Now real life would be an electrifying experience!
Background: I am on the record about how I’ve turned around my opinion on Silhoutte’s First Love romances (“AMERICA’S publisher of Contemporary Romance”), especially Elaine Harper’s loopy Blossom Valley adventures, especially when they involve tenuous connections to major holidays and constant bird-based peril.
First Love published 236 titles between 1981 and 1987, so this one appeared fairly early in the imprint’s run; only three other Elaine Harper titles are listed (including Be My Valentine), so, sadly, this one lacks some of the Blossom Valley characteristics I have reluctantly come to know and love (the Bird Sanctuary doesn’t even get a mention!!!!)
I also seem to have a earlier printing than the edition pictured: mine does not have the “A Blossom Valley Book” across the top pf the cover, instead substituting “First Love From Silhouette” at the top and “America’s Favorite Teenage Romance” at the bottom. It’s also lacks the map of Blossom Valley at the beginning of the book.
The Plot: This one focuses on Blossom Valley High sophomore Lucy O’Donnell as she learns the ropes of the lighting crew for BVH’s drama club and falls for one, and then another truly terrible young men.
As the book opens, Lucy is eager to try out for a role in the fall production of South Pacific, along with every other girl in her class, mainly because the leading role is a shoo-in for class male diva (Divo? Primo Donno?) Quentin Pierce. Lucy doesn’t dare dream that she has a chance at the lead, but she hopes that she might be cast as Quentin’s daughter, because at the end he actually hugs her. SWOON!
When the announcement comes that she’s lost out on the part to a classmate, Lucy runs backstage to hide her disappointment, where she runs into the student lighting director, Dave Wentworth, and his freshman lackey, Bruce. Dave makes fun of the girls’ crushes on Quentin, tells Lucy that her hair looks like “an undisciplined poodle” and remarks generally about the unsuitability of women for serious electrical work. Nonetheless, Lucy does manage to get a slice of pizza off of them and a ride home.
When she returns for chorus auditions the following day, she has a chance encounter with Quentin, who assumes she’s on the lighting crew and ingratiates himself to Lucy in order that his best aspects will be showcased. Seeing an in with Quentin, she finds Dave and Bruce and announces that she wants in. They are not supportive:
“It’s more than climbing,” Dave said loftily. “Once you get up there, you have to use wrenches and stuff.”
Anger flooded through Lucy’s veins and exploded out her eyes. “You just say that because I’m a girl! I heard you teaching Bruce all about electricity the other night. He didn’t know anything about it either, but you let him run one of the spotlights.”
It’s true, Bruce does seem really determined to electrocute himself:
Bruce didn’t seem to be particularly interested. He was fiddling with a portable radio he had brought along.
“…The first thing you’ll do is pull out the main switch. That way you won’t get electrocuted…Do you know what an ampere is?”
Bruce nodded negatively.
“It’s a unit of electric current,” Dave said importantly.
The best part of this book is that Harper does manage to capture the self-importance of high school students involved in stage and tech crew (and I say this as a former high school sound engineer). Dave’s presumption that the lighting design is the most important aspect of the show and there wouldn’t even BE any show if it were not for him and his crew is hilariously true to life:
“I’m the guy who illuminates the stage. Kind of equivalent to the sun in the solar system.”
Lucy works diligently to learn her role on the crew, despite Dave’s jeering over her crush on Quentin. Seriously, he is the worst:
“You’re expected to keep your mind on the lights and off the stars- that fantastic Quentin, to be specific.”
“If you can’t handle it, let me know now so I can get someone else. Maybe you’re not interested in hanging around here when precious Quentin isn’t here.”
“Don’t make me barf by describing Dreamboy’s freaky fans.”
“Here’s your chance to get some crumbs of attention from the great lover.”
The LEAST realistic aspect of this story is that a senior would be paying any attention at all to the love lives of a bunch of underclassmen.
And although Quentin is a self-serving egomaniac, he is at least NICE to Lucy, assumes her competence with the lighting equipment and respects her hard work, gallantly offering himself as an escort to help close up the office late nights, when students have been warned not to wander around after dark on their own.
