by Tracee Lydia Garner, contemporary (2004)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-393-9
Too many characters, too many subplots, and stilted writing make Tracee Lydia Garner's The One Who Holds My Heart a very difficult chore of a book to finish. It's a case of an overcooked plot spilling over to create a mess on the metaphorical carpets of my brain.
Chyna Lockhart has been pining after the neighbor kid Dean Jameson since she was eight. Great, another one of those creepy bug-eyed heroines that get unhealthily fixated on a guy even before her pituitary gland kicks into action. Through one of those really silly misunderstanding thingies, these two separate eventually. Chyna needs to convince me that she's not just dumb, she teaches advanced dumbology to imbeciles everywhere at university level, so she goes ahead to marry a corrupt senator so villainous in a cackling psychopath way that he must have stepped out of a Loony Tunes cartoon. She divorces him eventually, convinced that all men are scums, and moves back to Springfield for That Reunion Story That Has Overtaken Every Other Plotline In Romance Novels.
Dean is back in town to renovate his late father's house and he's there for offer some TLC to Chyna. But how can they be happy when Chyna's ex-husband and another cackling psycho villain show up to ruin their lives? Meanwhile, there are subplots involving the Jameson feuding with the Hardings and what seems like hundreds of sequel baits or superfluous scenery-chewers just popping in and out of the story, none of these adding anything of value to the story. This book is one of those extreme cases of sequelitis where the sequel bait placements actually work against the story.
Dean is flat. Chyna is flat. The author tries valiantly to pump some life into these characters but she does this by denigrating the previous lovers in Dean's lives or the ex-hubby in Chyna's lives. It is very easy to say that Dean and Chyna are good people compared to mangy slutty hos and psychotic villains, but then again, anybody will look good compared to said hos and villains. Perhaps the author will do a better job with her characters if she actually work a little at making her characters come of as real instead of robots working through some preprogrammed romance novel agenda.
With the overcooked plot filled with distracting subplots and cardboard characters, this book is already hard to read, but the dialogs are stilted in too many places. The cardboard characters speak like people straight out of a badly-scripted soap opera. Maybe that's how I should treat this book, I guess, what with its melodramatic family conflicts and silly characters: as a silly soap opera. But that doesn't mean the book is in any way more enjoyable. A tedious chore is still a tedious chore no matter what kind of chore it is.
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