Caprice #13 – Don’t Forget to Write – Patsey Gray – eee! pseudo-incest overtones ( an almost-adopted brother love interest ) makes this a queasy but interesting read! Eat your heart out Cathy Dollanger!


              

Caprice #13 Don't forget to Write - PatseY Gray

         When I first started reading this I kinda groaned , oh no , it was choppy – the cover didn’t thrill me , the heroine insisted she wasn’t going to be conceited but then patted herself on the back for the remainder of the paragraph , and it made us believe or tried to make us believe that the parents would spring this surprise on their daughter. But I kept reading , it got less choppy , more fluid , my interest in the characters grew – even her egotism was interesting – it was good! I just had to get past through that rough patch! Like lima beans alongside roast beef. But to finish this romance is indeed a queasy read. Not quite the stuff of Flowers in the Attic it does however have a spotty core that if one examined it – might turn off a reader. For instance what kind of parents , in a genuine attempt to broaden their family ( for years they’d been trying to adopt a baby ) , bring home a blonde haired hunk which they introduce to their teenage daughter as- meet your new brother! Ahem don’t drool dear. Didn’t they think that romance might brew? Perhaps not, considering Dad’s next words are – I’ll let you YOUNGSTERS get acquainted revealing that these teens are still tots in their minds. Bruce to Teri – I play a mean game of pattycake. Sweet Dreams tried their hand at this subject – #43 Tender Loving Care by Anne Park but it didn’t have the sensational aspect of trying to get Juliet to accept this new boy in her home as a brother while simultaneously trying to romance him.

