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Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Antonia

My ÁntoniaMy Ántonia by Willa Cather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Cambridge, MN, Public Library reading group.

I used to live in Sioux City, IA, right on the Nebraska border. I've driven west on Interstate 80 through Nebraska, which is the only interstate in Nebraska outside the Omaha-Lincoln metro area. There is a lot of nothing out there. You can drive for miles and miles and not see anything but fields. Its not much better off I-80. I thought of this when Willa Cather described the Nebraska plains in My Antonia. (Because of the restraints of this program, I've eliminated the diacriticals and accents.)

My Antonia is Willa Cather's 3rd novel about her time in Nebraska. It is told through the perspective of Jim Burden, who was sent as a boy from Virginia to Black Hawk, Nebraska to live with his grandparents. He worked on a farm in the mid-19th century. While there, he meets the Shimerda family from Bohemia, and their daughter, Antonia. Jim is enlisted to teach Antonia English. Life on the farm was hard, and the Shimerda family was not equipped to handle it. Jim meets two Russian men who also are trying to farm. They can't make it either. In their case, they were essentially run out of town in Russia. They were driving a sled as part of a wedding party. They drove the bride and groom. On the way home, they were attacked by wolves. They threw off the bride and groom to save themselves.

In Part 2 of the book, Jim and Antonia go to town to work. They do this to get more money for the farm. The dance tent comes to town, and with it a realization that they're growing up. Antonia eventually moves to the house of Wick Cutter, ome of the most notorious money lenders in town. One night, he tries to rape her, only to find that Jim has taken her place. Wick attacks Jim, who escapes. Antonia comes by the next day to retrieve her things.

In Part 3, Jim has moved to the University of Nebraska. He encounters Lena Lingard, who is now a successful dressmaker in Lincoln. There appears to be a romance brewing, until Lena says she never wishes to marry. When one of his professors, Gaston Cleric, receives an offer to teach at Harvard, Jim goes with him.

The final segment is 20 years later. Jim, now a successful lawyer in New York, stops by Black Hawk on his way back from San Francisco. Antonia is married, with 6 kids. She was supposed to marry one man, but he left town before the wedding, but not before getting her pregnant. She is now managing the farm, which has become quite successful.

The book read more like a series of short stories than a novel. It seemed like there were few connections from one story to the next. It reminded me of a TV series. Her desctiptions of life on the Nebraska prairie made it come to life. This book was published in 1918, just as this life was ending, and the US was entering World War I. At the time, there were a lot of her who could still remember what life was like back then. It does have its flaws. Her description of a black piano player uses words that would be banned today. It is a product of its time, like Mark Twain using the N-word in Huckleberry Finn. All in all, a great novel, and one deserving of the title American classic.



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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

Much Ado About Nothing (Barnes & Noble Shakespeare)Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a review of the performance by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Think of the couples on TV with sexual tension. Sam and Diane on Cheers, Ross and Rachel on Friends, Booth and Bones on Bones, Castle and Beckett on Castle. They all have their roots in this play, Much Ado About Nothing (which could be the subtitle for Seinfeld).

This version of the play is set in Italy in the early 20th century. The war is over, and the troops, led by Don Pedro, are coming home. They all meet at the house of Leonato, the governor, who lives there with his sister, Antonia, and his daughter, Hero. Among the troops is Claudio, who wants to marry Leonato's daughter, Hero. Also is Benedick, who has a tortured history with Beatrice. Also along is Don John, Don Pedro's brother and loser of the recent war. Leonato invites them all to stay at the mansion.

While there, Don Pedro agrees to not pursue Hero since Claudio is in love with her. Don Pedro also convinces Leonato and Claudio to convince Benedick, who has vowed never to get married, that he is in love with Beatrice. Chris Gerson gives a great performance here, doing everything he can to hide from the three men. They sing a song, they cut out and Benedick goes ahead. Classic. Meanwhile, Antonia and Beatrice's attendants work on convincing Beatrice that she is in love with Benedick. This all comes to a head at the masquerade ball, when Beatrice says things about Benedick to a masked Benedick not realizing who it is. Beatrice calls him the prince's jester.

