by Delia Latham
Gypsy's Game, the third book in Delia Latham's Solomon's Gate series, continues the tale of the angel Solomon's direct involvement in the love lives of the younger generations of residents of Castle Creek, California. Gypsy's Game bears all the hallmarks of Latham's novels — solid writing skills, good pacing, and an upbeat tone — that make it easy to lose track of several hours, only to realize you've finished the whole book in one afternoon. In addition, this third installment in the series delves a little more directly into some the involvement of the angel in the affairs of the citizens of the small California community. At several points in the story, the characters discuss the work of Solomon and "others like him." In this sense, it partakes in the interest novels such as Frank Peretti's Piercing the Darkness and This Present Darkness have shown in the workings of spiritual beings in this material world — though this series limits that angelic interference pretty much to the relationships of its protagonists (mostly their romantic relationships, though Gypsy's relationship with her father gets a little nod from Solomon as well in this book).
It is fun, in reading the third book in the series, to see the lead characters from the previous two in the collection play a part in Gypsy's story. Destiny and Kylie both show up again here, Destiny still her same old self, and Kylie looking a little too much like a carbon copy of Destiny. I think I would have preferred to see a little more subtle development of Kylie, instead of seeing her go from someone taking her first real steps in faith in the earlier book and transforming into Super-Christian-Kylie here. But then again, this is Gypsy's story, not Kylie's, so overlooking her development is justified.
There are a couple of points in the novel that remind me why romance is not my genre of preference. The first comes in the transformation of Gypsy. I don't mean her first steps toward faith, which I think were handled pretty well. Instead, it was a little disappointing to see her turn from a stubborn, solid woman into an emotional wreck in a very short time. Not only was the transformation too quick or sudden to be plausible, but it does not seem, to me, to be a positive change. I don't mean to suggest that the ice queen of the early chapters needed to remain as cold and distant as she was, but I would have liked to see a transformation into something other than a melted, weepy version of the woman. It would have been nice to see her remain strong and solid, and more in control of her waterworks even as she gained a greater awareness of her emotional needs and her shortcomings in that department. It seems to feed on an idea that men can only fall for, or are only needed by, weak, weepy women. I think that does as much disservice to men as it does to women. Both genders should be able, in this enlightened age, to put aside the equating of "female" with "weak," and let the woman be loved not for her needy instability, but for her unwavering strength and capabilities. It just seems to me that, at least in this day and age, love need not swoon.
The second point of discomfort I feel with the novel is an idea that is best expressed in these words spoken by Destiny in the later chapters: "Sweetie, love doesn't always require a lot of time. Sometimes it comes in like a flood, and washes over a person without warning. And other times it steals in on silent feet and does its magic without any fanfare — but every bit as relentlessly[....] You never know when or where or how it'll strike, but you can count on it finding you... in its own place and time." This notion of love isn't something I can subscribe to. I do believe that love doesn't necessarily require a lot of time. In fact, I believe in love at first sight, or even before sight (as in the case of a parent's love for an unborn child). But I don't see love as an event, nor something that "happens" to someone. And I certainly don't think love comes unsought. I think love comes when we prepare ourselves for it by seeking the good of others above our own. I think it comes when we choose to do what is best for the beloved, even if it costs us something (or especially when it costs us something). And I even believe that is possible when we don't feel very good toward the person whose good we are seeking — because love is something other than a feeling. And I believe that successful love lives depend less on finding the right person than on being the right person. But perhaps that is not something that fits well with the romance genre as a whole. In this sort of fiction, the ideas Destiny shared with Gypsy (quoted above) are those that seem to make sense, and that seem to be what is meant by the term "love."
All that said, putting aside my own understanding of love in order to look at and evaluate the novel, I can say that it is a well-written page-turner. There is a charm to Latham's style, and she manages a plot very well. While I don't think this book quite as good as Kylie's Kiss, the second in the series, that is mostly because I think the earlier installment tackled some more serious issues in a little more nuanced way. But Gypsy's Game is filled with enough of the lighthearted, engaging writing that is typical Latham fare that romance readers are sure to be pleased with the novel.
© 2012 Shelly Bryant