The reason for this is an extremely half-hearted mystery subplot, in which the school is repeatedly burgled. While Lucy has grown tired of Quentin’s ego by opening night (and annoyed that he takes the opportunity to pilfer absence slips for him and his girlfriend from the office), he does come to the rescue when the thief makes off with show’s entire box office receipts! The profits were supposed to pay for the drama club’s trip to San Francisco to see a professional production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (a detail that also seems EXREMELY TRUE TO LIFE), and Quentin proposes that the Drama Club hold a car wash to make up the funds for the trip.
He slightly glosses over the part of the plan that he intends to wash no cars himself, instead providing his convertible as a photo op and waiting room for the customers. Harper goes over the top with the silliness describing Quentin surrounded by his admirers:
Quentin was also going to give out souvenirs to all the girls who sat in his car with him. He had collected the leftover programs of South Pacific and autographed them.
After his car had been cleaned and polished to his satisfaction, he parked it carefully in a prominent place and inserted a cassette he had made of himself singing “Some Enchanted Evening” in his tape deck.
So, Quentin is pretty insufferable, but Dave and Bruce are straight-up pigs about it:
“I have a feeling our customers are going to be mostly of the female sex,” Dave snapped. “O’Donnell, you can bring your dad’s car in before or after your shift and get it washed so you can sit in the sultan’s chariot.”
“And then you could find a mud puddle and drive through it and come back for a return engagement with the great heartthrob,” Bruce giggled.
“Knock it off,” Lucy exclaimed. “It’s all appalling.”
“Appalling to be hung up on a guy who is going to have a harem all day Saturday,” Dave gibed.
Dave and Bruce guffawed as they walked on to their own classes.
Things continue in this vein for the remainder of the school year, as Lucy works with Dave and an increasingly lazy and irresponsible Bruce through productions of Our Town and a dance concert (for which Lucy has to take over as the lighting director when Dave comes down with strep throat) and finally what will be the pinnacle of Dave’s high school career, a production of The Tempest.
Dave has started showing interest in Wanda Willingham, a fellow senior, first chair violin, and all-round sweet and serious student which somehow makes Lucy crazy with desire for Dave.
Assuming Wanda (who had taken Lucy into her confidence as part of the pit orchestra) will ask Dave to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance, Lucy instead schemes to invite Dave to dinner with her family, which backfires when Bruce assumes he’s invited as well. Lucy’s mother is over the moon that her daughter has TWO SUITORS (Blossom Valley is noted for its overly-involved parents), but the night doesn’t go as planned when both Dave and Bruce abandon Lucy to hang out with her six brothers.
Despite the fact that Lucy is the one who came up with the solution for a scenic design problem AND that Mr. O’Donnell’s Navy connections located a parachute as part of the solution for said problem, Dave still pretty much treats Lucy like dirt, especially after he is mildly inconvenienced when the Principal takes back his set of office keys in an attempt to stop the ongoing thefts. She finally has enough and threatens to quit lighting crew during rehearsals for The Tempest.
“Oh, so you’ll just have to put up with me? Suppose I should quit because I couldn’t stand to be around such a self-righteous, unappreciative clod as you?”
Dave’s frown became more threatening. “It would be just like you to walk out on a big responsibility jus for your own revenge on me. Kicking a guy when he is down would be your style. My office equipment stolen, bawled out by the principal, all you have left to finish the job is to wreck my crew and louse up The Tempest.”
“You cop out on us, O’Donnell,” he yelled after her, “and Bruce and I will spread the word that you’re the biggest yellow belly in school. Quitting just when the going gets tough. When you know next Monday we’re going to start work on practically the hardest play in the English language to light.”
Of course, by the time of The Tempest cast party, Lucy has thwarted the burglar herself and “won” Dave as a boyfriend, who announces that he got them both summer jobs on the stage crew at the local Junior College. Thanks for asking Dave, maybe Lucy had other plans for her summer.
Stylin’ Department: So we know that he’s a serious actor, it is always noted that Quentin is wearing a turtleneck sweater
Angie had gotten the part mainly because she could not only sing but was really fat. Of course, Quentin would not be interested in anyone with such a weight problem.