I’ve just read another loan from the laundry room. Love in Exile, by Vivian Connolly, was published in 1983. It’s a SuperRomance from Worldwide publishing – “a sensational series of modern love stories.” Modern is relative. There are no cell phones or personal computers, but otherwise the story seems contemporary. Our heroine is an environmentally and socially sensitive architect.
Worldwide publishing was a division of Harlequin in the early 1980s. They published single title romances. These are longer, less generic, and less formulaic than the traditional category romances. Worldwide closed in 1988. SuperRomance became a category within Harlequin, and Harlequin uses the Worldwide name as an imprint for mystery and science fiction novels.
As the series required, Love in Exile is close to 400 pages, and has a more complex plot than many romances. Terry and Neil are both wounded souls, and cautious about entering into a relationship, but a scheming woman from Neil’s past creates further obstacles, and Neil is not Terry’s only suitor. Paralleling the romance plot is a well integrated drama plot concerning the fate of our lovers’ adopted home town. This may be the only romance novel where the climax is a town council meeting to discuss a development application.
There are a couple of well fleshed out secondary characters, and a great deal of local colour. I found Terry just a little too fickle at times. Her ability to rapidly switch from “I’ll never doubt you again” to “I never want to see you again” was occasionally frustrating, but Connolly effectively provides explanations for this most of the time. I also grudgingly admired her ability to put the characters into an intimate situation and then pull them out at the last minute. Neil is a good balance of strength and weakness, though he didn’t really need to be a multi-gazillionaire. Always on the look out for strong women, I appreciated the importance of Terry’s employment to the plot, and her professional success at the end. It’s true that she was helped by a man, but I believe the best relationships involve mutual support.
Along the way, the novel praises such virtues as environmentalism, respect for native traditions, artistic integrity, having faith in your partner, craftsmanship, and socially responsible development. All of these may be as unlikely to achieve as the happily ever after relationship, but it’s nice to see everything work out.