Publisher: Bella Books
Two very different reasons brought Laura Izmani and Helen Baynor to the Beach Boardwalk for a symbolic ride on the biggest wooden roller coaster on the west coast. They part strangers, but only after sharing an experience that shifted both of their lives onto new tracks.
Their paths cross again decades later when Laura interviews with Helen to become the private chef for the Baynor household. Given what Laura revealed during that fateful coaster ride, she’s relieved that Helen seems to have forgotten her.
Fiercely protective of her children, Helen—now a famous stage actress and widow with teenaged twins—divides her time between home in a sleepy California enclave and the bright lights of Broadway. Continuing her carefully managed life until her children leave for college is all she wants.
Their first roller coaster ride together may turn out to be only a prelude…
[Originally posted on Amazon 4/27/12]
As my title suggests, I’d rate Roller Coaster as an average Kallmaker novel. I really enjoyed the book for the most part, but unfortunately the end kinda lost me.
This is not a formula romance. For the first half of the book nothing beyond an old, one-sided crush and an employer/employee relationship is going on between the two main characters. And it isn’t until about three-fourths of the way into the book that things really start developing between them. A lot of romance readers won’t have any patience for that, but I really liked it as a change of pace.
There was plenty of time to get to know both Laura and Helen as fully realized characters, learn about their lives, and the important people in them. For Helen that includes her teenage twins, who are funny and interesting characters in their own right. I suspect that Kallmaker having teenagers of her own contributed to them coming across as very real for their age.
Laura is in the middle of making significant life changes and still dealing with a past demon, and Helen is trying to keep up with her hectic life in the same way as always, until an unexpected experience causes her to reexamine everything. Throw in a little side mystery and there was plenty to keep me engaged in the novel.
Where the book lost me was right near the end, when getting to the inevitable “I love yous.” Normally this is the big pay off, what you’re waiting for in a romance. However, to me it was like the book shifted, becoming overly saccharine and mushy. Since the characters had not been portrayed that way up until that point, it made it even worse. (I say worse because that sort of thing doesn’t float my boat anyway, though I know many romance readers love it.) I don’t recall having that reaction to Kallmaker’s writing in the past, so I think it’s this particular book and not me.
There was another issue that I don’t really want to be specific about, because it’s a key conflict point in the book, but how it finally came up right near the end and was resolved also felt a bit forced and “off” to me. It’s not that it was terribly done, but it didn’t feel quite right either.
So in the end, what had been a thoroughly enjoyable read for me for most of the book ended up leaving me feeling a little dissatisfied. I’m not at all sorry I read it and overall it was still a good experience. But I don’t think this one will go on my reread list, unlike several of her other novels.