When Love Isn’t Enough by Kathleen Gilles Seidel (1984) is a category romance apart of the Harlequin American Romance line, #80, paperback published by Harlequin, 254 pgs. Theme is “marriage in trouble.”
Who doesn’t love seeing two people find their way back to each other again? Exploring and reexamining the path or conflict(s) that led them to where they are now? Hopefully, making changes for the better and reaffirming their love for one another? That’s a good romance to me.
Seidel’s 1984 category is one of the best “marriage in trouble” stories I’ve read in awhile. Also, Seidel is a solid writer to begin with as she consistently uses real life conflicts and issues that are inherently divisive or challenging. Simply put: Seidel delivers.
The premise, which I’ll flesh out in a bit for When Love Isn’t Enough, is about a married couple who are workaholics. The author does a real good job on showing us what an empty marriage looks like and sounds like. Disappointment and anger. Miscommunication and setbacks. Sounds like trouble to me, too.
Janet and Wiley Hunt have been married for 8 years. Both are young and dedicated to their careers. Wiley D. Hunt is an associate corporate attorney for a major law firm and Janet is a senior writer for an advertising agency. When they first married, Janet wanted to start a family right away but Wiley made her wait because he’s too busy trying to make partner at Hasting’s & Clark, a law firm that represents large companies before the federal government.
Naturally, Janet started spending more of her time & energy towards work and she’s regarded as a pro at what she does, too. After enough time passes, she’s grown closer to her work colleagues than to her husband, who she rarely sees anymore due to his long hours at work and constant traveling. She’s used to it. After all, the life they have now wasn’t what she wanted. She doesn’t like where she lives (in a high rise- condominium) or that her husband chooses to spend more time at work than with her.
When the story opens, Wiley and two of his associates have just wrapped up a major case for U.S. Oil. For the past ten months they’ve been traveling back and forth from Washington to Houston to defend their client against the U.S. Justice Department, who claims that U.S. Oil had been “fixing bids on oil leases on federal land.” Celebrations are cut short when Wiley’s friends return home to find that their wives have left them. Wiley comes back to an empty house, too but, lucky for him, he still has a wife.
Seeing that his two friends marriages has fallen apart, Wiley starts worrying about his own. Since he’s been away so much this past year, he feels that Janet should want to spend more time with him but Janet isn’t having any of that. She feels that why should she play the “good wife” when he’s been the bad husband? Wiley is irritated and Janet is defensive. To top it all off, they can’t even communicate with each other.
Both realize that their marriage is in serious trouble and that despite the “I love you’s” it’s not enough to sustain a marriage. Over the years, they’ve realized that the substance of their marriage has eroded away. How do you fix that? Janet decides that if Wiley makes the first step then she’ll take the next five or six.
The author does back track a bit to give readers some background that has shaped her characters. Starting with Wiley, he grew up in a family of lawyers and politicians and he’s an only child of a conservative, traditional family. Wiley’s ambition for his career was born out of his need for his father’s approval and Janet, well, she grew up without the money but with plenty of love.
Janet’s a Midwestern girl and Wiley’s a pin-striped suit wearing lawyer. Wiley’s family rarely if ever showed any emotion towards each other whereas Janet’s family is more touchy-feely and loud. Wiley’s father, who is known only in lawyer circles, follows the “blue-chip, law-firm style” of patience and calm and he taught that to his son as well. They don’t react much to anything without patience and control. The men always seem to avoid open displays of affection and choose to ignore anything that’s painful.
Wiley’s made some decisions that has adversely affected his father’s plans for him. For starters, when Wiley’s mother gets sick, he decides to go to Georgetown Law instead of Yale, to be closer to her, against his father’s advice. Wiley meets Janet shortly after that, in a group home they share with five other people. She’s working for a congressman from her home state of Missouri when they first meet. Wiley marries Janet, despite thinking that his father might have disapproved of that, too.
At work, Wiley’s been given the “signal” that he’s going to made partner when he’s assigned the FalCon case. Not all associates are assigned “FalCon cases.” FalCon is a major chemical company being sued for ruining farmland. Wiley is assigned the FalCon case. As he digs deeper into the case, he realizes that FalCon subsidiary may have been barrel dumping.
Wiley mulls over representing them when he learns that they won’t do any clean up even after the barel dumping has stopped. Morally conflicted, he decides that it’s unethical for him to continue to work for Hastings & Clark if he decides to report them to the EPA. Before he decides anything, however, he reaches out to his wife first, to help him out in his hour of need.
Then the story really gets down to business. Wiley does take that first step and Janet eventually follows. The best parts of the story are when you see things begin to gradually change for them both. They begin to actually talk and eventually, their evenings together become a priority. Change was a natural progression. Of course, something comes up later to test all of this and yes, I was holding my breath.
I felt for Wiley, knowing that his self-identity was being ripped apart. I liked Janet a lot because she’s not a quitter and along with her husband, both thought their marriage was worth saving. Janet always did more than her fair share. It’s ingrained in her. I can understand where she’s coming from, too. In a relationship it’s never 50/50 all the time is it? Someone has to tip the balance occasionally and usually that was Janet and sometimes it was Wiley.
When Love Isn’t Enough, was a joy to read and it is OOP but it shouldn’t be too hard to find. The story was emotionally satisfying (to me). It’s rare to read about married love that rings with some truth to it. Conflicts in a Seidel novel are never contrived or convoluted. It’s as clear cut as it gets. Of course the bedroom door was firmly closed but sex is spoken about in a matter fact way with a hint of passion or need behind it.
There are other brief themes in here concerning women who choose career over family, birth control and abortion (but it’s not what you think). Overall, good read, good story! It’s made me rip through my tbr stacks for other category books from Seidel. So, that’s my take on When Love Isn’t Enough. It’s a B+. Side Note: Seidel doesn’t always leave the bedroom door closed so firmly. But then sex is not used as a place holder in her books but more for showing the expression of love between two people at that right moment in the story. IOW, she utilizes her love scenes discriminately. Love her for that.
Teaser from front of book:
Wiley was leaning against the low headboard of their platform bed. He was wearing a rugby shirt with stripes of green and tan; the sleeves were pushed up over his forearms.
“Have I seen this shirt before?” Janet asked.
He looked up, surprised. “Mabye not. I think I picked it up in Houston.”
He started to read again. She reached over and slipped her hand in the open placket of his shirt, moving her fingertips against him, feeling the warmth of his skin.
“You’re making it hard for me to concentrate,” he pointed out without taking his eyes off the book.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, and showed her regret by pulling his shirt out of his jeans.
“Mrs. Hunt! I’m reading.” Wiley closed the book and started trying to beat her off with it.
He failed utterly.