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Wednesday, April 9, 2008 06:53 pm

Pana’s princess of plots

Christy Cameron scores with pair of recent romance novels

Over Yesterday By Christy Cameron, Wings ePress Books, 2007, 338 pages, $17.95
Untitled Document Christy Cameron of Pana, in addition to raising two boys adopted from Russia and a recently born daughter, managing a farm household, sometimes driving a grain truck, and frequently teaching community-college English classes, has also published two books. Who’s Watching the Kids is a lighthearted romp in the romance genre. The heroine, applying for a position as a nanny to finance art school, is sussing out the house of her prospective employer when she manages to get her head stuck in a wrought-iron fence. Discovered there by her future charges, she tells them that she was looking for her cat. The children decide to aid her release by greasing her neck with butter, but when the butter proves too hard they substitute peanut butter. At this point the children’s uncle happens on the bizarre scene and effects the rescue while the kids make posters and fan out over the neighborhood to find the fictional feline. Remarkably, they find him — and Sara is now sunk so deep in lies that she dares not confess. If love is to blossom between the guardian of these kids and this nanny, it is off to one godawful start. You can see that Cameron is a princess of plots. Over Yesterday, published last December, crested at 600-plus pages, which Cameron, with excellent self-criticism, cut in half. Stephanie and Jason, high-school sweethearts in a Taylorville-like town, suffer a searing breakup. Fifteen years later they are thrown together when Stephanie returns home after her grandmother has survived a fall that leaves her comatose. The reader knows from page one the fall was a botched murder attempt, but it’s a long time before Stephanie, now a city attorney, and Jason, a local law officer, realize this. After an attempt on Stephanie’s life, Jason is assigned to guard her, and the former lovers are understandably wary about this new circumstance.
Who’s Watching the Kids By Christy Cameron, Wings ePress Books, 2004, 206 pages, $16.95
The remarkable achievement of this book is in the telling. Cameron starts with a chapter of high school, followed by one of present day, picks up the high-school story again, then the present, and continues in this vein through the book — two separate stories linked in a grand right-and-left, each chapter propelling both stories forward. The present-day telling startles the reader by always coming in at a higher decibel level. Pulling this off successfully, as Cameron does, shows considerable skill. The protagonists, as teens and again as young thirtysomethings, are three-dimensional, and the supporting characters are also real.
Romances come in gradations: Who’s Watching the Kids? has no overt sex or violence; Over Yesterday has sex, rape, blackmail, and murder. It spills over into the mystery genre or transcends genre completely. There are also romance types to fit every taste: Regency, Westerns, sci-fi. Cameron is now working on a time-travel romance — and how does one get lovers together when their eras don’t mesh? Actually, that’s easy — it’s the keeping them together if a “they lived happily ever after” ending, a staple of the genre, is desired. We’ll keep you posted on how she handles this one. 

 Jacqueline Jackson, books and poetry editor of Illinois Times, is a professor emerita of English at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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