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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Wild love makes up for lost time

Tricia Springstubb
Special to The Plain Dealer

The heroine of Melissa Pritchard's funny, overblown novel "Late Bloomer" bears the title Prudence True, but it's clear from the first pages that her name isn't remotely related to her personality.

Prudence is broke, divorced and doing a shoddy job as both mother to her alienated, teenage daughter and daughter to her grieving, dotty mother. She teaches a class in Advanced Personal Journey at an Arizona community college and describes her pedagogy as "spontaneous."

Prudence (like author Pritchard) has written some serious literary fiction in her time. She sees herself as having certain standards of taste. And lonesome as she is, she's sworn off men.

Yet when the chance to write a series of lucrative, romantic potboilers magically appears at the very moment she meets Ray Chasing Hawk, a devastatingly handsome American Indian, life as she has known it is abruptly up for grabs.

Ray soon is installed in Prudence's bedroom. Each night, after another epic love-making session, Prudence staggers out of bed and down the hall to her work room, where she types passages such as, "With his sleek bronzed stature and jet black hair, Blazing Eagle was all petite, flame-haired Rebeccah had ever desired. She had disobeyed her widowed mother and scorned society to savor the searing rapture she found in her red-skinned warrior's arms."

Eee-yoo! Prudence knows it's awful, yet the lines keep getting easier to write.

Meanwhile, Ray turns out to have a deep, dark, angry side, and Prudence, in an effort to keep him happy, gives up progressively more of her turf and sanity. By the time things hit bottom, she's supporting two of Ray's continuously copulating friends, her freezer is full of frozen hawks, the wolf is not only at her door but literally in her kitchen, and her daughter has, understandably, moved out.

Can -- should -- Prudence still stand by her man?

Unfortunately, it's a question posed once too often, and the plot begins to sag. By the time Prudence loans Ray's friends money from her daughter's college fund, her slavish optimism has gotten old. Pritchard has a wiseguy voice, mixing sharp social commentary with shameless slapstick (Prudence's books are marketed as Crawley Romances; she befriends a scheming, born-again Texan named Samantha Hill). The character-crammed plot sometimes gets sidetracked by exhaustive lists of what people wear and eat and even what color shopping bags they accumulate at the mall.

In its final pages, the story takes a reverent turn as Prudence attends an American Indian ceremony where Ray uncovers a buried side of himself.

Was our heroine's suffering worth it? This is, after all, a romance, designed to conclude that "passion, though made to seem wild, was destined to be tamed."

In our last glimpse of Prudence, she's feeling good beneath a wide, star-studded Texan sky. A few pages earlier, she delivers her final word on love stories. Addressing wanna-be authors at a romance writers conference, she chooses words both prudent and true: "She urged the women in the room to discover their own lives, their own journeys; she told them they were each their own truest love story."

Springstubb is a critic and novelist in Cleveland Heights.

2004 The Plain Dealer.

Rob's comment
The hunky Indian warrior is the male version of the sexy Indian princess. Both appeal to our craving for the exotic.

We may presume that the novel-within-a-novel Prudence is writing is supposed to be a parody of a romance novel. Therefore, we can partially excuse the cliché she writes in her novel. But the novel Late Bloomer apparently contains other stereotypes and clichés. The character Ray Chasing Hawk is devastatingly handsome. He's so virile that he engages in all-night sex bouts. But Ray has a dark side (from his experiences in the military?). At the end he fills Prudence's freezer with frozen hawks (for some sort of "barbaric" ritual?). And a wolf (Ray's "brother" or "spirit guide"?) is at the door and in the kitchen.

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