Wildfire’s Love Comes to Anne – Lucille S Warner – Love Story meets Romeo and Juliet – without the dying or the feud… Hmm maybe I should rethink my comparison?

Wildfire #1 Love comes to Anne - Lucille S Warner 2

    After finishing this book I sat down to compose my review , not realizing that this was the first Wildfire romance. Should it make a difference in my review? Why not , I mean , can you imagine the awesome responsibility of kick-starting a thematic series? The future success of the logo will rest in part on your effort , not to mention countless writers will keep referring back to your work , to find the logo’s key formula. Keeping that in mind, I was a little kinder. After all if you sat down a girl of about 10 years old back in 1979 and asked her , what would be your idea for a perfect  romance?  She probably would’ve licked her lips and answered- “this girl will meet a boy – it will be her first boyfriend ever , he’ll be exotic , like from a place far-away – Paris , he’ll even have an accent! She’ll think of nothing but him , he’ll think of nothing but her. Cause they’re madly in love.” You could prod – “But what about a plot will something happen to them?” “Oh yes, you see , he’ll eventually have to go back home.  And they’ll be so unhappy – but they’ll never forget each other.” Which basically sums up the plot of Love Comes to Anne. Now whether or not Lucille S Warner knew she was kick-starting Wildfire, she certainly fulfills the juvenile’s idea of a perfect teen romance. It’s slow , terribly introspective , as woozy & windy as a child’s version of a tragedy. But not too bad. 
    The plot –
Anne is one of those likable but quiet girls , maybe it’s the name Anne ( which has a serene elegance ) but we’re expecting a rather serene romance – something with some maturity. We are told Anne is waiting for romance to find her – a slip up in the p.o.v as Warner swings from omnipresent in describing Anne’s hectic morning – to actually addressing the reader by posing the question – [ You know how many different ways a boy can come into a girl’s life, suddenly, unexpectedly?  Before going on to list them ] which interrupts the flow of action. But I’ll let it slide – after all Warner is trying to set us up for the impact that Anne’s life is about to change in a huge way.
        Anne passes a boy on the steps , notices the fluid,  graceful way he moves and is instantly affected. Of course her life doesn’t change right then and there. She hasn’t met him yet. She has to wait – so does the reader. .
       She sees him in her choral class and learns his name is Pierre Bouray ( I’d like to meet to meet a French guy who wasn’t named Pierre )  but ‘darn and damn’ he’s seated at such an angle , in such a row that there is no real way of watching him. Sigh.
      Does she actually meet him? Yup. By page 12 – Anne is going to the local hangout – The Burgery ( which has an interesting description – the owner has left out magic markers allowing students and patrons to graffiti his walls – Anne has left her moniker under her fathers who went there when he was a teen. ) and Pierre winds up sitting at her booth with her friends. But such close contact has Anne so weak she can barely lift her wrist to bring her Coke to her lips much less say anything. Mainly she notes every little thing about him – down to how clean his fingernails are , even the dusting of pale gold hairs on the back of his hand! The girl’s got it bad!  She can’t even introduce herself – someone else does it for her. Fortunately a good-old boy – Chuck ( one of those standard sometimes boyfriends – that thinks he’s all-time boyfriend ) sits down beside Anne and drops his arm around her forcing Anne to prove her independence. [ France is very far away. ] not very bright she has to admit. [ Yes Poor me ] Pierre says but fearing it came out too rude and despite Chuck’s show of ownership he  apologizes , saying sitting across from a very pretty girl is, in a nutshell, making him nervous. Anne doesn’t get it but her friends exchange significant looks.
    The more they talk, the more we’re set up for this romance’s initial end – Pierre is an exchange student who may not even be staying permanently at Anne’s school, not even till the end of the year. This doesn’t equate with Anne or ring any warning bells – she’s too far gone.
    Later there’s a bit of goofiness when Catherine her bff phones and tells Anne , Pierre asked about her and Chuck but she told him they’re not serious. Now Anne seems flustered , even though mentally she dismissed him as the boy who once gave her a lopsided Valentine back when she thought he was perfect ( around sixth grade.) Despite this, she can’t help but be excited that Pierre is asking about her. The following scene is great – Anne wanders into her mother’s room , plops on her bed and watches her mother freshening her makeup for when her husband comes home. Anne didn’t come in for conversation – just for her mother’s presence and the reassurance of her parents love admist so many new changes.
    Anne spends most of Chapter 5 waiting for Pierre to call, she won’t even take her pet poodle, Abigail for a walk, in case she misses it. When he does call, it’s has that familiar, stilted , awkwardness of first date jitters; he barely gets up the nerve to ask her out and when she hangs up she sends her parents , who have been not-so-discreetly listening in – a smile [ that made the electrical lights fade. ]
          Their first date is to wander along an autumn hued path and talk and talk. He makes her feel like [ crackling silk taffeta.] They say things that seem important – Anne shares one of her ‘alone’ thoughts – that she feels as though her feet are as sensitive as her hands and enjoy feeling every rock and stone. Meanwhile Pierre talks with an old-world manner that would melt any sixteen yr old. [ “It is a very excellent method,” …”To walk in the woods with Anne who listens with such kindness. ] But Anne is a little overwhelmed at their cultural differences – he talks of places she’s never heard of and he tells her his father is Secretarie Generale of the Fromageries cooperatifs – aha – the big cheese! ( Sorry , I couldn’t resist.) And when he excitedly brings up his future in the cheese business going on and on about the pregnant goats that will supply milk for his cheese , Anne is lost – why not, she probably hasn’t given fromage so much thought – but cheez whiz it could be worse. She could be listening to an American boy ramble on and on about football plays – ugh! She jumps in with her love of cooking – she made smashed radishes on the weekend – very Chinese. And he tells her if they were in France he’d take her out for frog legs and eel. Instead they swing by the Burgery – thank goodness for onion rings.
