurt even when he is thoughtless and inadvertently cruel. So often I am tempted to scream, "Get Over It Already!" when I am faced with a character who acts like a jerk when he is confronted with a Big Misunderstanding (see Sarah's Child for a good example). Joe is not like that at all

I have already mentioned what strong characters Joe and Sam are, and the same goes for Chloe. This is no cute little girl - she has led a troubled life and is a handful, but is no demon child either. Chloe is a complex and very interesting child charcter who really added to the book. She is what a child character should be, but often isn't.

Here at AAR we have sometimes talked about conversion kits to give to readers who scoff at romance. If I was to make a conversion kit to give to people who scoff at series romance, this would be one of the ones I would give them. Please do yourself a favor and hunt down this wonderful book. Then share it with someone who thinks all series romances are frivolous.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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