    The Plot
    Teri Moore our heroine , is a moody fifteen year old who resolves not to be conceited about the fact that she is a terrific athlete but breaks this pseudo vow , sentences , paragraphs and pages later. She’s not your typical series heroine, pinned down with an easy cliche – she’s a bundle of them which means she’s pretty well rounded. Her parents , desperate to adopt a baby boy to replace the one they lost years ago, trek to San Francisco for the umpteenth time in the hopes of finally, making the cut. They are , after all, a little on the old side. They call Teri with some exciting news ( carefully worded by the author to draw out the suspense. )
We have him.. conditionally , he’s …different – Which has Teri blurting he’s black , fantastic! ( which I’m not sure if this is to show us that Teri’s non-prejudice or Hollywood hip – this is after all the era of Different Strokes and Webster! ) But no he’s not black …he’s just well …it’s a surprise. That’s an understatement. Even Teri annoyed by their evasiveness, rudely asks “What did you call me for?” Dinner , get it started. They’ll be home with Bruce – oho a name – later that night. Teri spends the afternoon ordering cartons of milk and  solidifying her summer job , at a ritzy recreation center alongside a golf course,  called The Club but fibs a little to beef up her resume by telling them she has loads of experience with babies , why she even has a baby brother named Bruce. Which she consoles herself isn’t quite a lie because by the time she’s starts working she’ll have helped out with little Brucie. Ha! Teri is upstairs sprucing up the nursery when her parents come home and halts on the stairs puzzled as to why neither parents are holding a baby…and who’s that behind them. A boy about her age.
          “This is Bruce.” Her father says.
    Ch-wang. That’s the sound of Teri’s jaw hitting the floor.
    “I’ll leave you youngsters to get acquainted.”
            I guess in real life you might have a set of parents , so clueless as to bring home a hunky boy without so much as giving their daughter a heads up. But only in stories is this considered ‘cute’ to think about it is really quite cringe inducing – not just in the obvious element of possible attraction but because it causes so much unnecessary confusion. Teri is crushingly disappointed that Bruce isn’t the baby she’d been looking forward to ( and depending how long Bruce had been in foster care how often do you think he’d had to deal with that kind of disappointment ! ) Plus there’s a rooming problem – the nursery is no longer appropriate so they decide to give Bruce the older sisters room. However Teri immediately wails ( and they are discussing this right in front of Bruce at dinner – way to give him indigestion! ) I’m not sharing my bathroom! ( it’s adjoining. ) Very cool, her mother says she’s aware of that – Teri ( whose making a fuss ) gets the nursery. A proper place to throw a good temper tantrum. Bruce however is ready to bail out and says he’ll just catch a bus back to the center , he’s causing problems. Teri horrified apologizes saying he’ll do [‘irreparable damage to her psyche’] if he leaves. He stays. He helps Teri move her things and Teri catches him checking her out in her tight shorts and tube top. Mmmm. Teri attempts to make conversation by saying I never met an orphan before. He replies with his usual nonchalance -[“ I’m not an orphan , I don’t know who my father is.” “Oh.”
Does that bother you?”“No , of course not!
] I try not to think how privileged Teri must be to imagine the only reason a child is in foster care is due to being an orphan and not because he was abused or ditched. It must be the 80s. Teri gets over having to take the nursery – after all it has a door leading out to the backyard , instant privacy, a huge bonus. But she still can’t shake how unsettling the whole thing is after all the boy is a stranger whom they know nothing about [ he could be a maniac he could have allergies ] That’s quite a shifting scale! Unfortunately worst slot ,more so than maniac, that she’d never imagined – he’s about to shift into – can you guess? I’ll give you a hint – when the heroine is crowing about being number one in sports what’s the worse that can happen. You’ve guessed it!
    But she has to grow to like him before this happens. Naturally the first thing in the morning she wants to do is phone her bff April , but he’s in the kitchen – how can she talk to April with him in the room – especially when it’s him she’s going to be talking about. She goes to her parents room. This is how old fashioned they are – they have twin beds! But rather than embrace this boy as Teri’s new brother – April suggests – good now we can double date! O-kay even if Teri and Bruce aren’t related, there’s something fuzzy in that logic. Bruce gets a job as a bus boy , Teri lets him borrow a bike and tells him he owes her a favor. He agrees to let her teach him some tennis so she can rally with him. Although he’s good his attitude irks her – it’s only a game. What! He’d never be a winner with that attitude – Teri you see is the type that mulls over strategies in her sleep and demands an edgy solemn manner before a game. Who is this boy anyway? Teri decides to find out – via a little snooping but aside from some flannel shirts discovers nothing of interest. Don’t worry she felt guilty , I don’t know if that covers her but it’s real at least. Trouble brews at Teri’s new job when she realizes to her horror her fib will eventually catch up with her – now that there is no little brother.  Fighting tears on her walk home with Bruce he notices – c’mon you can tell me I’m your brother- almost. She pours out her woe and Bruce trying not to laugh advices – Tell her the truth – [“Heck , everybody’s lied a few million times in their life.”] Oh , how she wished he’d said friend and not brother. Have I mentioned the parents don’t allow these two to be in the house , alone together? Since Bruce is busy doing his busboy thing and Teri is a swim instructor at the club they don’t have much time together – but her mother practically hyperventilating attempts to explain the new rules while Teri cuts her off that if Bruce is home she’d head to the tennis courts. Hmmm. For parents that sleep in separate beds they certainly worry an awful lot about what could happen – it’s always the quiet ones. Though this seems ( in this world ) like a sensible thing to do in the Caprice world – even Teri thinks it’s rather pathetic. Teen series heroines never go all the way!
