Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review of Flirting with Disaster: Janet S. Kleinman

Just because you are an ARRP member does not mean your libido or hormones have dried up. Just because you live in Florida does not mean you spend you day searching for the Early Bird specials or sitting around watching old movies and eating popcorn. Life is never over until it’s over and there is plenty of spunk in those over 50. Meet Gloria Simon whose life changed you might say some for the better and definitely for the more interesting with a simple phone call from a long lost love named Mickey Green. Forty years is a long time between phone calls and when Mickey decides to call Gloria a budding email romance begins. A brief phone conversation to get their juices flowing, imaginations run wild as each one tries to reconnect with the past and hopefully ignite a flame in the present. But, this is just the beginning for Mickey and Gloria. Emails exchanged and deciding that this might be fun Gloria decides to recreate herself by going to the gym, watching her carbs and becoming the old Gloria again.

As the emails continue we learn more about their mutual friends that are alive and some that have past, as the natural order would be for them to finally meet. Thinking that Mickey is separated from his wife and possibly getting divorced did not deter their relationship from progressing. Feeling confident in herself Gloria shares some information about her past, the limitations her parents placed on her when deciding where to vacation and helping him to reunite over the phone with an old friend before she died.

Creating family albums, playing bridge seems to fill until something changes. Sharing his illness with her and hoping that she would learn more about him and his life, which he shares in several more emails. But, what is his real reason for connecting? What does Mickey really want as the author brings to light the situation in Haiti and why South Florida was being flooded with Haitian immigrants one whom would start a chain of events that would send Gloria in many different directions? Teaching was her vocation and she decides to volunteer to help the adults that came here learn English. One student named Henri Betencourt becomes more than just someone that she is teaching. A rare connection and a definite romantic feeling engulf Gloria whenever she sees this man. Torn between two men she fights with her emotions but both in a sense win out. Following her home from the library where she is working with these students the author only shares her relationship with Henri and we learn little about the other students. As Mickey reenters and shares his family problems with Gloria you begin to wonder whether he is really separated, still very much married and what his status will be in the future. Henri seems taken with Gloria as she becomes more engulfed and engaged with the problems in Haiti, the lack of supplies, food, medicine, schools, funds and thinks heat up between her and Henri but will his family accept her when she meets them?

Mickey seems to disappear at times and the communication between them stops. Gambler, soccer player and businessman and builder, Mickey seems to want her back in her life but does he? Henri leaves for Haiti hoping that Gloria will eventually follow as she comes up with a plan to get materials to build schools in that country and hopes that she can make a difference in the lives of the children living there.

Picture the rubble, the devastation, the poor living conditions, the lack of food, medicine, hospitals, schools and the effects of an earthquake as Gloria decides to meet Henri in Haiti and a whole new life for her begins. With the help of Henri’s brother Dr. Peter Betencourt the ball gets rolling, the supplies are going to be sent and arrangements made for her to arrive in Haiti. But, what does Henri really want from her? What is his real motive? Emails from Henri declaring his feelings for Gloria, articles about his cousin Michelle sworn in as the temporary President, Gloria is about to learn the true meaning of lies, betrayals, and deceit and eventually we hope love.

Poker tournaments, busy winning money and a revolution in Haiti all are now part of the lives of these two men that Gloria cannot seem to live without. As you read this novel the author did extensive research into the lives of the people in Haiti, the result of the earthquake and does a great profile of a gambler. But, Haiti had many businesses that flourished before they were destroyed as Gloria meets many of the students that she is teaching, a young nurse named Nadine and learns a harsh truth about Henri and a young girl named Lucia. Volunteers in Haiti some experiencing their own heroic moment, some went back to care for their families, others were just glad to be alive. But, when two worlds meet as one watch what happens. As Gloria becomes more involved with getting the right supplies, hoping to get tents and be able to create a schoolhouse and classrooms for these children, two men come face to face and then Gloria learns more from just a few conversations and a harsh reality sets in about their true motives towards her and for Haiti.
Enter Senator Lance Carter and the playing field is increased. Gloria realizes that Mickey’s arrival in Haiti is not just to see her and reconnect but also to get closer with Henri and hopefully forge a profitable financial alliance with him. Love for profit and greed you might say but what will Gloria do? Will she remain in Haiti and help the children even though many of the older boys are looking for jobs and might not be there to assist her? What about the nurse that is being sent to work somewhere else? What happens next will change things drastically as one young girl’s life is on the line and Gloria learns as she barks orders to find Henri, Mickey’s true colors come shining through. But, her mind was on the young girl as Lance Carter’s email gets to her and now another romance just might begin. Knowing that she is supposed to be in Washington D.C. Testimony before the house subcommittee on Haiti, there are subtle hints that this Senator might be number three.

The violence in Haiti is real. The people are up in arms and are protesting about the lack of food, doctors and homes. Axes, machetes and guns pointed and the end result you have to hear for yourself as Mickey addresses these people. Hear their words. Listen to their chants, as Gloria’s mind is Senator Lance. As Henri confesses his real motives for his country, the death of a young girl, Gloria realizes just how little she might have meant to him and something within her snaps. Guilt, remorse and a man whose primary focus is his country. One woman and two men who claimed to care for her. Will she finally let go of both of them as the author brings to light what happens when you want to believe but you might need to raise the rose colored glasses for some clear ones.

A Congressional hearing before the House Appropriations Committee would bring the situation in Haiti to light and Gloria front and center with not only Mickey but someone close to him too. Mickey an independent contractor. Lance a state senator and head of the relief committee and Henri an ex-patriot and housing minister. Revelations are made, discussions about funding discussed, her future on the line and major decisions to be made as author Janet Kleinman leaves readers wondering about which man she will choose. Where will her life be? Flirting with Disaster: Haiti is dealing with her own. Henri, Lance, Mickey: when you learn more about each one and read their stories if you were on the dating game which contestant would you choose: Number One: Mickey: Two: Henri or Three: Lance?

But, first revisit Haiti and read the Florida newspapers and understand the frustration of the people when the government failed to live up to what they promised and adequate housing never happened. The pictures of many homeless people living in tents and shacks were vividly described as the story comes to a close. As Lance learns more about her work in Haiti and they visit the many sites that she worked in he learns more about Henri, his new position and Mickey. What finally happens to Mickey and did he keep his promises to himself to create businesses in Haiti that he and the government would profit from?

An ending so explosive that you won’t see it coming and story that will bring smiles to your face and tears to your eyes when you read the conclusion. Flirting With Disaster an adult romance with a touch of class.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

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