by Jane Graves, contemporary (2011)
Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-446-56848-7
Poor Heartstrings And Diamond Rings. Jane Graves had in the past made secret babies and crazy dingbat stalker women endearing to me despite my instinctive aversion to them, but when it comes to the Desperate Wild-Eyed and Insane Husband-Crazy Fat Cat Lady heroine, her mojo doesn't work. It's a pity, because if I can ever bring myself to like the heroine, I would have enjoyed this one better, and I do recognize that there is plenty to enjoy here. But the heroine...
Alison Carter, the epitome of the fat husband-hungry crazy cat lady, wants a husband. She is, in fact, willing to settle for less, so desperate is she to be married. It's just that the men she meets are so wrong, she can't even settle for less with them. When her latest attempt to get married flops, she decides to go to a matchmaker that her friend told her about.
Brandon Scott, the matchmaker's grandson, needs money ASAP so he's not going to turn away a chance to make some money when he inherits his grandmother's house and business. When Alison shows up, he decides to do a little... hustle, let's just say... to convince her that he is as good as his late grandmother. Alison, who is desperate to the point of gullibility, plonks down the cash because she will die if she doesn't get married soon. Will her desperation to get married blind her to the fact that her Mr Right may just be standing in front of her?
If you think that my constant repetition of Alison's desperation is annoying, wait until you read this book. The author brings up Alison's desperation so often that I have to take it easy and read this book in small chunks or I would go crazy and start stabbing this book with a knife. The author knows how pathetic Alison is being, mind you, and the secondary characters as well as the hero have a great time poking fun at Alison (all in good nature, of course). Alison, of course, doesn't get the joke. I won't have minded so much if Alison had been a heroine with a strong sense of humor, but Alison is dead serious in this story. She is also always weeping for the hero's sad past and acting like a ninny, but let's not even go there. As a result, the reader will either laugh at her or want to drive a crucifix through her heart to end her pathetic existence.
The last third of the book is fortunately far more enjoyable as Alison's neurotic obsession isn't the focus of the story, for once. Brandon is another one of the author's hero with a sad past, and frankly, the formula is starting to wear a bit thin by now, but still, I like him and his character development arc. But for too long, Alison's neurosis controls the story, overwhelming all that is fun about this story and making me want to buy her a wedding cake and stuff the whole thing down her throat. The fun things about this story are present in the author's previous books, so it's not like I'm missing something precious by not forcing myself to like Alison. I know Alison is supposed to be a playful parody of a chick-lit heroine, but her dementia is still too much for me.
Readers who are allergic to crazy-desperate heroines who want to get married above everything else, approach with extreme caution.
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