By: Martina Vanderley
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Publication Date: 2009
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: January 11, 2010
Leslie Dawson is a 44-year-old writer who lives in a spacious home in a Washington D.C. suburb, and dines on home-cooked meals of salmon and rice pilaf served on china dishes and damask tablecloths. Leslie is married to a workaholic lawyer and avid golfer who fails to make holding together their long marriage a priority. Still, Leslie and her husband travel together to Aruba as a last-ditch effort to reignite the sparks of their marriage. Sparks certainly fly for Leslie during that trip, but not in the way she could ever imagine. When she meets a tall, dark, handsome – and very married - man named Thomas Jefferson Blake, the action goes from hello to hot in record time. At their second, brief meeting, “Tom felt completely under her spell, she seemed so uncomplicated. ‘You’re very special, you know,’ he said softly, ‘and I’m losing my heart to you.’”
Crossroads at the Wilderness is a romance novel that explores unexpected love, marriage and bi-racial relationships as Leslie and Tom grapple with the tumultuous outcome of their undeniable attraction for each other, one which is realized at a stolen night in a Victorian mansion on the beach. “Nothing was more natural than the endearing moment that followed. The harmony of peace, water, and wind around them and their spellbinding attraction for each other made them lose themselves in a warm embrace. When Leslie looked up at him, she sighed, ‘Tom, I don’t want this day to end, ever’…Drawing her against his heated body, he whispered, ‘Woman, you must know that I want you.’”
One element that sets this book apart from others in the romance genre is Martina Vanderley’s approach to unexpected love from a mid-life perspective. Leslie and Tom are both gray-haired individuals who are reaching the end of their active professional years, but yet still remain intellectually curious with many interests. With their children all grown, they are well out of the intensity of the child-rearing years. Their late-in-life passion reawakens their youthful ardor. The author refreshingly details the blossoming romance of these two long-married grandparents who still have the capacity to become swept up in the crazy irrationality of illicit love.
Furthermore, Vanderley’s balanced presentation of a bi-racial relationship provides another entirely unique element to Crossroads at the Wilderness. I must admit when the author has Tom addressing Leslie as “milady” at their first meeting, while Leslie refers to him as “the black man” and “ladykiller,” I became apprehensive that this book might become a stereotype-laden suburban fantasy. However, on the whole Vanderley’s inclusion of the African-American perspective of bi-racial romance adds an interesting nuance to this story that mainstream audiences may find compellingly distinctive.
Additionally, the author’s inclusion of discussions of faith further colors Crossroads at the Wilderness. A former associate minister at his Baptist church, Tom often defers to “God’s plan.” His adultery challenges his place in the church; however, Tom never loses his faith. Vanderley includes questions of faith and believe in God more and more as the story progresses. As Tom assures Leslie after a personal tragedy, “’God never gives us more than we can handle, sweetheart. We have to have faith, that’s what makes us strong. He gave me you the second time around and that was worth fighting for. That’s the miracle of love.’ Her mouth quivered. ‘You said it so well; Tom…’”
A native of Holland, Vanderley’s writing style has a stiffness and formality to it. Nevertheless, she illustrates the scenes with specifics and details. Although there is conflict and tragedy, Crossroads at the Wilderness provides an escape from reality into a world of passion, melodrama and romance while still maintaining its firm footing in everyday life. Fans of this genre may enjoy Vanderley’s unique take on forbidden passion between people of a certain age.
Quill says: When unexpected passion occurs at middle age, Leslie and Tom’s lives take unforeseen twists and turns in this distinctive romance novel.
For more information on Crossroads at the Wilderness, please visit the publisher's website at Outskirts Press.com.