The other day someone asked me: “Vick, have you read any good romance novels lately?” I’m not certain it was a serious question, but I responded instantly by saying: “Yes, actually, I did, a book by a writer from the Dayton area named Lee Barber. The title is “Getting to Grace” and it is superb.”
The romance genre is immensely popular. I spoke to Lee Barber recently. She told me that many years ago someone gave her a romance novel. Initially she wasn’t that interested, Then she started reading it and realized she had been missing out. She really liked it.
In 1998 she wrote a romance novel of her own. She showed the manuscript to her daughter who encouraged her to seek out a publisher. It was a long journey. Along the way she got an agent, completely rewrote the book, and then found a publisher.
“Getting to Grace” opens in 1955 as Grace, a 19 year-old college student goes to the small town of Wood Grove, Ohio to interview for a job opening. A best-selling author named Nick Mason had inherited a decaying mansion set on a large acreage at the edge of town. He was looking for someone to manage his affairs there.
Mason envisions an artistic community. He hires Grace. Little does she know that she’ll be involved there for quite some time, decades. Right before she meets Mason she has a chance encounter with Sam, a man who hopes to court her.
Sparks of attraction are struck: “He swiveled his stool in her direction. His eyes, blue like the sky, were spaced halfway between the top of his head and the bottom of his chin. She had never seen a more perfect face.” As we travel through the story Grace and Sam are often in close proximity but any chance for romance is quashed by Grace who seems unable to trust her feelings about him.
Sam persists. As time passes he becomes a prominent lawyer in the town. He never gives up on his dreams of someday being with her. He’s patient; he’s certain that if he keeps striving eventually they can be together.
Grace has to work through her emotional trauma before she can ever believe that she and Sam were meant to be. Barber builds the story gently, but inexorably. As Grace manages the estate she has to deal with her boss, the increasingly erratic and unpredictable writer.
There are plenty of peripheral characters who help move the story along. There’s the lecherous drunk who has designs on Grace. Loretta, her best friend, is a steadfast anchor for Grace. When Loretta experiences tragedies Grace is right there for her too, steady, strong, determined.
“Getting to Grace” is exquisitely rendered. The author delicately fans grand passions. They smolder for years. Grace and Sam will finally get together. We sense it. Lee Barber wasn’t in any hurry. Slowly, expertly, she guides readers to find that safe, calming emotional harbor that has beckoned to us from a distance for so many years.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at email@example.com.
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