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Separate Beds by LaVerle Spencer - seeking opinons -SPOILERS
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mirole



Joined: 06 Aug 2010
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Location: Toronto, Ontario

PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:59 pm    Post subject: Separate Beds by LaVerle Spencer - seeking opinons -SPOILERS Reply with quote

I recently read this book and would like to discuss it. I read it because I liked the first book I read by this author - Morning Glory (although, what is strange I loved it as a story not as a romance, I looooooved Will and was crazy happy for him but the heroine was not attractive enough for me to feel the chemistry between them and excitement about their romance - you know how you anticipate their first kiss together, first love scene...)

Also, I loved the premise of the story - forced marriage, ok.

First of all, the heroine was only 19 but she talked as if she were 30. Never in the whole book she felt to me like her stated age although I do understand that she might have matured early due to the circumstances of her family life.

There were many moments that I could not suspend my disbelief about, e.g. the hero does not recognize the girl he had a one-night stand with a couple of months ago. Ok, they were drunk when it happened, but it's not like they were drunk when they hooked up. They met on a blind date perfectly sober.
Another example, when they separated what prevented his parents from seeing their granddaughter whom they adored?

The biggest issue in the book for me was the hero. This is actually the first book, where I disliked the hero with a passion and thought he was a jerk.

Not from the beginning even when he suggested an abortion. It was an understandable knee-jerk reaction. Then when they married and started living together, he acted quite well I thought, made the best of the circumstances.

But when the heroine threw him out of their house thinking he had been cheating on her with his ex-girlfriend Jill (after Jill told her that) and he himself tells the heroine that Jill told her a pack of lies, what does the hero do? He goes back to Jill and lives with her albeit feeling unhappy yet staying with her nonetheless.

Then after another attempt to convince the heroine to sleep with him and her refusal while she tells him SHE LOVES HIM and he does not feel like he loves her, he goes back to Jill and asks her if she agrees to having babies maybe not right away but in some vague future. She scoffs him and that's when he eventually goes back to the heroine and professes his love, Happy End.

I was completely disgusted by this development. So what would have happened if Jill were a bit more cunning and said "Sure, why not have babies some time in the future" not meaning it at all. It was clear from how the hero's life with Jill was portrayed at that point that he was not happy in the least and they did not have much in common and he was thinking of the heroine pretty much all the time. Yet if Jill would not have objected against the idea of having babies, he would have stayed with her???!!!!! This is just ridiculous and not convincing as a HEA at all.

Also I should mention but it's not the author's fault at all, I understand, but the sign of the time - how freely the pregnant heroine was drinking alcohol throughout the whole pregnancy. Scary.

I am sure some people saw the relationship and h/H differently from me. I'd like to hear everybody's thoughts.
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Nicole



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read this within the last month also mirole. I'm not certain exactly when, but it's in my recently finished pile (I have lots of piles). I went on a Spencer glom because of Morning Glory a while back, and I got an assortment of her titles. Some have been wonderful (The Endearment) and others I did not care for at all (Vows). Separate Beds was a miss for me. I had a hard time being objective about the book because it felt so dated. It didn't enjoy reading it.


Spoilers ahead.





I agree with you that the heroine didn't seem to be acting her age. I agreed with a lot of her choices and felt she was smart about them. However, that level of maturity and self reflection seemed out of place in a 19 year old, but what the heck, I guess it could happen. I more so had a problem with the lengths the author went to justify her having a one night stand and getting pregnant. Her father was abusive, she was drunk, she was deprived of love so she sought out a physical connection and so on and so forth. The reasons were well thought out background for the character, but I found myself unreasonably irritated that the author took such pains to make excuses for her behavior. She made a bad choice, and had to deal with the consequences. I don't have any problem as a reader not judging her actions and demonizing her as slut. Bad choices happen, it irritates me when they are explained away so I can still think of a snowy white angel.

I was also really irritated by the portrayal of the Jill character. She was the exact opposite of the heroine a non domestic, sexually active, career driven, rich socialite, and all of these were made out to be character flaws, and I thought somewhat vilified. All her actions seemed to be created just to point out just how sweet and wonderful our heroine was because she was nothing like her. I think those sorts of characters are one dimensional and sloppy.