Meanwhile, Don John is plotting to disrupt Claudio's marriage to Hero. Borachio has a plan where he will have Margaret meet him on the balcony while Don Pedro and Claudio watch. Borachio will call Margaret "Hero", and Margaret will respond. In this production, they dramatized this scene. Then it was intermission.

After intermission, we meet Dogberry the constable, who is incapable of speaking a coherent sentence. (Sounds like some politicians I know.) He readies the watch. At the wedding, Claudio accuses Hero of infidelity. Hero collapses, and Don Pedro and Claudio leave. Hero then wakes up. The Friar suggests that Hero pretend to be dead, so the truth can be flushed out. Everyone agrees. Borachio is walking through town and tells his friend about the whole scheme. The watch hears this, and takes Borachio into custody. Dogberry intervenes and wants everyone to know that he is an ass. Claudio is upset by Hero's death, and agrees to marry Antonio's daughter, who is the exact copy of Hero. At the wedding, the bride turns out to be Hero. Beatrice and Benedick finally proclaim their love for each other. And everyone lives happily ever after.

First of all, even though the play is set in Italy, no one tries to fake an Italian accent. It can be hard to do without sounding like a stereotype. It would have distracted from the play. Excellent performances all around. Start with Chris Gerson and Tarah Flanagan, who are married in real life, as Benedick and Beatrice. They do a great job of letting the chemistry between them simmer below the surface until the right time. Given all the remakes with these two characters, we know that the more they fight, the more they know they love each other. Michael Fitzpatrick as Leonato is great too, and gives off an aura of leadership. Stephanie Lambourn as Hero lets the confusion come out. Hero doesn't know what's going on. Brian White is great as Claudio, who is in love with Hero but doesn't know how to express it. Andrew Carlson is great as Don Pedro, who tricks Benedick into proclaiming his love for Beatrice. And one last shout out for Chris Mixon as Dogberry, who convinces everyone that he is an ass. All in all, a great performance.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Romeo & Juliet as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This a review of the performance at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Romeo & Juliet. One of Shakespeare's most famous plays. I believe this and Hamlet are the two most widely performed plays in the US. The story of star-crossed lovers has become a timeless classic. It has been filmed many times, including Franco Zeferelli's 1968 film, and the 1997 version featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, where the setting is the late 1990s in Verona Beach, California. It has been rewritten numerous times, the most famous of which is Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. The star-crossed lovers concept is quite frequent. Danny and Sandy in Grease, Prince Eric and Princess Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid (although that one had some biological issues as well), Shrek and Fiona in Shrek. Most rewrites do eliminate the double suicide at the end, however. The balcony scene is one of the most recognizable scenes in literature, and also one of the most parodied. Because of all this, I won't bother to summarize the plot. I won't even worry about spoilers.

Director Doug Scholz-Carlson said that this is a fun play, until it's not. That's how the play is set, in 2 parts. Part 1 is the fun part. It starts with a duel, reminiscent of West Side Story. The choreography comes across as a cross between West Side Story and the old Batman TV series. I almost expected a POW! or BAN! to flash across the stage. This is enhanced by the music of Mike Munson. The time is the late 1940s-early 1950s. The party is a blast, everyone swinging and having a great time. The costumes are a cross between West Side Story and Mad Men. When we see the balcony scene, Romeo, played by Benjamin Boucvalt, comes across as painfully shy, and doesn't know what to say. He's coming out of a relationship with Rosalyn, who is becoming a nun. (It's hard to compete with God.) It isn't until Juliet, played by Caroline Amos, professes her love for Romeo on the balcony scene that he has the courage to come forward. They get married in secret by Friar Lawrence, but have to separate. Juliet has to go back to her father, or else people will wonder where she is. Part 1 ends with the death of Mercutio, and the murder of Tybalt by Romeo. That's when the "not" kicks in.

