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Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hero: Johnnie Irish
Heroine: Maggie Mayfield
Date of Publication: January 1, 1993
Started On: September 5, 2010
Finished On: September 6, 2010
When it came for the time to post the review I somehow do not remember where I picked up this title from, but boy, am I glad I did! This story swept over all my emotions, tugging at my heartstrings, made me yearn to take Johnnie in my arms and comfort him like I have never comforted anyone in my life. Yes, his story is that tragic, not that the author goes on and on about how he was neglected and abused during his childhood, but a clue here and there makes the readers sum up on their own how hellish his childhood had actually being, and that just put a perpetual knot of emotion in my throat that refused to leave even long after I was done with the story.
Johnnie Irish, born into the small town of Hope, Texas hated his hometown with a vengeance. Born to a mother who had whored her life away, beat him up and beat him real good if he even whimpered during the beating session, put him inside a closet whilst she entertained various men and often forgot that he was even there and when he had grown older, kicked him out of the house for the night where he lay on a cold dark slab of stone near his derelict house and much later got into all sorts of trouble running around town at night. It was only later that Johnnie had realized that his dead mother had actually being crazy and insane, and she had always blamed Johnnie for the way she had chosen to live her life in the end.One of her regular visitors was Brace Cahill, cop of Hope who was as mean as they come. Brace who was married wasn’t amused when Johnnie had walked in on him and his mother and though Johnnie had sworn that he wouldn’t say anything to anyone about Brace visiting his mother, before Johnnie knew it, he had been arrested over some petty crime, and driven out of Hope by Brace himself.
The only good thing about Hope that he remembered was his high school drama teacher Harriet Lundy whom he affectionately called Harry. Johnnie had landed in drama class because none of the teachers would take him in and give the belligerent boy a chance. Though Harriet had her misgivings at first, when Johnnie took center stage, she could see the immense talent that this sensitive boy contained in spades. Harriet had always believed in Johnnie and advised him that never to let anyone make him think that he is not good enough.
Now fifteen years later, Hope beckoned him in the form of an invitation to be the main attraction in Hope’s homecoming parade. Johnnie, a well known actor who had several hit comedies under his belt felt the lure of coming back home and showing its residents a thing or two too strongly to turn down the offer.
Maggie Mayfield though she had not been born and bred in Hope, she had come to love its barren land and its open skies. Maggie had moved to Hope with her husband Steven because of his emphysema (An abnormal condition of the lungs marked by decreased respiratory function; associated with smoking or chronic bronchitis or old age). Though Steven had passed on a couple of years ago, Maggie had stayed back rather than return to Ohio where Steven’s family lived.
From the very start, Maggie had been dead against Johnnie being included in the parade. From what she has read and heard about Johnnie who lived his life in the fast lane, partying away long into the night and had the usual habits of celebrities, Johnnie had not sounded like someone who would appreciate Hope and its residents. And when Johnnie steps off the small plane that brings him to Hope, it is Maggie who is there to receive him. Though Maggie had not bothered with her appearance on behalf of Johnnie and had resolutely made up her mind that she would not be swayed by his good looks, in reality his looks does knock her out of her loop for a bit. But then Johnnie does something that lives up to his disreputable image and that fancy notions in Maggie’s head takes a flying leap.
Things had been going pretty well in the parade that is until Johnnie had brought out a beer and started drinking in the midst of the parade. Angered beyond belief, Maggie had abruptly stopped the car which had landed Johnnie on his butt rendering him unconscious for a bit. And when she spies the syringe that slips out of his pocket, Maggie is surprised at the disappointment she feels that Johnnie actually lives up to his reputation of drug abusing. After being treated at the local hospital for concussion, Johnnie makes his way to see Harriet and then Maggie. Johnnie has no idea why he wants to apologize to Maggie for ruining the parade, which in actual reality was something he had wanted to do. At Maggie’s home, Johnnie collapses and it is then Maggie finds out that the syringe that he carries is for insulin as Johnnie suffers from diabetes.
Johnnie goes back to his life in California and Maggie resumes her life in Hope. But the thoughts and memories of the brief encounter between her and Johnnie always stays fresh in Maggie’s mind. Though she knows that Johnnie most probably must have forgotten about her, Maggie can’t help thinking about Johnnie. When Johnnie goes back, he starts partying harder than ever and lands in a bit of trouble which in the end lands him in jail. When his agent and only close friend Sherman comes to pick him up he finds Johnnie nearly dead of insulin shock.
Thus Johnnie takes Sherman’s advise and goes to recuperate and it is to Hope he returns to that summer. Maggie was having the first day of play rehearsal with her students and was having all sorts of problems with the piano player who had stepped into replace the original piano player piano player who had fallen down and broken both her wrists. To her surprise, it is Johnnie who walks in and saves the day. Though Maggie knows better than to trust Johnnie with keeping his word, she has no choice but to accept him as her new piano player. With the time they spend together, Maggie slowly starts to see beneath the surface of the man who jokes away to keep his emotions at bay. When Johnnie professes that he wants Maggie and she turns him down, Johnnie is more than surprised because it was actually a first time for him.
Maggie comes to care about and in the end fall in love with the mass contradictions of a man that Johnnie was. But the nightmares that Johnnie tries so hard to keep at bay, nightmares that features his dead mother and her endless torture sessions, Johnnie is desperate to leave again and nearly does so 3 days before the night of the play. Maggie is furious with Johnnie that he had once again gone ahead and proven himself worthy of his reputation. But then Johnnie agrees for Maggie’s sake that he would stay behind until the night of the play. By then, Maggie had realized that no matter how hard she had tried not to, she had given her heart to the one man who was so ill suited for her.
Sharing a night of passion which ends in a tear stricken Maggie flying into the arms of Elliot, her brother-in-law, a scene that Johnnie witnesses and breaks something within him, he goes back to his life in California though thoughts of Maggie are never far from his mind. Meanwhile, 2 months later, Maggie finds out that she is carrying Johnnie’s child, a fact she decides not to share with the father to be, thinking he wouldn’t care.
Harriet’s letters bring Johnnie back for a visit, and it is then he realizes that Maggie is pregnant. Maggie deliberately misleads him to think that it is Elliot’s baby. Johnnie, whom women had always tried to trap into marriage through pregnancy, suddenly finds himself craving to be the father of the baby that Maggie carries in her womb. Broken in more ways than he realizes, he bids farewell and well wishes to Maggie and her life with Elliot and once again leaves Hope to turn up on Maggie’s doorstep once again when he receives word from Harriet (who suffers from Alzheimer and rambles on in her letters) that Maggie was working towards becoming a single mom.
Maggie on the verge of giving birth is not prepared for a confrontation with Johnnie who seems livid at the thought of Maggie going through pregnancy and parenthood alone. But when he realizes that Maggie is in pain it is Johnnie that stays with Maggie throughout her difficult labor which results in a C-Section. During the course of the hours, Maggie starts to have misgivings about how she has misled Johnnie and decides to come clean, though she knows that Johnnie would feel immensely betrayed by the fact. Johnnie who is enthralled by little Alex and takes to parenting like a pro, finds out the shocking truth before Maggie is able to confide in him and this drives Johnnie over the edge and sends him running back to California once again.
Later on, a year goes by and it is Harriet’s funeral that brings Johnnie back to Hope and back to Maggie and Alex. With his own demons to slay before Johnnie can find true happiness and serenity, it nearly looks as if Johnnie ends his life with his destructive behavior towards the end.
As I said before, I was thoroughly enraptured with Johnnie’s character. Long after I finished the book, I realized that it had always been Johnnie who had come after Maggie though Maggie is the first to realize how deeply her feelings run for Johnnie. In the end I realized that though Maggie had insight into Johnnie’s character, she never really believed in him as Harriet did and that didn’t sit very well with me. But in the end, it is with Maggie that Johnnie finds the peace that he craves for and I loved reading the story that depicted his struggles to find it.
“I’m afraid,” she (Maggie) confessed in a wobbly voice.
“It’s okay to be afraid. I’m afraid all the time.”
She choked out a sound of disbelief. “What are you afraid of?”
“Everything.” A thoughtful pause. “You. You scare the hell out of me.”
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