2 stars and a half

Category Romance Review: Tangled Tapestry by Anne Mather

Tangled Tapestry, Anne Mather, Mills & Boon, 1969, cover artist unknown

Mills & Boon Modern

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

2 1/2 Stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

(Admission: I’m cheating a bit with the date range we have here for books on Sweet Savage Flame. Tangled Tapestry was published in 1969 and never was reprinted in English. It was only released on e-format a few years ago. Still, it’s close enough for government work, as the expression goes.)

Thanks to Anne Mather’s Tangled Tapestry I realize publishers don’t always put the correct copyright information in the front of e-books. Going into this read, I knew it was a vintage romance, but you only get to know that it was published in 1969 after you finish the book. I’m only stating this because, like many things written in the mid 20th century, it’s aged as if… it was written in the mid-20th century! This book may offend some readers’ sensibilities, or, if you’re twisted like me, make you laugh as I did at this legendary panel from a Batman comic:

It’s funny because he keeps talking about his boner.

The Plot

British school teacher, Debra Warren, is on a work-exchange program in San Francisco educating underprivileged children. She takes them on a field trip to visit one of the local major movie studios because everyone knows San Francisco is right next to Hollywood. (Anne Mather got her geography off in this one; it would be like going to Boston and taking a trip to visit the Lincoln Memorial, wouldn’t it?) The staff at the studio are amazed by Debra’s similar looks to the deceased movie star, Elizabeth Steel, and instantly demand she take a screen test.

Before she knows what’s going on, Debra is whisked away by L.A. writer, Dominic McGill, to meet movie producers. Her appearance to Elizabeth is too close to be just a coincidence and, eventually, the orphaned Debra learns Elizabeth Steel was her real mother. Everyone’s dying to remake one of Steel’s old films that Dominic wrote starring our innocent heroine.

Debra is feeling pushed into a life she’s not sure she wants. She only knows that Dominic makes her feel all tingly, so much that she gives bitchy looks to the nubile females who cling to him. Then there are the unspoken rumors concerning Dominic and her mother. Could Dominic–gasp–have been her mother’s toyboy lover?

The Romance

There is little romance here. Oh sure, there are a couple of sweet kisses and a whole paragraph at the end of the book where Dominic declares his love for Debra. But Dominic’s not the kind of man who chases women, so when Debra hurts Dominic’s pride, it’s she who follows him, she who does the “big grovel.”

Personally, I don’t care much for groveling, neither from the hero nor the heroine, (unless they really did do something horrid & then groveling is only a drop in the bucket!), so it didn’t bother me, although I know some readers like that sort of comeuppance when the hero’s a bit of an alpha-hole. And yes, Dominic is overbearing, cold, inscrutable, and unyielding, but I wouldn’t have vintage heroes any other way.

I mean, he needed to be a little stoic. It’s bad enough he’s in his late 30’s, parties with teenagers, hosts surfing parties, and dances the Watusi.

(I couldn’t figure out how to post a gif so here’s a picture of a huge Watusi bull. Yeah, I know it’s 2021; I’m still clueless. I just learned to pronounce the word, for goodness’ sake!)

The Watusi. Not to be confused with the Batusi.

Time Stands Still For No Man

Oh, about the dated aspect of this book?

  • The meals: Hamburgers and coffee. Yuck. Why did people in the ’50s and ’60s eat that way? Yes, I know sodas are just as bad to have, but at least they taste good with food. Coffee is a morning drink and for occasional desserts.
  • The alcoholic drinks: LOTS of them and half of them gin martinis.
  • The smoking: Debra swears she hardly ever smokes, but she’s a liar because she smokes like a mesquite BBQ grill. I counted 48 references to cigarettes in this book! Plus another 10 to smoke/smoking.
  • The language: YMMV about taking offense. There are about a 1/2 dozen observations using old-timey racial terminology.
  • The music: Anne Mather really dug Dave Brubeck, didn’t she? She’s referred to him in other books. I looked him up. Don’t think this is what the teenagers in 1969 were hip to, but if that floats your boat, *shrug.*
Dave Brubeck. Did all the gals in the late ’60s dance erotically to this guy’s tunes?

Since the setting is mostly California, Anne Mather wanted to make sure we knew her hero was American so the book is peppered with cheesy epithets like:

Baby – 18 times
Kid – 12 times
Honey – 29 times

Final Analysis of Tangled Tapestry

As I said, there wasn’t much romance here. Debra basically allowed herself to be carried away by others to do their bidding. She didn’t want to be a movie star, so why didn’t she just open her mouth and say so? Then she pined away for Dominic (I swear Anne Mather must have had at least ten heroes with that name!), and Dominic played it hot-and-cold with her. He was never open with Debra until the very end.

Even so, this book wasn’t awful, because there was something charming about how dated it was. Anne Mather’s books are rarely timeless; you can almost always tell what decade they were written by the clothes. This sweet vintage romance (no sex, just mild kissing) was even more old-fashioned than her usual. While the characters may have been doing the latest dances (that’s one reason why I avoid modern contemporaries; I have zero interest in reading about a heroine who grinds or twerks), their morals were somewhere in the 1950s. Quaint and old-fashioned, but I like that when reading vintage romance. Too bad the romance was lackluster here.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

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