I have no one to blame for this but myself. I hated Emma Chase's Tangled (see my rage-review here), and so I just should have known that whatever Chase is selling, I don't want to buy. However, being a criminal lawyer myself, I'm kind of a sucker for romances involving prosecutors/defense attorneys (although, note to self, I rarely actually like these books as I find the legal plots rarely ring true), so I stupidly decided to check out this new series. Reading the blurb should have been all it took to warn me that this book would not be for me: Defense attorney Stanton Shaw takes his big city, Latina f*ckbuddy back home to Hicksville, Mississippi, to try to break up the wedding of his high school sweetheart.
As I should have expected, stereotypes abound.
Also as I should have anticipated (because Drew of Tangled was such a douchenozzle, and because the blurb basically tells us that Stanton brings his hoochie mama with him on a mission to win back his baby mama), the "hero" of Overruled was a total jackhole. What isn't clear from the blurb is that Jenny, the high school sweetheart, is not Stanton's ex -- he got her knocked up in high school, and they agreed that he would go to college and support his family, and that while they're apart they can have an "open" relationship. This has gone on for ten years, with Stanton catting around like a manwhore with anyone he likes, and paying only occasional booty calls on Jenny. This works fine for him, until Jenny falls in love with someone else, which Stanton gets all butthurt and betrayed about.
I didn't mind Jenny, but Sofia (the hoochie mama) was kind of a doormat. Like Stanton, she's supposed to be this brilliant lawyer, except that we never see her doing any actual lawyering. She spends the whole book talking about how she knows men because she's got three brothers, and she knows men don't like commitment or clingy women, so she's not going to make any demands on Stanton. That's all well and good, but have a little self-respect, please! No woman with any self-esteem or sanity would willingly accompany the guy they're sleeping with to help him win back someone else. Sofia keeps setting limits--I'll go with you, but no sex. Okay, once we get to Mississippi, no sex. Okay, absolutely no sex while we're staying with your parents--and then ignoring those limits, so she just came across as weak and ineffectual.
Stanton eventually sees the error of his ways and tries to make things right with both Jenny and Sofia, and readers who enjoy a good redemption story may be satisfied here. As for me, I solemnly vow: NO MORE EMMA CHASE FOR ME!
I'm in the market for a new contemporary romance author / series... and it looks like Brenda Novak's Whiskey Creek books are not going to fit the bill. I picked this one up on sale a month or so ago at the recommendation of Smart Bitches Trashy Books (I think), but I struggled to get through When Lightning Strikes. I usually enjoy a good marriage of convenience plot, but I really struggled to connect with both the hero and heroine in this book. The hero was kind of a jerk (though he improved with sobriety), the heroine was very milquetoast, and the plot just seemed to drag.
I hated that the villain of the story is the hero's ex-wife. Yes, divorce brings out the worst in people, and yes, there are plenty of real-life women who behave badly, but reading about fictional women behaving badly pushes all of my Feminist Rage Buttons because these stories needlessly perpetuate the worst stereotypes about women.
Viv inherits a gorgeous, beach-side Victorian house, complete with horses tended by a real-live cowboy. She immediately assumes that she's somehow landed in one of the romance novels she loves to read, and that she and the cowboy must be meant for each other.
The problem? The cowboy is kind of a Neanderthal.
There is a hot librarian, who actually (unlike the Neanderthal cowboy) seems to be able to string a sentence together and further (again, unlike the Neanderthal cowboy) seems to actually like Viv. The problem is that Viv spends all but the last few pages of the book Too Stupid To Live Notice. And in her obliviousness, she's often pretty douchey toward Clark the librarian.
This story was infuriatingly predictable, the characters flat. Clark was okay--(except for his refusal to call Viv by anything other than Vivian, even after she corrected him a zillion times--that habit grew on Viv, but not on me; it's just disrespectful not to call a person by what she tells you she wants to be called)--but that might be my bias toward beta heroes talking. Viv was a flake and I never warmed up to her. Clark could have done much better.
I was seriously annoyed by her dreams/fantasies in which she imagines herself in the most lurid, purple-prosed romance novel ever. These were supposed to be funny, but I'm defensive about the way non-romance readers view the genre, and these scenes bought into all the worst stereotypes in a way that touched a nerve and made my skin crawl.
As usual, Alice Clayton offers some snappy, funny dialogue, but on the whole this book could have been so much better than it was.
I really, really love Rainbow Rowell's writing, even as I don't always love her stories. Landline is the fourth Rowell book I've read, and my least favorite story, but the things I love about Rowell's work -- her heartbreakingly relatable characters, her wry humor, the subtle way she shows relationships develop in a series of gestures and events, so that the reader almost falls in love along with the characters -- all of those things are very much present here.
I didn't like this story as well as previous efforts because, although the main character, Georgie, is as real and as relatable as Rowell's other protagonists, I spent the entire book wanting to smack some sense into her.
Georgie's marriage is failing because she doesn't make time for her family amid her work as a comedy writer. Now, as a working mom who is always juggling to find my own "work-life balance," I should have been more sympathetic to Georgie's plight, but no... I just wanted to smack her.
Georgie gets an incredible opportunity to write her own sitcom (along with her long-time writing partner, Seth). The only hitch is that it requires her to work through Christmas. Her husband, Neal, crankily (and a tad passive-aggressively) tells her to stay while he and their girls keep planned travel arrangements to visit his family in Omaha, except he leaves on such bad terms that Georgie can't concentrate on work anyway.
The whole first 260 pages of the book, while Georgie is losing her grip over losing her family, I just wanted to shake her because the solution was so very obvious (and had nothing to do with the magical yellow phone that lets her call and talk to Neal in 1998, before they married): Get your ass to Omaha, Lady! Even as I enjoyed the flashbacks to earlier points in Neal and Georgie's relationship, even as I enjoyed Rowell's exploration of why Neal and Georgie got together and should stay together, I couldn't really relax into the story because Georgie's failure to take the obvious steps necessary to do anything about her present situation made me crazy.
Georgie is and always has been torn between Seth (the writing partner) and Neal, and I didn't really like either man. Don't get me wrong, Neal is hugely romantic and swoony in a Beta-Hero way that works well on the printed page, but I think if I knew him in real life, I'd think he was annoyingly moody and passive-aggressive, and he wouldn't hold nearly the same appeal. Seth is witty and handsome, but totally self-absorbed, and Georgie's tolerance for that far exceeds mine.
Rowell tends to leave a lot of open questions at the conclusion of the book. Some of her endings (Eleanor & Park especially, Fangirl nearly so much) I find unsatisfying in the extreme, because they leave the reader without necessary closure. Luckily, Landline ended in a way that left a lot of things unsettled, but not frustratingly so: I felt like enough had been resolved that the conclusion felt natural and believable.