Whatever happened to the old Todd Roberts, cutup and clown of the junior class?
Background: Is it a major holiday? You can bet that Elaine Harper and First Love From Silhouette have got us covered with another appropriately-themed teen romance!
236 First Love titles were published between 1981 and 1987 by Silhouette, “AMERICA’S publisher of Contemporary Romance” (distinguishing itself from its main competitor, the Canadian-based Harlequin, which would fold Silhouette into its own operations in 2012). While I may have complained before about the lack of effort that goes into these titles, I have to give Harper credit for creating an extremely complex universe for her “Blossom Valley” sub-series
This week in Blossom Valley, the local teens have forgotten about the peril at the bird sanctuary, the freshman class running a prostitution ring out of an abandoned shed, and incredibly meddling neighbors doling out bad advice to teenaged girls.
The Plot: Actually, this does involve peril at the bird sanctuary again.
And this is the point where I admit that I’m giving in to Harper’s vision of Blossom Valley, where everyone throws logic to the wind and overreacts to literally everything, except actual life-and-death situations. About five pages in I started gleefully rubbing my hands together in anticipation of whatever ridiculous thing the characters were going to say or do next.
Apparently in an earlier volume Blossom Valley High’s class clown, Todd Roberts, made a fool out of himself by making a play for the studious Janine, who had eyes only for basketball star Craig Matthews, and then was promptly shipped off to Uruguay as an exchange student. As this volume opens, Todd is waiting by the mailbox in anticipation of a response to a letter he sent to Janine, pouring out his feelings for her.
And then Marigold Street is invaded by a flock of peacocks.
Todd and his younger sister scramble to call the SPCA, who wearily sigh that they must be Professor Holmstrom’s, which are constantly escaping from neighboring Berryville and terrorizing people.
The professor arrives with his teenage daughter to collect them and Todd is head over heels in love at first sight. Heidi Holmstrom is a confident and outgoing young woman who immediately starts explaining all about peacocks to Todd. While Heidi and her father are able to get most of the birds stowed away in their station wagon, Jupiter, king of the flock, refuses to come down from the Robertses’ tree:
Todd wished Jupiter would just live in the tree, so Heidi would have to come back.
Todd could imagine Heidi’s small white hand stroking the bird’s richly-colored feathers. Now there was nothing left at Todd’s house to testify to the enchanted hour when the peacocks had visited the Robertses. Todd felt a melancholy pang as Heidi assumed the substance of a dream.
This pretty much sums up Todd. The easiest way he can think of to show that he’s interested in a girl is to hold her peacock hostage.
A few days later he gets his chance, when Jupiter shows up in his yard again. He calls Professor Holmstrom and offers to bring the bird back, and when he arrives finds that the family is in the midst of leaving with the professor’s students on a bird-watching trip to Ano Nuevo, and Heidi suggests Todd join them.
Something is awakened within Todd:
Birds were something Todd had never thought much about, but now they had pretty much changed his life.
But with birds, come the Bird-Bros:
This particular college boy irritated Todd because he was evidently a super hotshot who always spotted an interesting bid before anyone else did and would yell it out loudly, calling attention to himself.
By the end of the day he is planning his future with Heidi, because Todd is a very presumptuous young man. Unfortunately, he hadn’t called his parents about going on the fieldtrip, and so the family car has been parked in Berryville all day, so Todd is totally grounded from using it for the next month, which cramps his plans of taking Heidi to the movies next weekend. Luckily, she is very understanding when he calls to tell her, and proposes a solution- a double date with her parents!
It couldn’t hurt him any to get better acquainted with the parents of the girl he loved. He pictured them going out to dinner. Dr. and Mrs. Holmstrom would be in the front seat, he and Heidi in the back. The Holmstroms would probably be talking about their own affairs, and he might get a chance to kiss Heidi on the way while her parents weren’t watching.
THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLAN, TODD.
Despite this, Todd and Heidi continue seeing each other, going on many bird-related dates. On a trip to the beach they rescue a pelican that had become tangled in a fishing line and Heidi tries to get Todd to memorize all of the different shore-birds by yelling at him:
“That’s not a godwit,” Heidi objected. “That is a long-billed curlew. Didn’t I just tell you the godwit’s beak curves up? And this one curves down. So it’s a curlew.”
GOD, TODD! GET IT TOGETHER!
They climb up to some cliffside caves to eat their lunches and pretend to be cavemen:
“These aren’t tuna fish sandwiches,” Todd added, “but an actual hunk of raw tuna that we just clubbed out of the sea.”
“Ugh!” Heidi grimaced. “Mine came from a Bolognasaurus.”
Uh, Heidi, everyone knows that the Bolognasaurus was extinct well before the cretaceous period! Duh!
A storm suddenly comes up, and the tide rapidly rises in the cave, trapping the two teens overnight. The next morning the water has come up nearly to their shoulders and Heidi is starting to go into shock. This is a somewhat surprising development in what had previously been a lighthearted romance, as now the two teens are facing death by downing:
Kissing Heidi made him forget about dying, so he kept doing it.
Ok, maybe not.
Luckily Todd spots a Coast Guard helicopter and is able to signal to it, helping the unconscious Heidi into the rescue sling before he is knocked unconscious.
He awakens in the hospital, stiff and sore but otherwise unharmed. Heidi isn’t so lucky, having developed a serious case of pneumonia. Todd lacks self-awareness:
But he needed to talk to her and see if she still felt the same way about him as she did in the cave.
Her parents suggest maybe she will be well enough to receive visitors next week, so Todd buys her a very specific Get Well card:
He went to the stationary store and bought her a get-well card with a humorous message and some comic shorebirds cartooned on it.
Why would they even make that? Never mind, it is probably a best-seller in Blossom Valley.
There are some mild complications leading up to the Valentine’s Day dance, since Todd is the class president and that means he’s in charge of getting dates for literally everyone. He’s having trouble setting up Betty Babcock, but it turns out she is going on a group date with the school librarian and janitor and WHY IS THIS TOWN SO WEIRD????
Finally, Todd gets to go visit Heidi, but then everything is ruined when he gets into a fist fight on the front porch with her possessive ex-boyfriend, who has basically been stalking her since kindergarten. Professor Holmstrom turns the hose on the fight and bans them both from ever seeing Heidi again.
Todd thinks this is SO UNFAIR
He thought of how soon the Holmstroms had forgotten that he had sort of rescued Heidi. Even Heidi seemed to have turned on him. She certainly hadn’t run out and protested her dad’s treatment of him. She could have plunged through the door and thrown herself between him and Joe. “Get lost, Joe, it’s Todd that I love,” she would have said.
Todd is kind of the worst.
Anyway, Todd decides to go to the dance… with Janine. Remember her? Craig has a big basketball game that night so he can’t escort her.
Except then Jupiter arrives back at the Robertses’ house with a Valentine card in his beak (DON’T QUESTION BIRD-PHYSICS) and all is forgiven, and it turns out that Craig broke his wrist and all’s well that ends well. Right?
He could easily grow a mustache or beard now, but people don’t wear them in high school. He wondered how he would look with a mustache. He went in the bathroom, locked the door, got his mother’s eyebrow pencil, and drew himself a mustache. He would look pretty fierce with one. He wondered what impression he had made on Heidi Holmstrom.
If Heidi had liked him before, she might just go overboard when she saw him in his blazer.
He was wearing a short close-fitting black jacket with multicolored flowers embroidered down the front.