      When they’re apart – Anne goes the introspective route – hashing out every corpuscle of feelings. If he’s not at a party she imagines what he’d do at the party – and why isn’t he at the party? you may ask. Anne is fifteen , and not that outspoken , if he doesn’t ask , she’s out a date because Anne won’t call him up herself. So then we get her thinking, why didn’t he call? Grrrr.  Finally he does arrange a date to the movies and Anne relaxes a little amid the joking that goes on while waiting in line. I.e. when a boy behind her says – [ You didn’t know I come from another planet and can make you a malted milkshake with just one word.] Pierre is astonished when Anne immediately plays along – [ please , please I’d love a strawberry malted.] The punch line – [ The force is with me. Poof! You’re a strawberry malted. ] Anne feigns a collapse and giggles.    
         The problem with Love Comes to Anne is that there is no problem , Anne goes through a plethora of feelings before realizing she loves Pierre , the reader strolls along experiencing  Anne’s revelation of this but there are no obstacles, accept for one, that the writer hasn’t explored yet – this can’t last forever, eventually Pierre will be going home. In fact the question doesn’t arise till page 97 in a 171 page book. But it doesn’t really sink in till page 112. * There is one pseudo problem – I call it pseudo because it arrives, causes a flutter and is wrapped up so neatly your mind can’t even spin out alternate subplots. Just before an overnight trip for a choral concert Pierre goes on a date with another girl to see if what he feels for Anne is real or he’s just caught up with an American girl. After the date he now knows , for sure ,  it’s Anne he wants.
    And tells her so when the bus breaks down – [ I think to myself, ah I like Anne so much. How nice that is. But then I think – how is it so that no one of any girl I meet is for me the way Anne is? I find no answer except , Anne is my Anne. ]
         When Anne begins to realize Pierre will be leaving soon she wants to spend every spare minute with him and asks her mother if he can come for Christmas – her mother isn’t too crazy about Pierre ( Poor Chuck’s out in the cold these days ) and declines. She sees how emotionally involved Anne is with Pierre ( and probably preferred the surface romance Anne had with Chuck ) and doesn’t like it one bit. Anne needs some cheering up and sleeps over at her bff Catherine’s. I love how rooms back in the 80’s were the height of luxury if a teen had their own stereo and t.v. , Catherine has both and a phone and a ‘really terrific poster of the Bee Gees.’ But to really drive home the fact that this is 1979 the girls try on make-up from Catherine’s surplus  – brown iridescent eye shadow – deep disco hues –  no wait – gold – Gold Catherine insists would be fantastic on you. Of course Anne is at that stage where she can not try on eye shadow without wondering if Pierre would like it.    
    He may not be physically there but he’s with Anne, just the same. She won’t let the reader forget it or Catherine , who’s either falling asleep or pretending to , one more facet of their relationship and I may just zzzzz. But just when she begins to make a little sense – worrying that maybe she’s cut herself off from everyone for Pierre. Catherine spoils an opportunity to say yes , you have,  and assures her everything will work out. Hmm.
    Well , not quite – Pierre tells Anne his sponsor family is taking him on a ski trip for nine days and she won’t see him over the holidays. Anne stays brave as they exchange gifts – a gold chain with a medal that represents France ( there should be a cliche list – no more boys giving girls chains with symbolic charms – it’s too easy ) she gives him a book , then she cries and  mopes.
    Thank God she doesn’t stay in this frame of mind , one more reflective moment and the reader, moi , is going to shot put the entire crew to France. Things pick up a bit as she goes to a basketball game with her friends and remarks she felt she was [ home from someplace else for a short visit. ]
    Next she goes over to Mike’s with Chuck – for a kinda party ( back here they’re more relaxed about calling it what it really is just a get-together. ) And chooses the craziest , wildest outfit I have ever seen described – I have to write it down verbatim because it must be envisioned to be believed! Mind you this is 1979. Year of the craziest socks imaginable. Here goes – are you ready? [ She stood at her closet for fifteen minutes before deciding what to wear – the new jeans , and a striped red and green turtleneck under a light blue shirt and a meshy violet colored v neck sweater over that. She liked the effect of the mixed colors. ]. Believe it or not this girl Olivia has this to say – [ “Anne, that is the greatest color combination I ever saw in my whole life and I’m going to copy it. What a fantastic , great sweater. Let me try it on. Do you think the purple would be good for me?”]
    Kooky clothes aside she had a good time, but chapter 16 starts with – He’s back! She then goes on to says she was asleep while he was away now she’s awake – not quite yet but Pierre’s about to wake her up with a jaw dropper. Pierre had been doing his own introspective inventory , he wants Anne to come home with him in February to meet his parents ….Anne he says will you marry me. Huh what?! This, to the girl that dresses like a psychedelic hobo when you’re gone for three days?! Anne whirls – Marriage is for grown ups – Adults marry. She’s not an adult. Hoo-ha! She must really be frightened if she can admit that! But… she can’t help but mull over the idea , what it would be like? She even hauls old Juliet as a role model. Pierre is invited for dinner and she is invited to a posh party at his sponsor’s family’s estate. Both times she wonders if she can fit in – or last listening to Pierre’s cheesy talk. She even wonders is his French gestures are now so charming. She turns to her father ( a doctor ) for advice and at first , he assumes Anne is pregnant! Ha! Though , I must say he stayed very calm. When she tells her mother however in a gasping , sobbing breakdown – already making the decision that she can’t leave everyone – her mother’s ‘of course you can’t, it’s out of the question’ – raises Anne’s hackles. Her mother softens – No longer arguing whether Anne loves Pierre instead she says Anne is ready for love but isn’t ready right now for marriage. Anne agrees. The reader agrees. Pierre whose a year older doesn’t agree. But says – [ Perhaps , my Anne , next year you will be more sure, you will know altogether what you wish – and that it will be me. I will hope. ] Anne however comes to realize she’s got a lot ahead of her before she’s ready to say ‘I know , I’m sure to anyone.’

