Karina Bliss: What the Librarian Did

Was to get pregnant at seventeen and give the child up for adoption. Hardly a shocking secret the blurb breathlessly suggests will keep the star –crossed lovers apart for the duration of the novel. Indeed, memo to the editors using ‘Seventeen and a half years earlier’ as the opening sentence negates the suspense the blurb so miserably tries to generate.

Intrigued by its appearance on Awful Library Books we were delighted that our local library could satisfy our curiosity. This being our first menopausal romance (sorry, ahem, Harlequin Super Romance) we were not entirely sure where it sat in the Mills and Boon pantheon apart from the protagonists been older than their ‘Sexy’ counterparts. It would appear that ‘super’ grants you an additional point of view, in this case that of a whining seventeen year   (Year 2010: ISBN 13 978 0 373 71622 7)                                                            old.

Declining to prostitute his rehab stint on reality TV, Devin Freedman returns to his ancestral home of New Zealand to commence his post-rock star life by studying Commerce at the University of Auckland. There upon he meets Rachel Robinson who is emotionally scarred from relinquishing her son seventeen years earlier. Entering the fray is Mark who in the search for his biological mother befriends Devin. It does not take a genius to plot the trajectory of this novel.

For all the denouncing of stereotypes in her Dear Reader letter, Bliss does very little to stray away from them. Devin is the ex-drug addicted rock star swindled out of royalties by someone he trusted, the librarian has a larger sexual repertoire than her op-shop attire would suggest. Oh wait, they are different in that the majority of these characters would be speaking with a New Zealand accent.

For a book set in New Zealand, the primacy of catering to the American audience renders this book as culturally confused. New Zealand characters possess an American phraseology ‘Mom’, studying at uni becomes “Going to school’ yet obstinately fail to understand that ‘barf’ and ‘hurl’ are synonyms for vomit (p.20). 

What amused the most was Bliss’s interpretation of an academic librarian. Rachel is described as subject librarian for business and finance. Ignoring that fine distinction between library technician and librarian, Rachel shelves and most shockingly of all deigns to interact with undergraduates. Does not Bliss realise that the role of the librarian is to impart information literacy skills (cough) and most commerce students (particular first year) do not frequent the library as this books suggests. Hell, it is a badge of honour among commerce students never to have borrowed a book from the library throughout the duration of their course. Epic fail in this regard.

Flippant comments about the (American) cover work always bring a wry smile. Yes, both characters seemed to be attired in clothing decades before the novel is set. Yes, the comment is sufficiently witty. But, the books? Certainly not in the dewy decimal 658 vicinity. Academic libraries are spoken in terms of information commons. Libraries are not merely confined to place but are about creating space (supporting collaborative learning outcomes and great coffee. Note sarcasm.) So the books are bit overkill.

Does it work as a romance? We certainly are not effusive in praise as Dear Author was. On the positive, we did manage to finish reading it but we could not suspense the disbelief long enough. It’s a middle of the road romance heading into midday lozenge territory.


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