While reading this, I gave the hero a bit more slack than you did. Although he certainly did act like a dolt sometimes, I respected that he didn't fall instantly in love with the heroine because they were shacked up. It seemed realistic for him to be confused and need time to sort out his feelings. Some major changes to his life was packed into a short time frame, and if he wasn't confused I'd have been skeptical. What bothered me about him was his complete disinterest in his child.

Anyways those were my take home impressions. This book just happened to push a lot of my buttons, and I didn't enjoy reading it as much. That is not to say that I thought it was a bad book, just not my cup of tea.
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mirole



Joined: 06 Aug 2010
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Location: Toronto, Ontario

PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nicole: I totally agree with you re Jill's character, felt very one-dimensional.

I actually quite liked the hero right until he went back to live with Jill. I think that the fact that he wanted to sleep with the heroine while they lived together was realistic - what red-blooded male wouldn't under the circumstances?

I agree about his indifference to the child. Even if they separated, why wouldn't he go visit his daughter at least once a week? The same as his parents. After the trial of Catherine's father they all go to a restaurant at the hero's mother's suggestion because she wants to hear all the news about her grandchild. It's as if they met somewhere three states away from where the child lived. Why just not drive over and see for yourself your only grandchild?
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LFL



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read this book many years ago and even then it read dated, for all the reasons Nicole mentioned but also because of the way the heroine reacted to the hero's abortion suggestion. And especially for Jill's characterization.

I have to say, something that really really bothers me in Spencer's contemporaries is that the "other woman" in a triangle, when there is one, is frequently portrayed as selfish and self-centered for being career driven and/or not wanting children. For example Bittersweet a novel in which the heroine has an affair with the hero, a married man, is one that I might have enjoyed more if the hero's wife hadn't been so vilified for being career driven and not wanting kids with him. And in Bygones, I think it was, the hero and heroine, a married couple, split up because she was career-focused and it was portrayed as her responsibility that he left her for another woman.

Not all the contemporaries are like this -- my favorite is Family Blessings, which despite the title is one of the more forward thinking Spencer contemporaries -- the heroine is 45 to the hero's 30 and since she's too old to have more kids (she had two in a previous marriage) they don't plan on any together. Spring Fancy is also a good one IMO.

Anyway, to get back to Separate Beds, I can only imagine that it would read very dated today, even more so than when I read it, but i did like that the heroine had a chip on her shoulder and was angry at the world because of her home situation. You rarely see that in a book but there are people like that so that part was refreshing. I liked the hero overall but was annoyed with him for going back to Jill, too. Mostly I was annoyed with the author for the character of Jill, not just for Jill being manipulative but also for being such a negative stereotype of the career driven woman.
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Maggie AAR
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't mind the datedness of the novel. I like history Smile

And I actually really love this book BUT I also had huge problems with it. Catherine, as a child of an abuser, it makes sense that she is mature for her age. But her mother gets a free pass on being a bit*** who doesn't take care of her children. In fiction I have a really hard time with women who allow their children to be endlessly abused. It did not help that she acknowledged that the abuse started after some of her own actions. I don't think that excuses the husband at all but I did not apppreciate that her guilt towards him had her keeping her children in a bad situation. I wanted Catherine and her brother Steve to do or say something that held her culpable for her actions.

I also struggled with the whole scenario with Clay's parents and the whole "our grandchild" thing. They were horrified she might have an abortion and yet they knew nothing about Catherine, aside from that her father was an awful man. I just felt that they were willing to place their grandchild in a situation that could have the potential for a great deal of danger. They seemed less interested in the child, more interested in Catherine's reproductive choices. I admired the choice Catherine made but Clay's parents felt very much like author mouth pieces to me. Like their role was to let us know decent people don't have abortions.

I felt awful about Jill. She seemed to be a whipping boy for all that is wrong with "modern" women. Career driven = bad. Messy = bad. Non-homemade meals or the girl not being a cook = bad. Wow! Judgemental much?

I did think Clay was a bit of an a$$. It was sort of clear he was a rich kid whose parents had indulged him all his life. He treated both Jill and Catherine as if they were just there to make him happy and bounced between the two whenever they didn't. He was not much of a father to his daughter.