     April calls plotting a sneak peek at Bruce with the excuse of wanting to borrow the J.C. Penney catalog ( though she does need a new dress for an upcoming dance. ) She’s babysitting and comments [ “…I’ll be able to afford one if this kid and I both survive.” A series of piercing cries made survival seem unlikely. April raised her voice to Teri. “I’m thinking ahead to the Fourth of July party. ( Oh, shut up , monster! )Where was I?…” ] Don’t you love the wise-assy bff’s of Wildfire and Caprice – the kind of girls who call their charges monsters. Hysterical! A welcome relieve after the suspiciously well-behaved kids of the BSC.
Teri finally runs into Mrs. McCauley ( her boss ) and has to apologize for lying, admitting Bruce is no baby –  [“so alright , I lied to you. I’m sorry.” ] A wee bit clunky – but I never said Teri was a shrinking violet. Speaking of which she charges home , heedlessly attempting to use her former bathroom – but Bruce is in there! Don’t get excited nothing so risque as a Who’s the Boss moment when Tony walks in on Angela, happens – the writer tells us Bruce was doing [ nothing more intimate than combing his hair. ] Intimate – hooha! what a choice of words! Why the rush?  Bruce’s beloved social worker is arriving, old Flossie, to check over the family. She’s come with some news that puts Teri on edge – Bruce is an impressive athlete , and a warning specifically to Teri – if her parents decide to send Bruce away – make sure they do it gently. But for now everything is going fine , swell. Teri wins a tennis tournament and Bruce is quite a hit at the players luncheon , he even understands her urge to get away from the grown ups after the high of winning and walks home with her. This is the first real romantic scene in the book and it’s surprisingly steamy for a thematic series. Most of the heat rests on the fact that what they are contemplating seems taboo , but it’s also the setting – Teri wants to show him this huge pepper tree , her favorite on the block , whose branches create a secret canopy and the light filtering through made one feel as though they were underwater. They press in close and while Bruce breathing heavily strangles out a few words – Teri believes something must be wrong – and babbles on about cough drops. FORGET ABOUT THE COUGH DROPS! He yells. Before a kiss can culminate Skipper,  Teri’s dog, interrupts and one has to wonder if the parents sent him out as a chaperone. Spoilsports.
    Caprice’s are always jam-packed with events, they hurdle over incidents like a relay race, so much so – I can’t recite them all. Needless to say one of the main events of the books is the Fourth of July weekend. Teri’s sisters drop by – the eldest Michelle is approving of Bruce , the younger Jill is a beautician and clashes with Teri – she doesn’t care one way or another about Bruce as she is out on her own anyway. She also smokes which is one of those events that you know will become significant – file it along with the fact that Bruce sleeps in her bed when she’s not there. If you’re waiting for some scene that reflects the cover you might wait forever – though with the backpack and walking stick the couple might be hikers or campers Teri and Bruce don’t do any hiking – though they do go JOGGING up a hiking trail with Teri noting how wrong everyone is dressed for their outing ( I don’t think she would’ve approved of the outfits on the cover either – specially not those socks. )
    Gray creates a wonderfully festive mood for the picnic with bright , descriptive scenery and action, though it gets off to a rocky start with Teri crotchety about not finding and dress takes it out on Bruce. When he dismisses her dilemma with wear that other dress I seen you in , you have to come you invited me , she slams – my parents invited you. Now she has to apologize and starts ranting and raving in her mind when he mother adds fuel to her insanity by saying [ don’t be long dinner’s about ready ] Kids are slaves to parents habits, especially meals, whose idea was that God’s? If He had to stop to cook all the time – say what?! Fortunately she breaks off this wackiness to apologize to Bruce – had she gone on and on – he might’ve been blamed for histories necessity girls having to scour for a decent dress. He makes her swear she wants him around – placing his hands on her shoulders and standing so close she’s read to drop in a faint or kiss him. Again I’m getting a creepy Flowers in the Attic, Chris and Cathy vibe. It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t know how much the parents , especially the father, whose already calling Bruce-  son , wants this to work.
    Teri does find a dress – or rather the perfect outfit – the Western Look- a Victorian blouse with a stand up collar , buttons down the front and a flounced denim skirt with matching lace trim. Bruce’s reaction – YEEEHAW! Kidding. Meanwhile April our wisecracking bff is wondering what’s the point of buying a dress with boyfriend Jimmy out of town. Maybe she should wear a gunnysack. I’m in mourning she tells the saleslady – who’s not amused.
    The picnic kicks off with a myriad of things – Teri tells April she was planning on hiding Jennifer’s new famed Famolares – showing us even though she’s fifteen she still has a juvenile streak. Jennifer is the local bad girl – Famolare is a brand name of shoes that were popular in the 80’s. But Jennifer shows up in a flesh colored gown ( movie – Picnic – Kim Novak also wore a beautiful flesh colored gown ) and the Famolares , spoiling Teri’s plan. The picnic wavers from then on as Teri is unable to handle her jealousy when Jennifer flirts with Bruce and inadvertently insults him. Then, she discovers he won a race while she wiped out, firing up her unreasonable jealousy. But the mood is lightened with a hilarious scene in which April and Teri are trying like mad to hold back hysterical laughter when an unwanted boy Orville ( a double date from Hell )  plops down at their table beside them. What’s so funny? The boy demands. ( You turkey , outta here! )
And though Bruce pegs Teri as being moody and she knows it we can’t help feeling – it’s not just Teri that’s moody but the book itself flashing between highs and lows with lovely moments thrown in, no talking , jealousy or anything as when Teri’s noticing the people dispersing and pairing off at twilight , wishing she hadn’t outgrown the excitement of the greased pig scramble or even the bursting fireworks. But she manages to turn the image of them into falling stars lighting Bruce’s upturned face a child-thrill has now become a backdrop for her growing desire. 
