Strangers in Paradise (Vol 3) by Terry Moore
Terry Moore certainly has a talent for writing soap opera-type plots. I wouldn’t call this volume a thriller, but it had elements. It also had a lot of heart, which is really what makes Strangers in Paradise the great series that it is. You care for Francine. You care for Katchoo. You care if they ever get together. You also end up caring for David and some of minor characters who start to shine like Casey. But let’s face it, no one is ever going to like Fred.
Moore does a great set-up of telling the reader he’s going to recount the tale of how Katchoo lost Francine and why the inseparable duo hadn’t seen each other in 10 years. But, of course, the reader sees their old dynamic coming back. Just how easily Katchoo slips into Francine’s life by making breakfast for Francine’s daughter Ashely and her mother Marie. When Katchoo tells Francine, she has a beautiful home and life, Francine starts to cry. And there Katchoo promises Francine she’ll never leave her again.
The story starts off with Moore doing a big fake-out of why Francine leaves. Katchoo gets an art deal and paints her muse, Francine, for the exhibit. Francine flips out because not only does she look beautiful — Francine’s known to struggle with body dysmorphia and low self-esteem — but Francine sees how much Katchoo loves her in the paintings. They fight; and Katchoo agrees not to show her masterpieces.
But this being a soap opera, the pieces get shown away. They’re a hit. Which makes Katchoo find her friend the bottle to deal with her conflicted feelings and we hear Francine screaming as she arrives at the gallery to find the pictures of her on display. Katchoo immediately has them taken down. But Francine leaves to go live with her mother in Tennessee. There’s a lot of crying.
Moore brilliantly adds Casey and Freddie to the exhibit’s viewers to help with the comedy-relief. Freddie’s always a slime-ball and obsessed with Francine, despite being married to the bubbly, but unhappy with her husband, Casey.
In fact, if there’s one character who really blossoms here, it’s Casey. Casey, who latter shows up to tell Katchoo that Freddie managed to buy/bribe a painting of Francine, clearly wants a new life and she looks at both Francine and Katchoo for inspiration. So much so, she tries to seduce David. Katchoo pulls her off. Which just causes Casey to ask Katchoo to turn her gay she too can be like Francine and leave Freddie. While Casey’s there, David gets a call that Darcy — his dead sister and a mobster — estate’s been settle and she left him 1.4 billion dollars. And as Katchoo decides David is the one, instead of the ever-rejecting-her Francine, she takes the new billionaire to bed. And in pops Casey.
Francine takes the opportunity to come home… See soap opera.
The big arch starts here as Katchoo and David head to NYC to sign papers. Their plane crashes. David’s badly hurt body’s pulled from the wreck, and Katchoo comes out with less bumps. However, Tambi shows up saying Veronica, one of the former Parker Girls, wants to take over the operation Darcy left behind. Tambi tells Katchoo that working together they can take down both Veronica and the Six (head mobsters who control the Strangers in Paradise world). But Katchoo must leave behind Francine and David.
Like only Katchoo can do, she tells Francine off. She tells her to leave her alone, and Francine walks away. Away with an injury so she can meet Brad Silver, her doctor and future husband.
Another character who really grows is Francine’s mother, Marie Peters. In the past books, Marie tries to play the good mom, trying to get her daughter away from what she sees as Katchoo’s bad influence (lesbianism) and wants her daughter to be happy in the heterosexual romance department. Here Marie may still not like Katchoo, but she begins to see the value in her daughter’s relationship with Katchoo, in whatever form it happens to take. She also becomes an adopted mother to David, and with Francine, she care-takes for him as he recovers. She opens her home to both Francine and David for as long as they need and whenever they need.
Here we see Katchoo transform into Darcy. Or perhaps the woman Darcy attempted to sculpt. Even Tambi looses her cool with her sister, who’s drinking and doing more drugs than paying attention to their business. But Tambi realizes that her heart is broken.
Once he’s healed, David goes after Katchoo like the puppy he is. Or perhaps the person he is and the person Francine isn’t as she wants Katchoo to run after her and is currently happy with Brad, who’s there. It’s worth noting that Francine has lost all the weight she always wanted to lose and has snagged a finance. She’s become the woman she’s always wanted to be. But there’s a clear Katchoo-shaped hole in her life. We also have a split-second appearance from Casey, just in case you forgot she existed. She still wants David, or more likely his money.
In the end, our girls are never quite reunited. Their reunion is fraught with mob plots and kidnapping. In fact, Katchoo literally has to muscle her way to Francine. But then, once again, things are too little, too late. Francine is marrying Brad, and so David goes off with Katchoo, who’s left Tambi with their business.
Oh, the on-going soap opera. I have to hand it to Moore, I haven’t been able to put it down once I’ve started reading. He’s definitely going to hold apart both Francine and Katchoo for as long as possible, as they’re the main source of dramatic tension in Strangers in Paradise.