I did like though that it showed that marriage doesn't solve an unplanned pregnancy. Catherine and Clay were not a natural match. These were two people who would normally not have gotten together (adide from a one night stand) and suddenly found themselves thrust into a serious relationship. I was glad to see them have to really work to overcome barriers to the relationship. I was thrilled that the author didn't take the lust to love route but showed the changes each person needed to make to become who they needed to be to be a couple. I was happy with the way things were so painful sometimes for the girls at the adoption house. I just really appreciated that the author was willing to look at the difficult side of things.

LFL, I agree with you regarding Bittersweet and Bygones.
In Bittersweet the heroine was lauded for wanting to live in a small town and having all these home-ec skills, it didn't matter that she set her cap for a married man. The wife was a career minded shrew who selfishly wanted to live in Chicago (as she and the hero had originally agreed to do) and who had a high powered career. Gosh, how could she live with herself? In Bygones it was the wife's fault her husband left - she was busy pursuing a career and spent too much time in jeans (while she was at home, no less!)rather than dressing up for him. The horror! No wonder the poor man turned to another woman for consolation. Evil or Very Mad

Spencer is definitely hit or miss with me - often with more misses than hits. But when she hits she's a home run.

maggie b.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Separate Beds is my least favorite book by Spencer. I've only read it once, but I really didn't like the hero at all. You should read Small Town Girl. It is a wonderful book about childhood friends..well, neighbors at least. She makes it big as a country music star and the hero has stayed in the small town. A really nice book.
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PWNN



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked Clay. He was a child of privilege who is growing up. I thought Catherine for all her hard knocks background was the more difficult character in the relationship. He's the one trying to work on the marriage and making it more and she pushes him away every step of the way - one step forward and two back. In the end when she's telling him to leave she's even questioning herself about why is she making herself so unlovable - why is she making him leave and hurting herself to protect herself from him hurting her. I think she needed his leaving and moving on though to see that what she was giving up because of her fears and damaged background. In this book it's the heroine who is the tortured one shoving the hero away until he finally leaves - a reversal of the usual trope of tortured hero.

Just as Clay needed to see that the dreams of his future and lifestyle he once had weren't the ones he had anymore. For that reason I didn't think Jill was vilified for her life choices rather that Clay realized in the end they no longer had the same dreams and plans for life which is realistic.

I didn't like that Jill lied to Catherine about an affair and Clay knew this but went back to her anyway because it's part of the old Romance trope where if there are two women or men introduced the hero/heroine has to be with one of them if not with the other since evidently there are no other people in the world to choose from!

As for the parents, considering they blackmailed their own child with his eduction in order to marry you'd think they'd have been more eager to see their grandchild. Made me wonder if they cared more about the appearance of propriety than they did the grandchild - they certainly cared more about it than they did their son.
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jaime



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love MORNING GLORY, it's a very good novel in addition to a touching romance. I had high hopes for SEPARATE BEDS but couldn't finish it. I didn't like the hero or the heroine in that one. Plus the story had one of my big pet peeves in romance: the author absolutely villefying the secondary female character to make the heroine look better in comparison. All that young woman needed was a twirling mustache. Actually now that I think about it - this was a weak part in MORNING GLORY too with the one note portrayal of the good time girl character who had eyes for the hero.

Have you read Spencer's HUMMING BIRD ? I liked that one, it's not as angsty as MORNING GLORY and quite funny in parts.[/i][/b]
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Lynda X



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I second Jaime's opinion about HUMMINGBIRD. It's one of Spencer's best, IMO. I also loved THE GAMBLE. To me, SEPARATE BEDS prove that even a great novelist can fail.
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LFL



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

maggie b. wrote:

I also struggled with the whole scenario with Clay's parents and the whole "our grandchild" thing. They were horrified she might have an abortion and yet they knew nothing about Catherine, aside from that her father was an awful man. I just felt that they were willing to place their grandchild in a situation that could have the potential for a great deal of danger. They seemed less interested in the child, more interested in Catherine's reproductive choices. I admired the choice Catherine made but Clay's parents felt very much like author mouth pieces to me. Like their role was to let us know decent people don't have abortions.


