It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Yeah, high school kinda' sucked. And while it didn't end with a Tale-of-Two-Cities-style guillotine to the neck - 'least not for anybody we'd have liked to see suffer that fate, if only figuratively -- for many of us, those years pert' much reeked. Still, most of us get past it, especially when we figure out that even the tormentors were soul deep in insecurity.
Unfortunately, tormentor or tormented, lots of things can send one hurling back through time to those days. Recently an online pal, Santa, encouraged me to pick up a classic romance I'd long been meaning to get to, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' (SEP) "Ain't She Sweet? ," (ASheS), a marvelously funny and sexy novel that for almost everyone who reads it dredges up the bad old days -- and lots of reasons to get right with 'em.
Aside from being one of the most popular romance heroines of all time, Sugar Beth Carey ruled the high school roost in her small Southern town. Gorgeous, sexy, whip-smart and pin-prick mean even as a teen, her thirst for attention, and anger over her impossible family sitch, spurred her to ruin the career of a hot young teacher in her school before she ran off to gain her MRS degree, and find fortune and fame.
Back in town and broke after three marriages, Sugar Beth finds Colin Byrne, the hot teacher, now is a respected member of the community, a world-famous author and the straight-out-of-a Regency-romance, hero-type guy - complete with broody bastardliness and smokin' Brit accent -- who owns the home Sugar Beth grew up in.
No prob. Sugar Beth knows it's time to nosh on some humble pie, so she makes a devil's deal with Byrne to work for chump change as his housekeeper so she can search his digs for a supposedly valuable painting her grandmother willed to her - a piece of artwork with a history as passionate and scandalous as the one about to explode between Byrne and Sugar Beth.
But Sugar Beth's got more to make up for than her treatment of Byrne, and her comeuppance with the grown women who once were her best friends won't just teach her the full measure of reaping what one sows. Sugar Beth's painful to joyful interactions with women friends and nemeses give us a highly polished mirror in which to take a gander at past wrongs and current resentments -- and what it might mean to look oneself in the eye and make amends where and with whom they're most deserved.
Of course, we can get past the past, but sometimes our old friends won't let us forget from whence we came. A few weeks ago a really nice guy I was pals w/ in high school and recently reunited w/ through the miracle of social media wrote me a note on facebook asking what everyone would think if they found out I'd gotten an incomplete in high-school Creative Writing.
I'm reconsidering his nice-guy status.
How do you feel about romances that explore a character's working through feelings about high school? What are some of your faves? Are you and ASheS and SEP fan? How do you like hooking up with old pals through social media?