Feeling for the Air is the middle book in a trilogy about the relationship between bad boy Dace and his academic minded cousin, Liza. So any HEA ending can only be provisional. This is the first novel that I have read by Karen Black, but she introduced all the important background information that I needed to know from the first book in the trilogy in a very natural way.
I do have to say that the cover didn’t really attract my interest. On the cover of the first book, From the Chrysalis, the monarch butterfly was the central image. Since the search for the home of the monarch butterflies in Mexico was an important plot strand in this book, I wished that Black hadn’t already used that cover and that title for her first novel. Emerging from the chrysalis also implies metamorphosis. The two lovers begin to transform themselves in Feeling for the Air, but we only get a small symbolic butterfly on the cover. I wish there could have been a monarch butterfly poised to take flight on this cover. It would have echoed the title and the life stage of the two protagonists.
I have nothing but praise for the writing. The sharp focus on the character viewpoints is magnetic, and the harsh realism of the characters’ dilemmas gave this novel impact. From the beginning of the book, I threw my support to Liza. I wanted her to finish school and make a good life for herself and her baby with or without Dace. I could see that Dace was badly damaged and that all his instincts lead him toward trouble. As I discovered more about his background, I understood what motivated his self-destructive pattern. Yet I didn’t sympathize with him at all until he started to make a real effort to change his behavior at around the halfway point in the book. I could see that his progress was shaky, however, and I wondered if he would ever become completely trustworthy. Liza is also unsteady in her development as a mother. She isn’t the ideal mother. She doesn’t always put the interests of her child first and sometimes thinks about escaping her parental responsibilities. I did consider these truthful portrayals. Major change in people’s lives takes place gradually. They will hopefully mature as a result of their experiences.
I was especially impressed with Liza’s choice of a midwife assisted home birth and the author’s choice of depicting the entire birth process. Romance tends to shy away from the messier aspects of birth. I consider this a bold choice because there are probably many readers who would consider it unromantic. They would prefer a hazier approach to childbirth in which a mother enters a birthing room and emerges from it with a healthy child in the very next paragraph. I very much appreciate Karen Black’s willingness to take on aspects of life that are usually airbrushed out of conventional romances.