Alright. Lets do this.
Book Blurb- Corporate raider Matthew Farrell had come a long way from the poor, scruffy kid of Indiana’s steel mills. A long way from the country club where, feeling like an outsider, he had dared to fall in love with a beautiful blonde named Meredith Bancroft, and known a once-in-a-lifetime passion and betrayal that sill haunted his memory… Now world leaders courted him, the media watched his every move, and he was ready to move in on the Bancroft empire.
A cool, poised executive in her family’s legendary department store chain, Meredith had once defied her father for the sexually magnetic, intense Matt Farrell — and their brief, ill=fated marriage was the disastrous outcome. Now, as the Bancroft firm is threatened by a hostile takeover, Meredith is forced to confront Matt. As tensions build between them, bittersweet memories rise to the surface, leaving them suspicious, restless, and uncertain. Will they be able to believe in each other — and grasp the tender miracle that is before them?
Paradise, by Judith McNaught, a writer I have recently come across and have come to love, is one read I knew was going to be special while I was just finishing the first chapter.
I was right.
What a read. All 709 epic pages of it.
First I’d like to commend the author for the way she wrote all the characters, main or otherwise. Both the hero and the heroine, Meredith and Matt, are perfectly in tune with their times, their circumstances and families. The way they meet and react to each other, reads like that was always bound to happen and couldn’t have been anyway else. In fact, when I realized Matt and Meredith were going be near each other for the first time in that snooty country club, I was like…
I actually took time to shut my kindle for a minute, giggle uncontrollably like an idiot and start up reading again with a dopy smile for the rest.
The writing is that good.
Second, oh how I loved the heroine. Meredith Bancroft is intelligent, self respecting, classy, has career aspirations and is as far from the vacuous/flighty/doormat heroine trend that has been going on for some time, as can be. Meredith is practical, thinks before she acts, and careful to the extreme. And yet she loves Matt impulsively, completely and passionately. When love deserts her, both from Matt and from her father who is her only remaining family, Meredith steps back, takes charge of her life and goes on to complete her business degree from Northwestern. Not only that, after all that happens to her, Meredith forgives and bravely forgets and graceful as ever, sincerely tries finding joy again.
Which brings me to the third reason I can give this book a hundred stars- the handling of feminism and ideas of sex equality at home and at the work place in the seventies and eighties. Meredith’s ambitions of inheriting and subsequently running her family’s retail empire are a real driving force in her life for which she works hard. Hers is NOT some sort of pseudo-career that the writer just describes in the first chapter and then mentions only for the sake of wardrobe choices for her day, or to just lay groundwork for business trips that invariably result in dalliances with the hero. Her career and business and day to day work and strife are well written and integrated into the story and the build up of her character. I particularly liked the way her struggles with male chauvinism at the work place are written, without drama or trying to invoke pity. People, men, are sexist and do not want to bow to a female president. The female president, Meredith, fights and doesn’t take this sexism lying down. You can’t help rooting for this girl.
With each shitstorm Meredith braved, I put down the kindle, mentally cheered her being part of the female sisterhood, and resumed in fascination.
So when Matthew Farrell, the hero, actually treats her dreams and aspirations with respect, we get the seamless first step of a budding relationship that spans decades.
Matthew Farrell- the genius, ambitious, street smart, tenacious, outsider and nobody, who the ‘industrialist creme de la creme’ didn’t see coming and snubbed repeatedly. Matthew Farrell grew on me, little by little, chapter by chapter, with each adversity he faced down. He is the quintessential alpha male, without showing any traces of the currently trendy trop-y assholery/control-freakery/anti-feminist behavior. Rather, Matt is responsible, mature, adaptable and loyal. And Matt is passionate to the nth degree, passionate when he loved, passionate when he hated and passionate when he turned his mind into building his business empire.
Then there is the love story. Beautifully rich, poignant, filled with torment and tenderness alike. And oh the heartbreak of young love! I should mention here the few times I shut my kindle, bawled my heart out at the cruelty of fate and started up reading again, dreading what was going to happen to these two brave souls next.
The second chance angle made it better. The story grew as the characters grew. Matt and Meredith came to terms with themselves, their insecurities and needs, before they could be in a position to understand each other. Yes they had loved each other the first time around, but they didn’t exactly know what they were getting into. I loved that when the second chance came about, they tried behaving as mature adults (most of the time anyways), failed mostly because there is a fine line between love and hate, flew of the handle, but always always came back to each other and tried again because they were too stubborn to give up and too intelligent to not see what they could have.
Here’s my Matthew (tall, dark hair, grey eyes and handsome) and Meredith (blonde, graceful and beautiful with an old world charm)
Judith McNaught does romance books to perfection. It’s not that her characters are flawless rainbows of unicorn perfection. It is that her characters are sometimes flawed but always strong, sometimes insecure but beautiful nonetheless, willful but wise, ingenious and fun…and I could go on and on…As I read each subsequent book written by her, I am dreading the point in future when I’d have finished all of them and would have to find another author who compares to her in romance writing.
Maybe I’ll read all of them again.
Maybe I’ll find something else.
But Paradise (and the other McNaught books) are already winners of a lifetime for me. Thank you Ms McNaught for sharing your wonderful gift of writing with us readers.