So if you follow my blog, you know that I've been going through a phase where I'm reading old school romance from the 80s and 90s to catch up on some of the classics I missed out on. Well, when I reviewed Judith McNaught's Whitney, My Love, I had a ton of people tell me, "You must read Perfect!" (Paradise also got lots of mentions, but I haven't gotten to that one yet.) So I decided to give Perfect, which is one of her contemporaries, a try. And I'm so glad I did.
Here's the blurb:
A rootless foster child, Julie Mathison had blossomed under the love showered upon her by her adoptive family. Now a lovely and vivacious young woman, she was a respected teacher in her small Texas town, and she passionately lived her ideals. Julie was determined to give back all the kindness she'd received; nothing and no one would ever shatter the perfect life she had fashioned.
Zachary Benedict was an actor/director whose Academy Award-winning career had been shattered when he was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. After the tall, ruggedly handsome Zack escaped from a Texas prison, he abducted Julie and forced her to drive him to his Colorado mountain hideout. She was outraged, cautious, and unable to ignore the instincts that whispered of his innocence. He was cynical, wary, and increasingly attracted to her. Passion was about to capture them both in its fierce embrace...but the journey to trust, true commitment, and proving Zack's innocence was just beginning....
Now, what I'm loving about these older romances is how epic they feel. As writers, we can't get away with loads of backstory anymore. We have to get to the present action immediately and carefully drop in character history here and there. The style has changed. Back in the 90s, it seems that authors often started early in the character timeline. We see them in their childhood or teen years for a chapter or three. Then it jumps ahead to another pivotal moment in their lives, then the present. I think Perfect had about 80 pages of backstory and set up before we got to the present story. But it wasn't boring, "This happened long ago." Instead it's written as the present and filled with action. So it works for me. Plus, this book is long, almost 700 pages, so the author had more room to give us all that information. And the result is that you feel seriously attached to the characters throughout the story because you feel like you've known them since they were kids.
And boy was I attached to these characters and their HEA because when the black moment came, gah, I was torn up. I almost couldn't read because my head was screaming the dramatic, "Noooooo!" and I didn't want to watch it all fall apart. >.< Any author that can make me feel that involved, like these people are real and this is not just a story, gets a gold star from me. And she does give you like a 100pg HEA so she tries to make up for all that anguish she put you through by laying on the happiness with a heavy hand. :)
Also, as a bonus, this book is from the early 90s and about a movie star, so there are cameo appearances by stars of that day, including Patrick Swayze (my very first celebrity crush.) And I had to chuckle at some of the 90s stuff like the heroine popping up her collar or the house being decorated in mauve, green, and brass. Also, because it's old school romance, there was a bit of a "forced seduction" scene where I wanted to smack the hero for being an asshat. But I realize that was acceptable hero behavior in older romances.
But overall, I really loved this book and felt like I went on a real journey. Here's my review on Goodreads:
Perfect by Judith McNaught
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a Judith McNaught that many people told me was their all-time favorite. I'm glad I listened to them. I love how she writes books that show characters from the pivotal moments in their childhoods and brings you forward in time. It gives the stories an epic feel and you're totally emotionally involved with the characters because you feel like you've known them so long.
And speaking of emotions, I have to say the "black moment" of this book gutted me. I felt like I needed to go cuddle puppies or something to make me feel better. Guh. It's a feat to make me feel that bleak about a couple's outcome when I *know* it's a romance and I *know* there will be an HEA eventually. I wanted to scream, "No!" and look away, hoping it wouldn't really happen. Yes, I know it's fiction. But good fiction makes you forget that it isn't real and this one did that. My only minor quibble is that the heroine seemed a little too perfect and without flaw. I know that's the title of the book, and the heroine had her reasons for being a model citizen/person but everyone has some flaws and no one is always that self-sacrificing.
Definitely one to add to your shelf, especially if you like epic, old school romance.
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