Wednesday, February 4, 2009

(Non?)Laughter Review #22

Robin Kaye
Contemporary Romance

Hardworking, housekeeping-challenged executive meets hardworking, housekeeping-gifted CEO under deceptive circumstances.

Anonymous manchest behind breakfast tray destined (presumably) for woman lounging in bed - more or less indicative of content. For Apprentice Writer, the breakfast tray attracted as much as the manchest repelled, so it evened out. It is possible she might have paused to look at it in a bookstore if she hadn't encountered cyberbuzz.

What Works
AW doesn't believe that non-perfect housekeeping means less femininity, or that housekeeping ability decreases masculinity, so she was a good fit for the a story about a non-traditional couple. And how that couple goes about figuring out how to deal with each other in non-traditional ways (not just in the house) was the most interesting part of the story, and in this reader's opinion mostly well-done. Rosalie doesn't just choose to devote her energy to her career rather than her home (much to the dismay of her grandchildren-desiring mother), but she draws the hero's attention by being utterly disinterested in helping him spend his money, and not hoping for a ring. She doesn't try to disguise the state of her home from him, or change her mind about things just because he thinks they shold be done a certain way. It was refreshing.

Also, the character Dave is great. AW is a sucker for inclusion of animals as more than window-dresssing, and the heroine's dog was a nice touch.

What Doesn't
Quotes and blurb talk about "romp", "witty dialogue and a lot of fun", "..Brooklyn Italian-American family values..", "...sparkling voice...". Together with the metallic bubble-gum pink cover, it led this reader to expect an upbeat, comedic book with secondary characters a la 'Moonstruck' or 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding': kooky and at times exasperating yet bound by genuine affection and desire for the others' happiness.

That's not what she got.

The families of both protagonists are absent for long stretches, including puzzling ones such as when the heroine is seriously ill. And when they do show up, the relationships seem troubled, characterized by tension and lack of affection on multiple sides. The only family member the heroine seems to have a positive bond with is her brother - who lives far away and only visits occasionally. The hero is a generous financial provider for his mother and grandmother, but the only time he interacts with them directly during the story is a chance encounter when they spot him before he can sneak away, and which he tries to escape as soon as possible. He visits a cousin often (and is likewise generous to his nephews, as well as the son of an employee; in fact, generosity of spirit is one of his principal traits) but that seems more motivated by simple hunger and the cousin owning a restaurant rather than pure love.

The non-ideal family background of both Rosalie and Nick forms an important part of the reason why they are the way they are and the conflict they need to work through to get to their happy end, so it made a lot of sense for the story that these diverse tensions be included. But the contrast between the way the story panned out, and what seemed to be promised, was grating for this reader.

One of the traps only rare authors escape is the dreaded Overused Word. They are intensely irksome because they are much easier to spot in someone else's work than one's own. AW, for example, is only aware of two of her own OWs . She is certainly not going to share them here because Gentle Readers willl start toting up a tally every time she uses them. In this case, the word seemed to be 'groaned'. The heroine, the hero, the dog, other people - there was a whole lot of groaning going on. Phrases that also came up frequently included asking someone if they were crazy, and saying/thinking they will kill them. AW found the latter odd considering a scene with goombata (a word which AW learned from this book, which totally makes up for the overused word) actually threatening the heroine with guns. Call her crazy (can't resist the easy punchline!) but AW thinks that once the threat of someone being killed becomes real, the expression should be treated with a little more respect and accuracy, not tossed around with the meaning of "I'm not happy with you at this moment because of what you did and would appreciate it if you didn't do it again, thanks".

Finally, two points that crossed AW's personal, subjective line of 'A good idea taken so far it backfires.'

Rosalie doesn't like to do housework. We get it already. To (over)empasize the point by describing how the pair fall into a pattern of coming home from a long workday, whereupon Rosalie crashes while Nick 1. makes dinner 2. takes care of the dog (after taking Dave with him to work all day) 3. cleans the kitchen, while taking care of all the cleaning and groceries on weekends, was overkill. The sentence where Rosalie is described as '....almost always helping with the dishes....' was the wallbanger. Almost always? HELP with the dishes, in her own house? What the heck is this girl doing with herself while Nick does EVERYTHING? That's just as unfair as if the roles had been reversed. Made her not only slide down on the likability scale, but put the whole 'women are entitled to demanding careers' concept at risk because it was so easy to interpret the way they behaved as proof that it took a man's strength to deal with outside work and indoor chores, whereas the weak woman collapses.

- The secondary doctor character has a habit of dating women Nick breaks up with. He goes so far as to tell this to Rosalie, and how he regrets he might not be able to do so in her case due to his perception of Nick's feelings. Rosalie saw this as a compliment; AW saw examination of a patient as a doctor while anticipating future 'interactions' on a personal level as seriously squicky.

A generally well-written and entertaining story from a debut author, packaged in a confusing way.


Not really - but (probably?) not its fault.

If this book presented as 'Straight contemporary romance', AW would say: Mission Accomplished.
Since it presents as 'Light-hearted, comedic romp', AW thinks: Didn't deliver in that way. Having a dog that can push people over when it stands on them, and two carbon-copy executive assistants who feel close enough to their boss to chew them out, isn't enough to qualify as comedic, and the underlying serious issues among family and in the hero's history take it out of the realm of light-hearted romp.

This reader has no way of knowing how the author intended this manuscript. AW hopes readers will give the benefit of the doubt, and not hold possible misleading first impression against her.

1 comment:

Julia Smith said...

Great review, AW. Love this observation:

'that seems more motivated by simple hunger and the cousin owning a restaurant rather than pure love.' - LOL!

And this is a scream - 'Overused Word. They are intensely irksome because they are much easier to spot in someone else's work than one's own.' - LOL!