by Leslie Kelly, contemporary (2005)
HQN, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-77031-6
This book is a test on my patience. It isn't badly written but it is unfortunately a compendium of smalltown girl-came-home reunited-with-first-lover clichés, many of which I find just plain silly. Most of the time, my reaction to the emotional conflicts between Emma Fraser and Johnny Walker is "Oh! Grow up already!"
Emma Fraser has no money. It's a familiar story: city career gal gets fleeced by people she trusts and ends up having no where to go but to the hometown where everyone knows her name and just won't shut up about it. Why is she going home? Her late grandmother left her a house. Not that she will sell it, of course. Sell the house? Are you insane? A girl needs her memories, you know! When she's not trying to stop the gazetting of her late grandmother's orchard, she is struggling with her feelings towards Johnny Walker, the ubiquitous ex-bad boy gone-lawman every smalltown always have. See, once upon a time she dated Johnny's brother, who then cheated on her with Daneen Brady. She then lost her virginity to Johnny Walker, only to then do stupid things that he responded in kind and soooo, these two left with good memories about the sex but bitter memories about the aftermath.
The thing is, I don't see what the big deal is about the first guy one loses her virginity to always having to be her true love. Especially in this instance when these two are now adults and should really just get over the past. When these two have the opportunity to talk though, Ms Kelly often inserts some contrivance where either Johnny or Emma will say something stupid and the conversation gets aborted there and then. When these two embark on their predictable "let's have sex only!" charade, I give up hope on seeing these two behave like mature adults.
That's my biggest problem with this story - the "witty banters" are often nothing more than evasion of discussions or childish antagonistic comebacks from two people that are acting like hormonal adolescents over some stupid misunderstanding that took place years ago but they take so long to get over this problem between them. Just as exasperating is Johnny using the "Emma still loved his brother when he porked her" argument to justify why he can't do anything but to have cold clinical sex with her in what is supposed to be an "affair".
I will have some patience for these antics if these two are in any way capable of having an entanglement-free affair in the first place. Instead, they are just two silly people using some childish blow-up in their teenaged years as an excuse to continue acting like kiddies. Ms Kelly tries to have Emma admitting that she has been behaving silly late in the story but Ms Kelly then tries to rationalize the behaviors of Emma and Johnny by saying that their feelings towards each other back in those childish teenaged years were the real deal. I don't know if that in any way lessens my annoyance with these two characters. This "love" still feels like a childish case of infatuation to me.
The secondary characters are often unpleasant to me because I don't like hypocrites and there are many of them in this book, especially that stupid Daneen who has the temerity to judge Emma when she cuckolded Emma with Emma's boyfriend and is currently sleeping with the very married mayor. Naturally Emma ends up winning the town over and living happily ever after with Johnny Walker, and for the life of me I cannot see why she would even want to live in that place. But that's just me.
She Drives Me Crazy, if judged against the current contemporary comedic romances out there, will fit right in with its silly characters doing bizarre things that are supposed to be "amusing". Currently I am so, so tired of banal emotional conflicts and tiresome childish behavior by characters who don't know how to tackle love and lust with some semblance of maturity as befitting their age, however, so this book drives me crazy for all the wrong reasons.
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