Part 2 starts with the Prince investigating the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio. Tybalt's body is at the front of the stage, with a large amount of blood on his shirt. Romeo is banished. He goes to Friar Lawrence to hide. There was an unexpected moment of humor when Friar Lawrence opened the gate. The gate came off its hinges. When he tried to shut it, it wouldn't shut properly. We all knew it was a blooper, but we went along with it. (There's talk that this may stay in the play.) The nurse arranges for Romeo and Juliet to spend one night together. Eventually, there is the double suicide. Juliet takes a drink that gives simulated death for 42 hours. Caroline Amos does a great job of going into convulsions, as I believe any actual drug would do. I've seen too many performances where Juliet takes the drink and goes right to sleep. Romeo eventually finds her body, and takes the poison, again going into convulsions. Juliet wakes up, and stabs herself with the knife. Kudos to Caroline for staying under the sheet for that long.

I thought this was an excellent performance. Chris Gerson, as the Prince, Peter, and the Chorus does a great job mastering all 3 roles. Michael Fitzpatrick as Friar Lawrence gave a great performance, with good counsel in some areas, poor in others. One thing I thought of, if this happened today, Friar Lawrence could just text Romeo that Juliet was only faking. To make it work, Romeo would have to be out of cell range, so he couldn't get the message. Benjamin Boucvalt as Romeo gave a very nuanced performance as Romeo. Tarah Flanagan as the nurse and Rosemary Brownlow as Lady Capulet were excellent in their performances. To me, the best was Caroline Amos as Juliet. This is her first performance on the Main Stage, after some years in the Apprentice Company. If you didn't know that, you couldn't tell. She played the part of Juliet with fire. She jumped in and sang at the party (great singing voice, by the way). She wanted to be somebody who had the guts to take the poison. It was an excellent performance, and I expect her to be on the Main Stage for many years to come. Mike Munson's music definitely set the stage for the production. He even wrote an original song for it. All in all, a great performance.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Glass Menagrie as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

The Glass MenagerieThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a review of the performance by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Just about every year, the Festival does a non-Shakespeare performance in addition to its two Shakespeare plays. This year the selection was a classic of American theater, The Glass Menagerie. It tells the story of the Wingfields, who were displaced from Mississippi to St Louis. Tom is a writer who works in a warehouse, but dreams of more. His mom, Amanda, can be very domineering. She wistfully remembers the Old South she grew up in. Tom's sister, Laura, has a walking impediment. She likes to take care of her glass menagerie. Laura is also painfully shy. Her mother is trying to find a gentleman caller for her, so that Laura has someone to take care of her. The gentleman caller turns out to be Jim, an old high school classmate of Laura's. I won't say any more because of spoilers.

The atmosphere is very melancholy. The set design made the family feel cramped. There was no way out. The father had left 16 years before. His picture, like his legacy, hangs large over the stage. It reminded me of Big Brother from George Orwell's 1984. The dinner scenes used pantomime to mimic eating, reminiscent of Our Town. The play is set in the 1930s, during the height (or is it the depths?) of the Great Depression, when America was at its lowest, and things were stirring up all over the world. Given that this premiered in 1944, during World War II, audiences back then would have remembered it all too well.

The cast was great. Stephanie Lambourn was excellent as Laura. She portrayed the shyness of Laura with incredible depth, making her seem just as fragile as the menagerie she loves so much. She is just as breakable as they are. John Maltese is great as Tom, who narrates the story as a flashback. He is even nicknamed "Shakespeare" at work, which makes this even more appropriate for the Festival. He is at odds with his mother, but he still loves her. Andrew Carlson is great as Jim, the gentleman caller who brings Laura out of her shell. He strikes the right balance between the super outgoing guy and the gentle soul that can draw out Laura. The biggest role was Leslie Brott as Amanda. Her performance is not totally domineering, but rather a woman who wants what she had, and wants everyone else to help her in that. She brings a certain level of humor, to avoid having this play be too depressing. Some of the banter between Tom and Amanda reminds me of Howard and his mother on The Big Bang Theory.

The one negative I found in this production was too much silence. I realize silence is important to set the mood, but I felt there should have been something to fill in. It made the play drag on too long.

