Thursday, March 21, 2013

Like Robyn Carr's Novels? Meet Their Younger, Sassier Cousin ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After being jilted at the altar, Faith Holland fled her small town in the Finger Lakes Region for good.  Three years later, San Francisco feels like home.  The 30-year-old runs a successful landscape design business, shares an apartment with a good friend, and spends her free time cuddling with her golden retriever.  Life could only be better if she had a nice guy with whom to share it.  Too bad moving on means getting over Jeremy Lyon, the man she's loved since junior high.  The man she still loves.  The man who should be her husband.  

When Faith is summoned home to help scare off the gold-digging snowbird who's set her sights on Faith's widowed father, she realizes a stopover in Manningford might be just what she needs.  After all, her siblings can always use help at the family vineyard.  And there's the old barn that she's been dying to re-purpose as an event venue.  The fact that Jeremy still lives in town has nothing to do with her extended stay.  Nothing at all. Okay, it does, but Faith hasn't even seen him yet.  Instead, she keeps running into Levi Cooper, the arrogant jerk who ruined her wedding.  Just because he's now a decorated war hero and the chief of police doesn't mean he's any more likable.  Or less sexy.  Because he totally is.  Not that she's looking (of course she is -- no heterosexual female could glance away).  Still, he's Levi Cooper, her mortal enemy, which means no way in heck is Faith going anywhere near him.

But as things in Manningford grow ever more complicated, Faith finds herself drawn to her old nemesis.  Is it possible Levi's grown up a little?  Could he have actually turned into a decent guy?  Faith doesn't think so, but amidst all the drama of her small town, her family, and her own dismal love life, it's Levi she finds herself relying on.  Could it be she's been chasing the wrong man all along?  Or, is Levi just toying with her, the same way he always has?  Faith's not ready to risk her bruised heart again—or is she?

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I'm not big on reading adult romances.  There's pretty much only one author writing in this genre who can persuade me to dip into it once in awhile and that's Robyn Carr.  I'm a fan because Carr writes mature love stories laced with themes of home, family, and small town values. From what I can tell, Kristan Higgins does the same.  Kinda.  Now that I'm an expert on Higgins (you know, since I've read one of her books), I'm thinking her novels are like Carr's books' younger, sassier cousins.  The Best Man, at least, features the same kind of small town Carr loves to write about, as well as a similar brand of big-hearted, down-to-earth folks.  And yet, "mature" is not a word I'd use to describe this story.

First, though, the good:  The Best Man is an upbeat, funny novel with a strong contemporary voice.  Despite being over 400 pages long, it hums along at a fair pace, taking time to build up the history and romance between Faith and Levi instead of just insta-loving them together.  Although some of the characters could definitely be called cliché, overall they're a quirky, colorful bunch, who demonstrate everything that's right—and wrong—with small towns.  Also, I liked that Higgins took on some more serious subplots, which kept the plot nicely balanced.

The downside to a fun novel is that sometimes it crosses the line between comical and silly/ridiculous.  The Best Man does this fairly often, mostly because Faith often acts like a clueless 13-year-old (I mean, seriously, what 30+ year old describes another person as the "Lying Liar of Lie-Land [233]"?).  Levi bugged me as well, mostly because it was difficult to appreciate how much he'd grown as a man when he still referred (constantly) to Faith's breasts as her "rack."  I don't know about you, but that kind of immaturity just isn't swoon-worthy to me.  Then, there's the sex.  And, weirdly, since The Best Man is an adult romance (and a bona fide Harlequin, at that) I'm not even talking about graphic sex scenes (since there are really only one or two of those)—I'm talking about how each and every character (which, truly, is only a slight exaggeration) has to talk about or think about sex pretty much 24/7.  It was just too much for me (way, way too much).

So, now that I've practically written a whole novel myself, let's get down to the nitty gritty:  What did I think of The Best Man?  In general, it's a fun, light, engaging romance.  And yet, there were definitely elements that distracted from my enjoyment of the book.  If Higgins ever writes a sweet romance (or even something in the PG-13 range), I would probably give it a try since I like the author's bright, easy style.  Otherwise, I'll leave her novels on the shelf in favor of my "mature" romances, thank you very much!

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of Little Black Dress by Susan McBride and a bit of Robyn Carr's novels)

Grade:  C+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder invectives) and sexual content/innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Best Man from the generous folks at Harlequin via those at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Well, it was sounding cute and fun but if it's that gratuitous with immature characters...no thanks. I get enough of that at work.:-(

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