Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BACK FOREVER is the follow-up to Karen's rock star romance BRING ME BACK.  Claire and Chris are back.  Are they still together?  Will they last?

  BACKFOREVER.72dpi mediumcopy

The breakup that rocked Christopher Penman and Claire Abby’s romance was a painful test of their love. Now back together, they’re eager to embrace their future. Christopher’s band is making a run at it after a long hiatus. Claire lands a magazine job she never dreamed she could get. Only a ring on Claire’s finger and a baby on the way could make their new life more complete, and Chris is determined they’ll have everything they ever wanted. But when Claire’s dad starts behaving strangely and her teenage daughter feels left out, Chris and Claire’s picture-perfect plans begin to unravel. Career demands, family strife, and a piece of devastating news send Claire into a downward spiral. Chris must help Claire find the good in all they’ve been through–they will have it all as long as they have each other, forever. This is from Chapter One. Christopher and Claire are in the bathroom at her house, waiting for the results of a home pregnancy test.
“Hold my hand.” She reached for me, her fingers wagging. “We close our eyes and open them on three.” “Deal.” I stood as she did, enveloping her hand with mine. My eyes clamped shut as ordered; she began to count. “One…Two…Two and a half…” “Very funny.” She giggled. “Three. Open.” I blinked. I focused. There it was. One blue line. Bugger. I caught the sigh before it left my throat. Sharing my disappointment would only make her feel worse. I tugged her into an embrace, pressing my cheek to the side of her head. My fingers trailed through her silky hair. “Weren’t we just saying how much we like trying?” She managed a quiet laugh, but trembled beneath my touch. “I didn’t want to say anything, but I actually thought I was pregnant.” The admission only made me hold on tighter, never wanting to let her go. She wanted this as badly as I did and I’d talked her into taking the test. “It’s okay, darling. Really. And it’s still early, right? We could do another test in a few days if you’re still late.” I choked back intruding tears. “I love you so much, Claire. That’s all that matters.” “I love you too. I’m just ready for this to happen. I don’t like feeling like our life is on hold.” “Do you really feel that way?” You know she’s right.Our life is on hold. “Yes. I hate seeing that look of disappointment on your face. I want to give this to you and it hasn’t happened.” “I don’t want it to be more important than us.” You’re all that matters. “You can’t deny that you want this very, very badly.” “I don’t want it as much as I want you.” Am I the most daft man on the face of the planet? Without another moment wasted, I dropped to my knee, which hurt like hell when it thudded against the tile floor. “Ow.” “Chris, what are you…” She looked down at me with genuine puzzlement, certainly warranted as she was in her pajamas, me in my boxer shorts, both of us in the bloody bathroom for God’s sake. Not the most glamorous of settings, but I think it works. Her lips were lovely and pouty. Get on with it so you can kiss her. I took one of her hands, but failed to catch the other before it flew to her mouth. Her deep blue eyes were wide with wonder. I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. I had one shot at getting this perfect. “Claire Abby, I love you more than I have ever loved another human being.” The words left me feeling as though my heart might burst out of my chest. “You are the most extraordinary and wonderful and frustrating woman I have ever met and I want you to be mine forever.” She gasped. A giggle leaked out of her. “Did you squeak, darling?” “Maybe.” Her shoulders shook, her eyes watered. “Please, go on.” I want you to be mine. Forever. Even if we never get to have a child together, I’m never letting you go. That is, if you’ll have me. Claire, will you marry me?” Her other hand dropped and she smiled in a way that left her cheeks as full as ripe peaches on a summer day, mine for the picking. Her face was such a distraction that for a heartbeat or two, I didn’t realize she hadn’t yet answered the question. I wagged an eyebrow, hoping she had no defense for that. “Well?” I asked. “Shhh.” Her smile returned as soon as she relaxed her lips. “Shhh?” “I’m savoring the moment.” “Why don’t we savor the moment after you give me an answer?”
My thoughts 4 Stars

