I am a sucker for small town love stories. The circle of friends, the town pulling together, the hominess of the communities where everyone seems to know everyone else—I just love that. Midnight Promises by Sherryl Woods is one of these types of novels. It is part of the Sweet Magnolia series, and though I own several of them, this is the first one that I have read.
The book centers on the marriage of Karen and Elliot. They have been married for a while and are raising Karen’s two children. Karen’s previous marriage was a train wreck, with her former husband leaving her with a huge pile of debt and some serious trust issues. Reading about what happens after the “and they got married and lived happily ever after” was interesting, though I wish I had read the novel where Karen and Elliot met. Elliot seems to be trying to meet Karen halfway, but I found Karen to be completely awful.
Karen has some trust issues. She is specifically insecure when it comes to money. So, when Elliot decides to invest their baby fund in a new gym without consulting her, she hits the roof. This is pretty understandable, since this is a huge chuck of money. But Karen wants Elliot to consult her about EVERY decision. She gets mad when Elliot lets his stepson join a touch football league. When Elliot expresses any frustration about her inability to trust him, she lays the problem at the feet of Elliot’s Latino macho upbringing. This is dirty pool. The motive behind every decision Elliot makes is a good one, and Karen is continually fussing at him for even thinking about making decisions without her. Elliot has given her no reason to doubt him, so I thought she was quite a jerk.
The biggest moment of irritation for me came when Elliot wants to adopt Karen’s kids (and the kids ASKED him to become their dad) and she gets upset. What kind of mother gets MAD when her wonderful husband wants to adopt her basically fatherless kids? She gets irritated when Elliot wants to take her daughter to a father daughter dance, because he didn’t ask her first. She was annoyed at the poor guy every time he decided to do something other than plan a date night with her. Elliot at the end of the book ends up AGREEING that his Latino upbringing might be a problem. Are you kidding me?
Another plot point involves Frances, a neighbor and one of the Sweet Magnolias, who is experiencing cognitive problems. It was sweet how she was a surrogate grandmother for Karen’s kids and her relationships with her friends were fun to read.
Adelia, Elliot’s sister, is having problems with her cheating husband, Ernesto. The reaction of most of her family—even though Ernesto is clearly having a relationship with a woman down the block (and his daughter has seen them together)—is that women should stay and just suck it up. WHAT? Adelia’s mother and other family members are of the opinion, as a conservative Catholic family, that divorce is shameful. Adelia not only has to challenge her family, but also Ernesto, who claims that the affair is because Adelia is boring. This story line bugged me. Even though they were conservative, I cannot imagine a family that would condone such blatant adultery and not support Adelia.
So, there were some things to love—Elliot, the interaction of the community and the return of what I am assuming are favorite characters from previous books, Frances, and the other Sweet Magnolias. I also give Woods points for showing that there are difficulties that happen after you say “I do”. But Karen was so unlikable that she nearly ruined the whole book for me.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina