“The Forever Stone” by Gloria Repp is the story of a girl named Madeleine who goes to visit her aunt in a remote, small town in New Jersey. Her aunt just inherited a manor that is filled with antiques, and Madeleine has agreed to help her sell the items and clean out the house.
The book was promoted as a sweet romance, but it’s not. There are several unwritten rules about writing a romance that the author doesn’t follow. As a result, the book is twice as long as it needs to be. It needs to go to the chopping block to cut out all of the fluff that slows the story down. It’s not focused on any one problem that needs to be overcome. There is a lot of material that could be cut because it doesn’t serve a purpose.
The first thing the author needs to cut is the first few chapters. At a writer’s conference, Vicki Hinze, a best-selling romance author, said that the love interest must be introduced within the first five pages. The first chapter of this book is about a conflict Madeline has with her mother at home. The conflict explains why she decides to go live with her aunt, but it isn’t used again once she gets there. The conflict isn’t repeated throughout the plot as something that needs to be solved. So, since the only purpose for the fight is to get Madeline to leave town, the conflict should be put into back story or conversation. One paragraph is all it needs.
The cast of characters also needs to be cut. After eighteen chapters, the author still hasn’t established who the love interest will be. There are four men for her to choose from, and none of them are doing anything more provocative than winking. It seems that the author wants the love interest to be Kent, an author researching a book, but actually, Madeleine is forming more of a bond with Timothy, the storekeeper. Timothy seems to be a substitute father, but it could also be a May/December romance. But the reader doesn’t know, because no one is making a move on her, she isn’t wrestling with her emotions, and the scenes don’t build to an emotional climax. The other two men, a doctor and a recluse, don’t serve a useful purpose, and only confuse the issue of which man she is going to fall in love with.
Another thing that authors build to a climax in a Christian or clean novel is a substitute for sex. It’s very common to use religion, shopping or food as a sex substitute. The author uses all three.
The shopping scenes need to be cut completely because they undermine the main premise. The premise is that her aunt owns too many antiques and needs to sell them. Then, they go shopping and buy some more. If they are going to go to antique stores, then they need to go there to sell the stuff, not add to the clutter they already have. The shopping scenes not only clutter the house, they clutter the plot at the same time.
In my opinion, the cooking scenes make a better substitute for sex because they slowly build from easy to difficult in the same way that sex builds from warm to steamy. They also offer Madeleine a reason to get out of the house and go see Timothy.
On the other hand, the church scenes come to a premature climax. Usually, when church is a sex substitute, it will start with a worry, then a prayer, then a plea, and finally climax with a church scene with an emotional sermon or Bible verse that captures her heart and provides the emotional release she needs to solve her problem and become satisfied. This author doesn’t follow that plot. She starts off not going to church at all, and then, when invited to church, just changes her mind and becomes a good Christian. When she hears the big sermon, it’s in the middle of the book. The sermon doesn’t have anything to do with her problem. It’s delivered on the pastor’s end, but doesn’t provide an orgasmic emotional response in the woman.
The church scenes also slow the pace of the book because they introduce a lot of characters that aren’t needed for the plot. The canoe trip doesn’t do anything to move the story along. Choir practice introduces a lot of characters that don’t have anything to do with antiques, cooking or falling in love. So, between the two, food makes a better sex substitute than church does. The Christian element could be completely cut from the book and it would never be missed.
The author also needs to decide what the intellectual element of the book is going to be. She has too many things to teach the reader. The story uses antique paper weights, duck decoys, blown glass, ceramics, a locked bedroom of a deceased child, feral cats, runaway girls, life in Alaska, the history of bread baking, and dysfunctional families struggling with mental illness. All but one of those elements needs to go. Just as the emotional element should focus on one man, as the heroine wraps herself around him, the intellectual element of a book should focus on one topic, and the heroine wraps her brains around the information, coming to understand and appreciate it.
And just what is a forever stone? It’s supposed to be a glass paperweight that doesn’t look anything like a stone. It doesn’t last forever, because Madeleine brings it with her for no reason, looks at it, and drops it back into her suitcase where it remains for the rest of the book.
But, on the plus side, the author has a good writing style. Her conversations are natural, her characters are believable, and the descriptions are good. If you’re looking for a long-winded story that can be read before bed, and that will lull you to sleep, this is a good choice. It’s also an author to watch. With a few more conferences, a little more discipline, the author has enough talent to craft a better story the next time.