Casey Ellis may not have warm feelings for the Boston townhouse that her renowned father, Dr. Cornelius Unger, bequeathed to her. But the sight of its garden gives her an immediate sense of belonging. Fueled by anger that the man had never made an attempt to be her father, she carries much resentment when she first inserts the key in his door. How a dead man helps her to peel back the layers of frost on the door to her heart is a story of gratitude and reconciliation.
FLIRTING WITH PETE is much more than a romantic novel. Its plot twists and turns with the comparison between two different life stories. A third character, Jenny Clyde, provides the mystery that propels the story forward. Jenny's life in tiny Little Falls is the sad story of a young girl caught between warring parents. When her father is to be released from prison, serving time for her mother's murder, Jenny sees her hopes for a normal life disappear.
A trained psychological counselor, Casey sets up practice in the new townhouse. Shuffling through Unger's papers, she discovers a journal that unlocks her curiosity --- the journal is Jenny's story. Although Casey had no contact with Unger while he was alive, she feels that he is reaching out to her with bits and pieces of the journal to help solve a mystery. Casey sees the writings as a link to Unger's little known past.
In the manuscript, Jenny copes with her dark past and unknown future by becoming involved with Pete, a strong young stranger who is driving through town on a motorcycle. She is infatuated with him and decides to leave Little Falls with him for a new home out west. Casey's own life experiences run parallel to those of Jenny's when she attempts to solve the puzzle of Jenny's disappearance.
Casey honors her father's two wishes when she assumes ownership of his house; she keeps both the maid and the gardener in her employ. Both provide her with the tools not only to unearth roots from Unger's past but also to connect into it. The virile gardener pushes her sexuality beyond limits she has traveled. Delinsky paints a picture of the modern family that examines the deep feelings held by children of different unions. When Casey comes to terms with her own longings, and the reasons behind them, she can let go of former negatives that had guided her.
FLIRTING WITH PETE is a delight to read, the type of novel that delays supper and bedtime. Delinsky gets into the hearts and minds of her characters with artful choices of description and styles. They exhibit failings, but they also exhibit necessary qualities to become problem-solvers. They have to work for the resolution of their difficulties. Applause is truly earned when they get it right.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on April 27, 2004
Flirting With Pete