by Stella Cameron

September 2001
ISBN: 1-57566-820-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books

Some of the most sensational romances I have read were written by Stella Cameron. Not only contemporaries, but also Regencies - vibrant, exciting, sensual, and filled with characters that grab a reader by the throat and drag them into the story! So it was with great excitement that I found her newest hardcover novel, Tell Me Why.

I wish I could say that it lives up to Ms. Cameron's previously high standards, but unfortunately, this is a rather depressing and frustrating tale of divorce, betrayal, child abuse and fear. The pivotal character is Carolee Burns, talented pianist and devoted mother, who is trying desperately to fit in with all her ex-husband's demands so that she can continue her limited visitation rights with her pre-adolescent daughter. While it is understandable to present a heroine as laboring under many burdens, especially at the beginning of the book, it was not too long before the situation became frustrating in the extreme - I wanted to yell at Carolee for being a doormat and allowing her disgusting jerk of a husband to wipe his feet all over her. Carolee seemed to be a woman of the 1950's not the new millennium.

Carolee has a fan, one Max Wolfe, ex-football player with baggage of his own. Carolee's father, Sam (one of the best characters in the book - he doesn't take anything from anybody) thinks Max would be perfect for Carolee and tries his hand at matchmaking with mixed results. Sam and Max seem to be the most clearly written and understandable characters in this book; I have to wonder what Stella Cameron was thinking about when she wrote the women who crawl in and out of the pages. Carolee's older half- sister Linda seems to have a major axe to grind, girlfriend Brandy can't quite decide whether she should have kept Max or not, and other girlfriend Ivy is allowed to get away with conversational murder. Some of the things she says to Carolee and others made me wonder why someone didn't just kill her on the spot. It would have been justifiable homicide! Carolee's daughter, Faith, is one of the most interesting females in this book - she manages to survive all the nasty goings-on and also mature into a nice kid while doing it! The romance that develops between Carolee and Max promises to change both their lives for the better, but there are so many slips and stumbles along the way, that it is far too easy to lose interest in them. There were so many things Carolee could have done and didn't - this was the most frustrating aspect of this story!

This is not the first book I have read recently where a woman has been presented as a victim. Here, Carolee is a victim of her love for her daughter and her fear of losing her. While I fully appreciate that this is an all-too-real situation for many women, I am disturbed to find one as a central character in a novel by a writer who has previously delivered exciting and passionate romances. Please, Stella, write these books if you must, but use another name; save this name for the fire and sensuality of books like Guilty Pleasures, or historicals like More and More!

Reviewed in October 2001 by Celia.

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