by Cathie Linz, contemporary (2007)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21831-0
After coming up with two books full of irritating secondary characters cluttering up the story and leaving the main characters as well as the reader with little room to breathe, Cathie Linz finally has struck the right balance with Big Girls Don't Cry. The secondary characters actually complement the story of the main characters nicely instead of overwhelming it with their cacophonous antics.
Leena Riley is an interesting heroine in that while she still harbors insecurities over her weight, she has an adorable sense of humor and she tries very hard not to let things get her down. She fled Rock Creek years ago to become a plus-sized model, but when the story opens, her modeling career has pretty much dried up and she is forced to return to Rock Creek to plan her comeback. Having to live in a trailer, sorry, mobile home is embarrassing enough, but to work as the receptionist to the cute local vet, the same fellow who used to tease her about her weight as a kid is really pushing it. Still, Cole Flannigan is cute and he's also all grown up and sensible now compared to the brat he once was. The town of Rock Creek doesn't seem so much like a backwater hideout for losers after a while...
Cole is a nice guy. He really is. He's good with animals and he's adorable in his interactions with take-no-prisoners Leena. In this story, Ms Linz allows him and Leena to have ample quiet time so their romance is more believable than those in the previous two books. The various secondary characters range from likable to eccentric, but those eccentric ones aren't too over the top here. I especially like Sue Ellen, Leena's sister, whose insecurities cause her to nearly overlook the man who really loves her in this story. In a way, this story is charming and fun, as if it's Ms Linz's personal Mystic Pizza of sorts. There are even moments in this story that I laugh out loud at.
Still, the story can get too predictable for its own good. The plot cruises lazily to the finish line in a direction that will not surprise anyone who has read enough romances set in small towns. I'm also not too enamored of the heavy handed way the author has Leena realizing that she has to stay in Rock Creek. This approach goes hand in hand with Ms Linz's equally heavy handed message about accepting one's body weight. In this one, the sole nasty woman is, of course, stick thin, because it's always easy to portray skinny twigs as the embodiment of evil. Oh, and sorry, guys, the fatty affirmative action applies only to women. We women have our right to eat as many New York cheesecake Krispy Kreme doughnuts as we like and still be loved by all and sundry, but men wishing to be loved just as much have better hit the StairMaster right away.
I suspect that I won't view Big Girls Don't Cry as favorably as I currently do if I haven't read the previous two books in this series. This one is such a drastic improvement that I can't help but to be doubly impressed by this otherwise very predictable small town romance. Still, I do have a good time reading and laughing with this story, so Big Girls Don't Cry is definitely fine with me.
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