All in all, an excellent performance. Someone commented that there was a sense of hope at the end of the play. I don't know if that's totally true. The characters in the play didn't know it, but World War II was coming soon. *Spoiler Alert* Tom would either have enlisted or been drafted if he had not gone into the merchant marine. Amanda and Laura would still be in that apartment together, waiting for something that might never happen. The only sense of hope is that Tom is narrating this, which means he did not die in the war. We may never know.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Siren's Call

Siren's Call (Dark Seas)Siren's Call by Debbie Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

Siren's Call is the 3rd installment of the Dark Seas trilogy, focusing on the Borsage sisters, Shelly, Jet, and Lily, who live in Alabama. Book 1, Siren's Secret, focused on Shelly, book 2, Siren's Treasure, focused on Jet, and book 3 focuses on Lily. To update everyone, Shelly married Tillman, the sheriff. Jet married Landry, a former FBI agent, and is pregnant. The Bosarge sisters are all mermaids, a secret known only to them and to their husbands. Lily has the gift of the siren's song, which attracts men to her. This makes the women in town very unhappy. One day at the grocery store, Lily runs into Nash, and old childhood friend, who is immune to Lily's siren song. Nash is a photographer, who came back to take pictures of the area. Since he is immune to her song, Lily wants him more. She also runs into Opal, Nash's assistant. The novel follows their interaction. Lily's mother comes to town to convince Lily to go back to the mermaid community. Nash's grandfather, who is dying, tries to convince Nash to stay. He also tells Nash of the legend of the Okwa Nahollo, a race of underwater creatures that live in the bayou. Nash and Opal have secrets of their own, which I won't reveal here because of spoilers.

Overall I thought the book was great, just like the first 2. The plotline was defined, with just enough twists to keep everyone interested. The characters of Lily, Nash, and especially Nash's grandfather were very well-developed. The climactic scene was very engrossing.

I had two issues with the book. First, the ending with Carl Desmukes. He had been threatening the sisters by claiming to have documents showing that Tillman's father had been embezzling from the county. He had been threatening them for all 3 books. It ended too abruptly, in the middle of the book. I would have liked to have seen it at least extended out to the end of the book. Second, the ending, which was designed to wrap up the trilogy, was too much a Disney movie "happily ever after" ending. I believe there should have been some tragedy in the ending.

These are just minor quibbles. All in all, it was a great book. She's currently working on her next book about the Okwa Nahollo. I look forward to it.

Full disclosure: The Okwa Nahollo is a Native American legend. The author stated that she did enhance some elements of the legend for dramatic purposes.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

The Monopolists

The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board GameThe Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked playing Monopoly growing up. I loved being able to buy up properties, collect the rent, and crush everyone. Mwah hah hah. Of course, I also lost my share of games. Those were not fun.

Monopoly will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. Millions of people like me love playing the game. A lot of people think they know the origin of the game. It was in every box of Monopoly. According to Parker Brothers, Charles Darrow was unemployed in 1935. He remembered his family trips to Atlantic City. One day, he sat down at his kitchen table and sketched out a board game, using street names from Atlantic City as references. He refined the game with the help of his family, and eventually sold it to Parker Brothers. He collected royalties for his family, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Not quite.

In this book, the author tracks down the true origins of Monopoly. It turns out that Monopoly was based on a game called The Landlord's Game, which was patented in 1902 by Lizzie Magie. She wanted to show the evils of capitalism, and felt that this game would do that. The game became popular very quickly, and was played on college campuses in the 1920s. In fact, it was one of Darrow's neighbors who introduced him to the game. Parker Brothers very quietly bought up old boards, and paid Lizzie Magie $500 for her patent rights. They printed up a few copies of The Landlord's Game, but only for her benefit.

The book follows Ralph Anspach, inventor of a game called Anti-Monopoly. He first invented the game in the 1970s, a time when trustbusting was big business. One day, he received a cease and desist letter from Parker Brothers, saying that his game and its name violated Parker Brothers' trademark for Monopoly. The book follows his legal battle, which focused on whether Parker Brothers had any right to a trademark for Monopoly, since it had existed prior to Darrow's patent in 1935. *Spoiler alert* In the end, Mr Anspach lost the first round, which led to several thousand of his games being buried in what is now a housing development in Mankato, MN. He ultimately won the right to sell his game, although Parker Brothers' trademark was never canceled.