Bruce compliments Teri’s new look but mistakenly says different , pretty , neat – Teri is instantly grumpy – why not glamorous , or gorgeous – still she’s not about to toss out a compliment they’re too rare. And adds in some amazing bit of perception – [she shouldn’t expect him to use fancy words! ] The highlight of the picnic is their walk home alone with Teri fantasizing them as boyfriend/girlfriend, good practice , as she’s never really talked to a boy this much before. Bruce points out the pepper tree than hastily says I guess we won’t stop there , since we have the bike and – he’s rambling , Teri says I see.
             This is where the book takes an awkward turn – Teri’s attraction to Bruce begins to sour as her jealousy takes over. A man at her job is going on vacation and she hopes to gain his position for the two weeks but discovers that Bruce had been offered the position. Job stealer! To make matters worse Skipper her dog has been overly attentive to Bruce. Traitor! And even Dad is boasting now he’s got two athletes in the family. The lowest blow of all. Remember for Teri there is no such thing as second best. To show just how cut throat her view of athletics is,  Teri stumbles across a group of handicapped children ( it’s the 80’s ) called the Handikids,  scornfully dismisses their attempts at playing ball worded to show us that Teri judges people based on her own stellar merits, but with zero empathy it could have a nowadays reader tossing the book. She does agree however, to make Skipper their mascot Handidog and bring him back to the park. But what about the Bruce problem? Well, the families once-a-month maid notices the cigarette butts under Jill’s/ Bruce’s bed and automatically thinks they’re Bruce’s. Aha! an opportunity to let Bruce take the fall and squeeze him out – Teri seriously considers this tempting idea. Bruce though proves himself once more to be a considerate person , and Teri feeling guilty can’t do it. He’d discovered she’d been sneaking out in the middle of the night to go for walks and began following her , worried about her safety. There’s more steam as they realize they’re outside alone , it’s the middle of the night , the parents are asleep , and Bruce must venture through Teri’s bedroom to re-enter the house. He’s reluctant to let this opportunity slide and lingers – lets talk. I laughed at this point that the parents snoring nearby are that unaware of what’s going on under their nose in the middle of the night – and yet they’re so concerned about afternoons!
        Bruce finally asks Teri out – not quite a date as others will be there and it’s bowling but since Teri’s never bowled and she wouldn’t be any good at it , and he would , she refuses. Huh say what?! Brat. Flossie the social worker comes and Teri has her opportunity but takes one look at Bruce with his pound- puppy- on -death- row eyes and swallows her agitation,  she has no problems with him.
    Summer turns into fall and school starts – changes are piled up in a single paragraph , Teri and Bruce really like each other now , Bruce is doing really well at his job but has annoyed the folks by picking up the bad habit of swearing , nothing major Teri assures the reader – and the only thing we notice is that his heck has turned into hell. They plan on going on a school ski trip , chaperones – Mom can barely suppress her blurt. Yes there will be chaperones ( though they’re mentioned as being rather useless. ) It occurs to the reader that something must go wrong – the title is one of those giveaways to the action it’s rather like calling your novel The Death of Jessica and even if Jessica starts the book alive , you know that can’t last. So a book entitled Don’t Forget to Write implies someone is leaving – ( that someone is easy to guess.) Unless father says , sorry Teri we voted , Bruce stays, you go. The reader anticipates something happening – I was waiting for them to be caught in a clinch by a horrified Mom and Dad or a more horrified chaperone you’re brother and sister! But instead Teri allows her win!win!win! Attitude to get the best of her when they ride up to a more difficult ski slope and Teri starts kidding around – race you down. She slips and careening out of control, crashes into a tree , breaks her leg , and ruins their trip. The book has turned into Teri learning to change her vicious athletic outlook and not automatically pit others athletic abilities against her own. Not everything’s a competition. What offended her the most about Bruce though , was that she had to work hard to earn her wins while he won things in a effortless, it’s only a game manner. She finds herself back with the Handikids and now made clumsy with crutches suddenly understands their dilemma – but she’s not oozing sympathy, instead she now knows how to better organize them. Feeling better than she has in months, she rallies together a team with the Handikids and starts coaching them to play minor competitive games, games that she’d scorned months ago. Teri is finally growing up and becoming less selfish , she even cringes thinking about how she almost pinned the cigarette thing on Bruce. Do they ever share a kiss? Yes. Teri on purpose forgets her crutches in the car forcing Bruce to practically carry her inside the house. As he sets her down, he plants a scorching kiss on her lips. By now the pages are getting thinner and a side story with April is warning us – this is not a good set up. How are they going to handle this? – Bruce loves his new family , the parents love him – although Mom is definitely suspicious over the new brother/sister thing , even Teri has gotten over her jealousy. So how are they going to get him out of there? Long lost father? Too easy.
        Instead , his job gives him an opportunity to rise in the restaurant business – however the catch , the authors loophole is – his apprenticeship will be in Houston Texas. Teri is at first startled , saddened but everyone realizes this is probably the best thing. Mom admits she knows that April’s been ‘taking chances’ and she doesn’t want the same temptation to be there for Teri or Bruce. Even Bruce , probably boiling over with his own new lusts,  thinks it’s probably a good idea to put a few hundred miles between them – After all it won’t be forever. Bruce kisses her goodby and Teri teetering on her sticks ( crutches )  reminds him Don’t forget to Write as she waves goodbye…. Imagine if they did get married , Pop would say he started as our would be son and became our son-in-law!


