Romance digs into themes of family, divorce

Carol A. Wright

By A Contributor

Right now, I am not the only person trying to get along with ole’ man Winter. Instead of leaving the house to go on a brisk run around the neighborhood—like I probably should anyway—I, like lots of others, prefer to curl up with a good book and just stay put for awhile.

Call me “chicken,” think of me as a spoiler of winter parties or even temporarily lazy, but I am glad that Susan Wiggs gave me the opportunity to enjoy her most recent novel in the Lakeshore Chronicles series, “Candlelight Christmas.”

Although some book critics have claimed that writing a romance novel is a fairly elementary process, not all writers are able to successfully produce and achieve that goal.

Some historical romances are tough going. Writers need to be knowledgeable about the people, social life and facts of the era. Most fans can spot discrepancies and catch other errors that might be unintentional.

The same could be said of a contemporary romance like Wiggs’ “Candlelight Christmas.” But the themes of family, love, devotion and friendship tend to be the main ingredients, whether it’s Wiggs who is doing the writing, Nora Roberts or another author.

The two main characters in Wiggs’ novel—Darcy Fitzgerald and Logan O’Donnell—try to get on with their lives following the disappointments and hardships of a divorce. It’s nearing the holidays, and instead of rejoicing, Fitzgerald dreads Christmas with her ex-husband, Huntley Collins, and his new wife.

Fitzgerald wants to remain close to her now grown-up teenagers, a son and daughter, who show ambivalence toward her. She could care less about Collins, but wants to stay in contact with her kids.

O’Donnell is lonely after his divorce. The only person who keeps him going is his 10-year-old son, Charlie. Summers are the best times father and son can be together. At summer’s end, it is always an emotional time. That’s when Charlie returns home to his mother.

O’Donnell’s sister, India, plays match-maker when she introduces Fitzgerald to O’Donnell. There is a type of connection that they both experience, but realize that maybe they’re not yet ready to fall in love all over again and make commitments, only to find themselves eventually breaking promises and going separate ways. Fitzgerald meets Charlie, a seemingly nice little boy, but extremely talkative as he gloats over dad, hardly ever allowing dad and Fitzgerald to squeeze in a sentence or two.

There are many things that Fitzgerald and O’Donnell must work out. O’Donnell has additional setbacks as he deals with his father, who has never really given his son much credit to begin with.

O’Donnell has a profitable insurance company, but his heart is into buying a resort where recreation fanatics can mountain bike, ski, hike and zoom on the zipline. Since his divorce, he has dated lots of women. Unfortunately, none have turned out to be right for him. And even though he delights in playing the field, he’s missing that “special someone.”

Fitzgerald feels like an outsider within her own family. With a dry sense of humor, she explains that she felt the sting of rejection at the time of her birth. The instinct of being rejected all began when her parents wanted a boy.

Now a grown woman, she continues to endure her parents’ disappointment, but will soon learn to rise above it. What could be considered even worse is that she and her sisters were named after literary figures.

Even though “Candlelight Christmas” was a pleasure to read, other messages broke through the fog loud and clear: divorce is rough on parents, children, families and friends, some couples refuse to remarry, others rush into new relationships too quickly.

It’s interesting to see how some children sometimes can adjust better to separation than their parents. But there’s no smooth way to get around it. Divorce is a heavy load to bear and a bumpy ride for all those involved.

Wiggs is a Harvard graduate and “passionate supporter of libraries and literacy.” At age eight, Wiggs published her first novel, “A Book About Some Bad Kids.”

The Lakeshore Chronicles alone continue to have a home in the hearts of readers everywhere. Hiking, biking and yoga are some of her enjoyable activities, but her favorite exercise is…no surprise…”curling up with a good book.”

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