Other Oodles
* Phony name brand spot! Anne’s little brother Billy eats Wheat Chux!
* I love how precise Lucille S Warner is with details – normally a girl in a teen romance would put a school report in her bag – that would be the sentence -here – Anne puts a paper on crystals and minerals into a blue folder and tucked the folder into her notebook. 
* Abigail the poodle is a dog who is described as keeping the house clear of shadows – she licked them away. Love that!
* Warner also perks up her story with lots of cool descriptions like this [ The morning of the concert was one of those winter days that glistened so hard you could see specks of brilliance dancing off the sidewalks, and the stubby gray-brown grass on the lawn glittered like tiny mirrors.]
* Anne stands and watches Pierre dance ( naturally he’s a fabulous dancer ) and admits she has the goopiest look on her face.

* There’s an after dance dinner party at Anne’s with her little seen friends , where Pierre makes everyone an omelet a strange combo considering everyone’s drinking root beer or Coca Cola.

       All in all not a bad start to kick off Wildfire. A little slow and short on action , but if I’d read it when I was 11 , I know I would’ve found it terribly romantic – so I’ll give it *** – but there are times when I was thinking more **1/2.

Good but goofy cover pic – Anne is gorgeous in a bold winter ensemble ( that smile could pull off a potato sack ) –  wacky striped sweater,  a turquoise popcorn knit vest,  baggy jeans – it’s as close as you could get to her color-clash outfit on pg 124 , but whose this guy with his arms wrapped around her? – Pierre? – he looks about twenty-five! ‘Sure this isn’t a reject photo from I’ve Got a Crush on You? No wonder mom was on guard. And dig that phony snowball!

Anne’s crazy outfit – reminded me of the layered look in Jodie Foster’s Freaky Friday or of the slobby look Brooke Shields is accused of having on the cover of National Lampoons. The late seventies was a brave moment in fashion!  I found these bright fashions in magazines, alas no real layered look but some – sherbet shades and kooky combos.

1979 shebert colors

1979 - Orchid and aqua combo

1979 Chocolate and Pink combo

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One Response to Wildfire’s Love Comes to Anne – Lucille S Warner – Love Story meets Romeo and Juliet – without the dying or the feud… Hmm maybe I should rethink my comparison?

  1. Pingback: Holly In Love By Caroline B. Cooney | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

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