    A fun read , the book was lively and jam packed with exciting events. Even if the heroine was a little juvenile , I didn’t mind rooting for her. The only dilemma was the awkwardness of the brother/sister thing and knowing that with April scrambling to find alone time with her overheated boyfriend , that Teri and Bruce , with only a staircase between them,  might’ve ventured down a similar path in a few years , was made more icky knowing Dad would remind them of their shaky status – Bruce doesn’t your sister have a nice glow this morning.
****

OTHER OODLES
* April’s mother overhears something that has April instantly grounded. [ “What did your mother overhear?” – Terri , “Well, Jimmy and I were on the porch swing, night before last, just sitting and he asked me if I would prove I love him.” – April. Horrified , Teri gasped – “Right under the porch lights with mosquitos and everything?” “Of course not silly , he just meant sometime.” ]
an example – when her mother was at the dentist or something. And, yes they’re talking about sex!
* Teri is admonished by her father for not wearing pantyhose but she hikes up her skirt to mid thigh to show him she is, and then chuckles when he is reluctant to stare too long at her leg! More Flowers in the Attic creepiness!
* To avoid the woman she lied to – Teri dons huge black sunglasses which she wears even swimming – what a kook!
* The height of class for an older boy is that he drives a maroon Jaguar.
* Favorite line – [Happiness buzzed inside her like a honey-drunk bee.]

Peculiar cover – sometimes books are on – this one is off – from the look of it – you’d expect a camping/hiking/outdoorsy theme – wrong. You’d expect a blonde heroine – wrong. You’d expect a brunette hero – wrong. Is there anything about this photo that’s write – hmmm no – the heroine is a sporty brunette a swimmer , the hero a sandy haired boy with freckles – most of the action when not featured at the home features them biking or swimming.

caprice phony cover

Here’s my failed attempt at making a phony Caprice cover to replace the old version – I used models from a Sears catalog – Teri has the right look – I don’t know about Bruce. Couldn’t wrangle the title.

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