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on Jan. 27, 2012 :
I recently found Istoria Books, an epublisher that reports to be “working to provide quality fiction at affordable prices.” I took advantage of one of their special offers and download a copy of “Aefle and Gisela” for my Nook. The action of this story starts right on the front page. College Professor Thomas Charlemagne returns to his small hometown for a family wedding only to find that he still has to live down his childhood nickname as the town’s Timid Tommy. In a rash act, and with a little liquid courage, he agrees to jokingly stand up and stop his cousin’s wedding. However when morning comes, Thomas is more than a little bleary-eyed as he wanders into the wrong church and stops the wrong wedding.
Chick Lit Romp
Small towns are good and bad for the same reason; everybody knows everybody. While Thomas just objected to the wrong bride and groom getting married, he does know this couple. In fact, he used to date the bride, DeeDee, who just last night decided she didn’t want to marry the groom. And before Thomas can apologize DeeDee and Thomas are running from the church. Let the romp begin!
Malin’s story starts out like it is going to be the romantic version of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” (1963) where instead of the cast of characters running along hunting for buried money, the cast is running around hunting for the bride or groom. But the book quickly turns to a serious side discussing both poetry and public education. While the funny parts are funny, the serious parts were dry and often heavily detailed that seemed out of place in this otherwise enjoyable chick lit book.
Mixing Business and Pleasure
What makes “Aefle and Gisela” more than just some farce comedy is that both DeeDee and Thomas are facing professional and personal challenges in their lives. DeeDee has taken over the town’s car dealership from her father; it is all that she has ever thought about doing. But business is bad and no one in town really thought she’d hang on to the business after her father passed on. Thomas is knee-deep in researching an obscure monk who wrote poetry in medieval times and working toward the fast-track for tenure at his small university, but when challenged by some colleagues Thomas starts to doubt his research.
What makes this a good romance is that both characters have flaws. DeeDee, while pretty and smart, has a temper and has no problem taking a baseball bat to a car windshield. Meanwhile, Thomas is so afraid to share his personal emotions that he overwhelms everyone with academically superior language that only alienates him instead of making his point clearer. Through some funny situations, some arguments, and some discussions these two find each other’s middle ground and settle into a place where they can be together. If only they could resolve the problem with the original groom.
Not only does this book follow the romance of Thomas and DeeDee, a college professor and car sales clerk but it also follows the love poems of Aefle and Gisela, a medieval monk who writes poetry about his girlfriend the local milkmaid. With a subtle subplot, Milan has woven these two love stories together across the centuries so that we can discover how little has changed when it comes to affairs of the heart. It is Aefle’s love story that gives Thomas and DeeDee’s romance that added punch to make it something special worth reading. I always enjoy a love story that offers some historical perspective.
This is a quick and fun romantic read. Although a few times in the book I found myself thinking that the author should have followed the cliché rule about “show, don’t tell”. I recently read a nice blog post from In The Groove called, “The Art of Storytelling” that explains wonderfully the point of how much detail a writer needs to add so that the reader enjoys the story without getting caught up in the minutiae of the characters’ lives. There is a lot of introspection by both characters that I think could have been communicated with dialogue or action instead of long prose paragraphs; not to mention a lot of directions of people driving. At a quick 199 pages this is a nice weekend read for the beach or holiday that will leave a smile on your face but probably won’t make it to your must-keep bookshelf.
• Malin, Libby. Aefle and Gisela, Istoria Books. July 19, 2011. ASIN: B005DM323W
• Istoria Books
• Libby Malin official web site (also writes as Libby Sternberg)
• In The Groove blog, The Art of Storytelling; April 11, 2011.
(reviewed long after purchase)