Saturday, August 20, 2011

Waltzing at Midnight by Robbi McCoy

Publisher:                Bella Books

Waltzing at Midnight tells a story not seen enough in lesbian fiction.  It's about a woman who finds at the age of forty that she is evolving into a new person and the many ways that her life is affected by the changes.

Jean Davis thinks she knows what her life is about.  For more than twenty years she has built her existence around her marriage to Jerry and the needs of their two children.  She passes through the time in a kind of fog of respectability, happy with her limited possibilities and enjoying the reflected glory of her family's accomplishments.  All of that comes to an end when she decides to volunteer in the mayoral campaign of Rosie Monroe.  Rosie is a well known businesswoman and major player in the power structure who exudes energy and vitality in everything that she does.  Jean finds herself caught up in the highly charged environment that Rosie creates and realizes that she is changing in fundamental ways that call into question everything she has always thought about herself. 

As Jean's personality begins to unfold, she finds that she likes being respected by other people and seen as someone who can get things done.  As Rosie encourages her to stretch her abilities and move into her own career, Jean also discovers that she is developing an emotional attachment to a woman for the first time.  She recalls reading Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken in high school and not understanding it, but the meaning has become crystal clear to her now.  She has two roads before her, one of conformity and one with frightening possibilities.  The choice is Jean's to make, but not without consequences.

This is an exceptionally well developed story and one that was refreshing to read because it follows a different path to its conclusion.  Many people find themselves at a crossroads in their lives where they have to choose what has always been or dare to try something new.  Most books choose to tell the easier stories of younger characters and ignore what happens to more mature women.  Jean's struggle is one that many readers will identify with.  Though this is a romance, the central theme is about the ordeal Jean goes through in weighing family expectations against the excitement she feels over discovering talents and interests she never realized she had.  This isn't a story just about a woman discovering lesbianism, but of one opening up her life and finding out who she was, could be and wants to be.

Rosie Monroe is central to Jean's development.  Everyone should have someone in their lives like her.  She encourages Jean in her explorations and allows her to soar, even when it might take Jean away from her.  She provides strength, experience and wisdom when it's needed, but she never dictates to Jean what she should do.  Most importantly, she refuses to lead Jean away from her family, knowing that it would destroy their relationship, and instead leaves Jean to determine for herself what her course should be.

It's hard to believe that this is Robbi McCoy's first book because it's written with such skill.  She doesn't rush her points, but draws the reader along at exactly the right pace.  Not only is it enjoyable, but this is one of those books that it's hard to put down.  If Waltzing at Midnight is indicative of McCoy's innate ability, then readers have some good stories to look forward to.

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