BACK FOREVER, the sequel to Bring Me Back, is the continuation of freelance writer Claire Abby and British rock star Christopher Penman’s story after they get back together. Unless a book ends with a cliff hanger or numerous loose ends, sequels make me nervous.  Many a good character has been mutilated in a sequel.  Chris and Claire were reunited and embarking on a baby quest when last I saw them.  I was good with that.  Then I learned about BACK FOREVER.  Ms. Booth had made Claire’s teen dream come true in such a believable way that I couldn’t not discover where she took Chris and Claire, fingers crossed of course. I don’t recommend reading BACK FOREVER without reading Bring Me Back first. One of the biggest draws for me is Chris’ and Claire’s ages.  Much of today’s fiction revolves around twenty-and-early-thirty-somethings.  Finding romance characters in their forties and beyond is a boon. When they’re realistically portrayed and relatable to boot, it’s icing on the cake. BACK FOREVER alternates between Chris and Claire’s point of view.  Happily Chris and Claire stay true to themselves. Chris may be a rock star but he’s come through fame with his feet firmly planted in reality, for the most part. Claire is as determined and independent as ever. It’s a real struggle for her to let go and learn to lean on someone else. These are just a few examples of the dilemmas Claire and Chris face. There are challenges specific to older couples,
 I blinked. I focused. There it was. One blue line. Bugger. I caught the sigh before it left my throat. Sharing my disappointment would only make her feel worse. I tugged her into an embrace, pressing my cheek to the side of her head. My fingers trailed through her silky hair. “Weren’t we just saying how much we like trying?” 

Fame, “The rest of the world can wait for a little while. I don’t want this turning into a circus, although we can’t keep people from finding out forever. It’ll get out eventually. Very soon if we aren’t careful.” “You know I’m not comfortable being in those magazines. I hate the feeling of not having any privacy.” 

Work, His: “He also had a bit of a proposition for me.” Let’s see how this goes. “Oh yeah?” “He wants the band to do some shows, in New York. Radio City Music Hall. He’s already spoken to our booking agent.” She bolted upright, clutching the sheet to her chest. “A Banks Forest reunion? Seriously?” I scanned her face, somewhat taken by surprise. “He thought you’d be happy.”

 Hers: “She’s starting a new magazine and wants me for entertainment editor. The offices would be here in New York, but she said I could stay in Chapel Hill. She’d only need me up here one or two days a month.” Guilt washed over me. My enthusiasm for her news in no way matched hers for mine. “That sounds brilliant. Really, Claire. You’ve worked so hard.” She’s worked harder than hard. She’s worked her ass off. “So you think I should take it?” Bloody hell. How do I know? “You should consider it. I guess my only concern is that part of the genius of being a freelance writer is that we’d have flexibility when the baby comes along. You’d be giving that up. We’d be giving that up.”

Where to live: “I’m only going on about the electrical because it’s a problem,” I continued, placing my hand on her back. I sucked in a deep breath. “I think we need to look for a new house.” She clunked her glass on the kitchen counter. “What’s wrong with my house?” “Would you like me to make you a list?” I kept my voice even and measured, knowing full well that I’d struck an unpleasant chord. “I love the house, but we’re at maximum capacity with your dad staying in the guest room.” “It is sorta cramped, Mom.” Sam loaded massive scoops of ice cream into two bowls. “The plumbing is bad, the electrical is old,” I added. “The air-conditioning struggles to keep the upstairs cool and the driveway is crumbling. There’s more. Do you want me to keep going?” Claire folded her arms across her chest. “What if we just fix things up?”

Credibility shines through the challenges facing Claire and Chris as well as their reactions and solutions.  Their maturity and past experiences help them to see the big picture versus getting mired in the inconsequential.  The fine art of compromise is alive and well, at least in Ms. Booth’s fiction.  
“Right. It’s called life. We’re living it. Remember?” He threaded his fingers through my hair. “Living our amazing life. Together.” 

Poignant, bittersweet and satisfying, BACK FOREVER sustains the plausible fantasy to reality charm of Bring Me Back while forwarding Chris and Claire’s story. Kudos, Ms. Booth; BACK FOREVER is exactly what a sequel should be.

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