LATE BLOOMER
Fern Michaels


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Atria, February 2003
Review by Sissy Jacobson

One terse phone call from her self-righteous, distant mother, telling her that her grandmother is ill and needs her, is all it takes to shake Cady Jordan out of the safe little world she has built for herself, and give her the courage to return to a town where her life had been forever changed.

Arriving in Indigo Valley, Pennsylvania after a twenty-year absence, Cady is not surprised to see the town has changed. She is surprised that her grandmother, the once famous movie actress Lola Jor Dan, has chosen this town in which to retire. Extremely wealthy, Lola could have picked anywhere in the world to live out her last days…why here, of all places?

In a mansion reminiscent of Tara on steroids, Cady finds the shriveled up, aging actress, huddled in a chair, wrapped in a yellow blanket, overpowered by a Dolly Parton wig. Shocked at the appearance of the once vital woman, Cady is glad she came. Lola has always been the one person who has loved her unconditionally. Now it’s Cady’s turn to care for Lola.

Of those who are surprised at Cady’s appearance in Indigo Valley, there are four who fear her return will destroy the safe, secure lives they have built for themselves. The four had once been her best friends, until a tragic accident had taken the life of a thirteen-year-old boy, and left ten-year-old Cady partially paralyzed for three years, with no memory of what really happened that day.

Amy Hollister Chambers, now a housewife and mother, had always been the leader of the gang. Her twin brother, Andy Hollister, is a successful insurance agent with a troubled marriage, Pete Danson, a prominent attorney who has never married, and Mac ‘Boomer’ Ward, newly hired police chief -- all friends since childhood, who have always denied being at the forbidden pond the day of the accident. Three of the friends have mixed feelings about Cady’s return. Cady has borne the blame for Jeff King’s death, and without her memory, she has never had a way to prove otherwise. Amy is ready to lead all of them in driving Cady out of town before she can regain her memory, cast doubt on their stories, and ruin their sterling reputations.

LATE BLOOMER has all the elements present for the telling of a wonderful story. First there is the twenty-year mystery that changed a bright, sassy, daredevil kid into a drab woman who lives a life hemmed in by fear. Add the love and support of an unusual grandmother, the flamboyant Lola Jor Dan who, along with her longtime friends, counteracts the effects of a harsh childhood spent with a fire and brimstone preaching father and sanctimonious mother. Then throw in people who have kept a closely guarded secret since childhood, and you should have an engrossing novel. However, with dialogue that is at times inane and irrelevant, poorly developed characters, uneven and, for the most part, tedious narration, I found this book fell far short of what I would expect from an author who is as well known as Fern Michaels. This novel lacked any depth of emotion for the characters and the story, and long before the end, I just didn’t care what happened to any of them. Nor did I care if the mystery was ever solved.

Years ago, I read Ms. Michaels’ TEXAS RICH series and loved it. I looked forward to reading LATE BLOOMER, but sadly, I was disappointed.

 

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