MILD SPOILERS 😉
A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.
Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse.
A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.
Now Stacy works in the same small town she grew up in, working as a secretary to a sleazy life insurance salesman. She drives an old jalopy of a station wagon. She has two radically distinct children: a hyperactive but helpful son and a truculent teenage daughter who seems to hate her.
Ex #2 is nowhere to be found, but ex #1 is still around, late with child support payments, occasionally hitting on Stacy, and usually drunk and mean. An ex-boyfriend, the local sheriff, also pops up to give her ten-year-old son tickets for speeding on a bicycle!
Mike’s life has changed, too but on a different trajectory. He was once the youngest kid in class due to being promoted several grades ahead due to his intelligence. Now, he’s a successful juvenile psychologist. Mike’s in good physical shape and at the prime of his life at 35.
Although he has one divorce behind him, Mike is well-adjusted, in touch with his feelings (so it seems), and a clear thinker.
Class of 1966
The attraction is instantaneous and palpable when Mike and Stacy reconnect at the class reunion. Mike had a big crush on Stacy back in the day, and Stacy can’t believe how hunky the former geek is now.
When they meet again, Mike makes no bones about his desire for Stacy. Stacy’s ambivalent about getting into yet another relationship. She’s made bad choices regarding men in the past, but Mike couldn’t be more different from them. He’s got it together, and as an “older” woman (she’s 38), she’s a bit insecure.
Nevertheless, Stacy can’t deny her attraction, and while Mike’s in town for a few weeks, she figured what’s wrong with a few dates?
Class of 1986
The problem is life cannot be compartmentalized so easily. Stacy finds herself falling deeply for Mike. Mike, in the meantime, has to deal with insecurities from the past coming back to haunt him. His marriage failed because a part of him was stuck back in high school, loving memory of a girl whose smiles were the only bright spots of miserable adolescence.
He’s a great father figure to her son. Stacy’s daughter Gail’s persnickety behavior is a mystery to her. Because of Mike’s profession, he’s able to draw Gail out of her shell and get mother and daughter to communicate and deal with Gail’s very complicated emotional issues.
Mike and Gail finally give in to their passion on a trip to St. Louis. They feel an intense bonding never experienced before. This is more than lust; it’s love. Mike wants forever, not an affair. But Gails’ insecurities may be too much and drive them apart. Will they ever be able to leave the past behind and move on to make a life together?
Final Analysis of A Love to Last Forever
Because A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is an older romance, the writing here isn’t as reflective as one would find in a modern one. Events occur, and people react and move on. There’s lots of head-hopping within the same pages but done in a way to keep the plot moving forward rather than pondering or focusing on internal angst.
As an aside, it’s funny how a book from 1986 makes me feel so young and old simultaneously. Stacy & Mike graduated from high school 29 years before I did, so that I couldn’t relate to her era of grooviness and mod/ midwestern styles. Plus, Stacy’s diet of spaghetti, pancakes, and hamburgers while keeping trim had me rethinking my diet.
Her daughter listening to Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper and Stacy knowing the artists had me cracking up. If I had a teenager today, there’s no way I could identify any modern music. It’s the same pulsing beats or bland pop to me.
When other women delight in Stacy’s fall from grace, they lambast her for wearing clothes she made herself from patterns in McCall’s (Vogue magazine, actually), I laughed. Can you imagine that today? Have you seen the price of bolts of fabric? Making your own clothes costs much more than buying the semi-disposable garments sold at basic stores.
So, my final analysis of A Love to Last Forever? This novel was a satisfying romance with flawed characters who felt like real people falling in love. The conclusion is fitting. Stacy returns to school, her kids are better-adjusted, and she and Mike are passionately in love with a blended family that accepts who they are. A genuinely joyful, happy ending.
Once Stacy McAllister had been Carver High’s Most Likely to Succeed, and Mike Harper had been the class outcast. But at the reunion a devastating new Mike Harper, a man she’d never known, swept Stacy off her feet. With the sadness and failures of her past, Stacy felt worlds removed from her golden days. Love seemed a luxury she could no longer afford. Mike had become an astonishing social and professional success, the talk of the town. Soon he’d go back to St. Louis, taking a chunk of her past and a piece of her heart with him. She’d already given him a lot, but Mike wanted more. But she was a two-time loser. Did she dare to dream of a love that could last forever?A LOVE TO LAST FOREVER BY LINDA RANDALL WISDOM