Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Second Verse by Jane Vollbrecht
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
Gail Larsen needs to move on with her life, but it just hasn't been possible. Her partner Marissa has been brain dead and in a coma since a canoeing accident that Gail, incorrectly, blames herself for. A victim of polio, Marissa was left with a weakened body, so Gail believes if she had responded faster, she might have saved her. Marissa's parents have moved her to a nursing home near them and refuse to let Gail have any contact with her, but she still thinks of Marissa as her partner and meeting anyone else is out of the question.
When Gail is assigned by her publishing company to work as the editor on the new book by Connie Martin, the leading figure in lesbian literature, she is appalled when she realizes there is an attraction between them. Conveniently, a childhood friend needs Gail's help to clean out her family home before it is sold, thus providing an excuse for Gail to flee from any contact with Connie. Connie is persistent with her attentions though and Gail begins to believe that there might be a new chance for happiness. A stunning medical diagnosis will call all of that into question as Gail tries to decide if she has the strength to deal with yet another partner with a disability.
Second Verse is a story about mature love, not necessarily in years, but in the way it is experienced and its consequences. It could be a routine romance except that it touches on two sensitive issues, the impact of chronic illness on a relationship and the lack of legal rights that homosexuals experience in many places.
Many people are familiar with the stresses that can be created by factors like money, work, and children, but chronic illnesses create a strain of a different kind. The sick person cannot help the illness, but at times cannot participate fully in all aspects of the relationship. The well partner tries to be sympathetic to what is going on and to cope with the situation, but when irritation with what is a frustrating existence occurs, then the guilt settles in for not being understanding or compassionate enough. It isn't surprising that situations like this often result in separation or divorce.
Gail suffers from guilt over a series of events over which she had no control. In this particular story, the problem is compounded by the fact that most states do not recognize any legal connection between gay partners. The point is driven home that, if Gail and Marissa had spent a little time with a lawyer, Gail would have had the right to make decisions for Marissa's care that would have been more in line with what Marissa had wanted. Instead, she finds herself excluded from her partner's hospital room and then her life by parents who never accepted the reality of who their daughter loved. Then Connie is diagnosed with an illness that is on the rise among women and that could face many couples. Anyone who is in a relationship should find herself making an appointment with a lawyer after reading this book.
Jane Vollbrecht took a formula romance and injected it with social commentary, poignancy and a touch of reality that isn't usually included in fiction. Second Verse is not a sad story, but it is a thoughtful one. It teaches some important lessons while telling an engaging tale.