The author does a good job of tracking down the origins of the game, and of following Mr Anspach's legal battles. Her book was limited by two major restrictions, both beyond her control. First, most of the key players are dead, so she had to rely on documents and 40-year-old depositions. Second, Hasbro, which bought Parker Brothers in 1991, declined to cooperate with the book. The book is still fascinating reading. There is a picture in the book of a board from the early 1920s with "Monopoly" printed in the center. It came up for sale on ebay last year (2014). If this had been available back in the 1970s, I wonder if Hasbro would still have a trademark on Monopoly. (As part of a settlement with Parker Brothers, Mr Anspach is not allowed to reopen litigation.)

The book is a great read. However, I suspect most people playing Monopoly won't even care. They will continue to pass Go, draw Chance and Community Chest cards, and hope they don't land on Boardwalk or Park Place with a hotel. McDonald's will still have its annual Monopoly promotion. Robert Kiyosaki and others will continue to promote playing Monopoly as a way of learning about how capitalism works (ironic, considering the origins of the game.)

Anti-Monopoly is still available for sale at Amazon and University Games. (The antimonopoly.com website listed in the book expired on 3/29/15.) I recently purchased an Anti-Monopoly game from Amazon. On the bottom of the box, in very small print, was a statement that Anti-Monopoly is a trademark owned by Hasbro, Inc, and is used pursuant to a license. I assume that was part of the settlement, or perhaps University Games negotiated that with Hasbro, because it's another huge irony. The man who fought Parker Brothers on the trademark for Monopoly now finds his game trademarked by Hasbro, successor to Parker Brothers. The book mentions how Parker Brothers then Hasbro tried to massage the origins of Monopoly as printed in the rules. Recent editions of Monopoly don't even mention the origins of the game.

Mr Darrow died in 1967, but his family continued to receive royalties for decades after his death (I wouldn't be surprised if they still do). One subtle impression I get from the book is this: Once in a while, cheaters do prosper. That is definitely a lesson in American capitalism you can learn from Monopoly.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Execution is the Strategy

Execution IS the Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum TimeExecution IS the Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time by Laura Stack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the (now-defunct) 12 Books Group in exchange for this review.

Execution is the Strategy. When I first saw the title, I thought, "Duh." Nothing gets done unless you execute. You can sit around in meetings all day and plan to your heart's content, but unless you execute, it's all meaningless. Unfortunately, a lot of corporations don't do this, or don't really know how. The author has a 4-step plan, based on the acronym LEAD, to get things done.

L stands for Leverage. This means that you have the right people and drivers to execute your strategy.

E stands for Environment. This means you have the right organizational atmosphere , practices, and culture to allow employees to execute.

A stands for Alignment. This means that employees' attitudes align with the organization's goals.

D stands for Drive. This means that everyone is agile enough to move quickly to execute.

Within these, she discusses various strategies to make sure can execute effectively. She goes through the ideal scenario, and then explains what to do when the ideal scenario doesn't work. There's also a "Final Word" in each chapter, summarizing what was said.

I've read a lot of business books, and some of this reminded me of things I'd seen elsewhere. For example, the section on prioritizing reminded me of the "ABC" method I've seen elsewhere. (A is top priority, B is important but lesser priority, and C is trivia.) Also, a section on refreshing your mind by doing important things that aren't urgent. reminded me of Stephen Covey's quadrant system. (Check it out in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)

She does address big disasters in the book, where you do what you can, but a lot of other plans go out the window. She doesn't mention the biggest one of the last few years, however--9/11. That was a big improvisation. It also illustrates the dichotomy in the book. For a big emergency, you need to have one person in charge, giving orders. For other considerations, however, collaboration is better, but not to the point of analysis paralysis. The response right after 9/11 was great. The decisions on what to do with the site, though, were not great. It took over a decade to decide what to do with the property, and the new building just opened.

