In this debut romance, a middle-aged woman and a much younger playboy gain physical and mental health on a bike ride across the U.S.
Disappointed in love, 56-year-old virgin Martha Murphy decides to attempt a cross-country ride through every continental state as a way to heal (and lose weight) after her suicide attempt. Playboy journalist Jake Mason is, much to his distress, assigned to cover the story; he’s to find out what’s driving this overweight woman, ride with her and report what his editors assume will be failure. It’s also a change of scenery for depressed, suicidal Jake, who’s estranged from his coldhearted parents. The first night, they meet Barry, a Basalt Campground desk clerk and the first of many men and women (in addition to Jake) who begin to follow Martha’s blog. As their travels continue, they visit major tourist attractions (Little Bighorn Battlefield, etc.), meet mean bikers, work potato fields and find a dog. She and Jake become friends, share uncomfortable truths—“now that our secrets are no longer secret, their power over us will diminish”—and find true love (not with each other). After a disastrous accident almost kills Jake, he and Martha take out new leases on life. Finley’s heart is in the right place: Strong Christian faith and hard work help generous characters overcome obstacles, assist others and meet exercise goals. Unfortunately, insignificant details—a receptionist’s name, almost every meal, routine shopping trips, etc.—drag down the narrative. Meanwhile, nature’s force is mentioned but not felt; there’s little of what actually riding a bike cross-country would entail (i.e., sweat, muscle cramps, strains). And what about their poor adopted dog, who must run 20 or more miles a day? How do their electronic devices get power? Too conveniently, money problems are solved by rich relatives or new loves. Perhaps the sequel will right some wrongs and take the story to the next level.
Wholesome but unfulfilling.