I had forgotten that part but now that you've jogged my memory, I agree completely.

maggie b. wrote:

LFL, I agree with you regarding Bittersweet and Bygones.
In Bittersweet the heroine was lauded for wanting to live in a small town and having all these home-ec skills, it didn't matter that she set her cap for a married man. The wife was a career minded shrew who selfishly wanted to live in Chicago (as she and the hero had originally agreed to do) and who had a high powered career. Gosh, how could she live with herself?


Wasn't there something about the wife's reproductive choices in Bittersweet as well? I can't remember if it was an abortion without the hero's knowledge or just getting on the pill without telling him. But there was something like that, and again there I felt that I as the reader was being told that reproduction was good, not wanting kids=evil.

I understand there are people who feel that way but I'd rather not be preached to about this in books.

maggie b. wrote:

In Bygones it was the wife's fault her husband left - she was busy pursuing a career and spent too much time in jeans (while she was at home, no less!)rather than dressing up for him. The horror! No wonder the poor man turned to another woman for consolation. Evil or Very Mad


LOL! Maggie, I had forgotten the part about Jill being messy too and your comment about that cracked me up! There was a not-too-subtle message in the book that a woman's right role was a domestic one.

With all that said, I still remember Separate Beds very fondly, because the angst surrounding Catherine's abusive home situation and her pregnancy and marriage-of-convenience was so well done. Separate Beds was one of Spencer's earliest books and I think it shows, but I am still glad I read it.
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mirole



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you everyone who responded and expressed their opinions. It's fascinating how the same things in a book are viewed at a different angle or in a different light by different readers.

maggie b. wrote:


I did like though that it showed that marriage doesn't solve an unplanned pregnancy. Catherine and Clay were not a natural match. These were two people who would normally not have gotten together (adide from a one night stand) and suddenly found themselves thrust into a serious relationship. I was glad to see them have to really work to overcome barriers to the relationship. I was thrilled that the author didn't take the lust to love route but showed the changes each person needed to make to become who they needed to be to be a couple. I was happy with the way things were so painful sometimes for the girls at the adoption house. I just really appreciated that the author was willing to look at the difficult side of things.

maggie b.


Maggie, this is so well-put. I had not thought of it before but your view got me thinking and I agree with you on this.

Jamie and Lynda X: I know one thing for sure - based on reading experience of Morning Glory and Separate Beds, I will definitely be reading more LaVerle Spencer for sure. She is an excellent storyteller and I don't mind even if I did not quite liked SB but still I was very immersed in it and it got a strong reaction from me which I much prefer to some books where everything seems right but not quite right but rather ok and you feel like you might as well not have read them and be none the worse for it.
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jaime



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anybody know why Spencer doesn't write anymore?
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jaime wrote:
Does anybody know why Spencer doesn't write anymore?


Retired. Maybe one day she will think....I have a book idea. Smile One can only hope.
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Nicole



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked your take on this book also maggie b. You put words to a lot of reactions I had. My memory sucks so I didn't really remember the details of the book all that well so I pointed out the things I had the biggest reactions to.
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Maggie AAR
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PWNN wrote:
I liked Clay. He was a child of privilege who is growing up.


I liked Clay too. I just thought he had a sense of entitlement that needed to be dealt with. Catherine was far from perfect either. I think that is one of the strengths of the book, though. The characters are provided with flaws that make them seem as real as the rest of us.

PWNN wrote:
I
I didn't like that Jill lied to Catherine about an affair and Clay knew this but went back to her anyway because it's part of the old Romance trope where if there are two women or men introduced the hero/heroine has to be with one of them if not with the other since evidently there are no other people in the world to choose from!


This is one thing Spencer consistently did that drove me crazy. The villification of the other party by an act that puts them outside the norm.
I felt bad for Jill. She had a boyfriend whom she was to marry and he slept with another woman at a fourth of July picnic. That one act tumbled them from a life they had been essentially planning for years to a break up. Jill was the odd man out and it had to hurt like heck.

LFL; I don't remember the details of Bittersweet as well as I do Separate Beds. SB is one of my favorite books of all time, in spite of its flaws, because of the excellent way it handled its subject matter. I just despised Bittersweet. Evil or Very Mad

maggie b.
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Last edited by Maggie AAR on Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:30 am; edited 1 time in total
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