This is a good book. The best thing to do with this, however, is to put it into action. If it just sits on a shelf, the title becomes ironic.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Past lives reading.

This is a past lives reading I got from Shoshannah J Kirchbaum yesterday. I fixed some minor typographical errors, but otherwise it's exactly as she wrote it. What do you think? I think I have some book ideas here. Read the original for yourself here;

https://www.facebook.com/events/1645634622326064/permalink/1648321555390704/





Shoshannah J Kirschbaum Joseph McGarry: So are you Irish mate? Lol. You are truly a male version of me, lol. You are working first on responsibility and second on psychicness so they will thread thru all your lives. And you are truly giftedgrin emoticon. In your last life you were a priest, and a chaplain in the army. You were American. Your unit had gotten thru many scrapes so they called you Father Lucky. But one day as you were giving last rites to a young man your unit was strafed by some German airplanes and almost the entire unit was killed. In the early 1800's you were of Irish decent and owned a large plantation in Georgia. You were kind and fair and then married the neighbor's only child and doubled your holdings. Your wife died in childbirth with your third child, all boys and you raised them well and responsibly. But one day in your 40's you died checking a field from a snake bite. In the 1700's you were English, and was the second son, you inherited money when your father died so you invested in a great ship, and became a pirate! You used your psychic gifts often to stay from storms, from capture and to find the richest ships. Your wife thought you were a sailor, You had 2 daughters, and had enough money behind a wall in the cellar When you died of an illness they buried you at sea and your first mate, and your best friend inherited the ship and gave a letter to your wife about the monies below the floors in the wall. 1600's you were a shaman in the Lakota tribe. You had great visions that kept your people fed and moving to the best spots for them. You also did amazing healings. Your tribe got status just by having you in it. You loved your wife and your oldest son had your abilities so you trained him to be a shaman. The other was a great warrior. One day when you were about 40 you told your wife you were going to die. You loved your wife, ate your favorite meal and then died at sunset. IN the late 1500's you were a German who lived in your father's house and was a healer and herbalist. At about age 23 you were actually burnt as a witch after a child died you could not heal. You have been an Incan priest, an Egyptian astrologist, a Buddhist monk, and advisor to Genghis Khan, and had many more lives. You have a couple left and those gifts make you important to raise people's vibrations in the now. Namaste.
  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Notre Dame Day.

My new page for Notre Dame Day, starting April 26 at 6:42 PM EDT. More to come. GO IRISH!

http://notredameday.nd.edu/JosephMcGarry



In case you're wondering, I have 2 degrees from Notre Dame.

  1. Bachelor's in Accounting 1986
  2. Law 1989

Monday, March 9, 2015

Confessions of the World's Oldest Shotgun Bride

Confesssions of the World's Oldest Shotgun BrideConfesssions of the World's Oldest Shotgun Bride by Gail Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is about Steve and Katie. Katie is 40 years old, a successful career woman, who has given up on love after breaking up with her boyfriend. Steve is a pilot in the Air Force, in his early 20s. They were next door neighbors growing up. Steve lusted after Katie as soon as he was old enough to know what lust was. They meet while they were both on vacation in the Cayman Islands. They hook up several times on vacation. When they get home, Katie wants to go back to her work life and just pretend it was just a vacation fling. Steve, however, wants to make this a relationship. Then Katie finds out she's pregnant. What will happen next? (By the way, that was not a spoiler. That's on the cover of the book.)

The plot moves along quickly. This is the younger man lusting after the older woman, a switch on how it usually plays out in the novels. The main problem I had is that some of the other characters weren't fleshed out enough. I felt like there were some subplots that could have been explored further. For example, Katie is up for promotion to president of the firm. That seems to be given short shrift. Some characters, like Katie's and Steve's friends, also pop in just long enough to move the plot along. Also, the section where Katie wonders if she's pregnant went on for too long. We already know she's pregnant, so why drag it out? Without giving away any spoilers, I thought the ending was contrived. It cut things too short. I also would have liked to see what happened 1 year later, after the baby was born. An OK book, but not special.

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