Friday, March 2, 2018

Book Review: 'The Sweetheart Deal' by Allison Morse

California author Allison Morse hails from a fascinating background. She grew up in Los Angles, a member of a family of actors and she pursued the family's passion until moving to Berkeley to earn her bachelor's degree, following that with a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Phillips Graduate Institute and then on to Hastings College of the Law for her JD. Always loving writing she has added writing to her busy career as a lawyer, enhancing her abilities in the literary arena with classes at UCLA Extension. She writes Young Adult fiction under the moniker Alise McLennan and under her name Allison Morse she writes Romance novels with unique characters, seamless plots and always the unexpected. She is a member of Sisters and Crime, SCBWI and RWA. In addition to THE SWEETHEART DEAL, she is working on a mystery set in Hollywood entitled `Depth of Focus'.

Allison has completely captured the 1950s atmosphere (even the cover art reflects that) and her manner of speech is as apropos as is the mirror of the relationship between the sexes. She sneaks us into her plot by a section placed even before the Introduction: `Nancy leaned toward her and whispered, "Isn't John Adair handsome? Don't you think he looks like that movie star Burt Lancaster?" Ellen choked slightly. "No, not really." "John lives near Hollywood, you know," Nancy said, her eyes alight. "Near the ocean!" Ellen nodded politely. Even Boris Karloff would seem dreamy to Nancy if he could be her ticket out of Pitney. "So, tell," Nancy said. "What?" "Did you know him?" Nancy's eyes widened. "I mean, when he worked for your dad." "I, ah..." Ellen patted down her dress's exaggerated puff at her hips. "Yes, sure." The man himself strode to the dance floor with Ellen's mother. Ellen's throat tightened, and her pulse beat like a conga drum. Swallowing hard, she commanded her body to behave. It didn't. Damn. She was hardly some schoolgirl to go all gooey at the sight of him. Ellen had to admit she was impressed by the elegant way John led her mother around the dance floor, a skill he wouldn't have learned on a farm or in a factory. His transformation from the boy she had known was complete. He was now perfectly groomed, his wavy red hair tamed by a generous application of pomade, his bulky shoulders filling up the black tuxedo jacket. He had made it. Good for him. But she prickled with irritation. Why did he have to come back?'

As is so often the case, the author's own synopsis to the plot is tastier: `The Sweetheart Deal is the story of Ellen Hamilton, an unconventional woman living in the conventional 1950s. Ellen has the talent and savvy to be a first-rate businesswoman even if her times aren't ready for her. Yet having been burned by her fiancé and her own father years earlier, Ellen has suppressed her ambition and settled into quiet conformity as the town librarian. This all changes when her former fiancé, the scandalous John Adair, returns as a representative of a large corporation, setting her small California town abuzz. John says he's returned to make a lucrative deal with Ellen's family company, Hamilton Manufacturing. But Ellen knows not to trust him. Nine years ago he broke her heart when she discovered that he would do anything for money and power. After all, she had proof he betrayed her and her family's business which provides most the jobs in the rural town she loves. Now John is back and a takeover of Hamilton Manufacturing's new product is in the air. Ellen is determined not to let that happen or to be taken in again by John's considerable charm. John Adair, ruggedly handsome, a self-made man on a trajectory of success, has returned to the town that once tried to destroy him. Nine years ago he'd been falsely accused of corporate espionage and thrown out of his home by the Sheriff and Ellen's powerful father. What truly shattered John was that Ellen, the woman he loved passionately, believed the allegations. But that was the past. He has returned for one reason only, business. But will he remember that when gazing into Ellen's enticing eyes or when intoxicated by the aroma of jasmine blossoming on a spring day whenever she is near him? Ellen and John see the past very differently; but they have one thing in common. They've both spent the last nine years doing their best to forget each other. Sparks fly when these two headstrong individuals meet again and soon find themselves tempted by The Sweetheart Deal.'

Smoothly elegant prose, fully three dimensional characters, the flavor of the 50s, and a fine sense of blending romance with the (now recognized) eccentricities of the ear she resurrects make this a deliciously fine novel from a very polished writer. See Allison fly! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, June 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.