by Emily March, contemporary (2013)
Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-54226-7
Reflection Point is another return trip to the increasingly bloated and cheesy town of Eternity Springs, where every woman is a wounded artist and every man is a sensitive TLC hiding under a manly man exterior, and true love is all about sexual healing in a landscape painting by Thomas Kinkade.
Only, there are five stories and one novella that come before this one, so Reflection Point suffers from being squashed at the bottom of the sequel barrel more than anything else. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a character from previous stories at least once on every other page, and these characters hover over our main characters so much that the main characters often feel like guileless guinea pigs of these busybody people.
The story is about Savannah Moore, an ex-con, coming over to Eternity Springs after befriending one of the many, many once-wounded now pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant happy artist heroines of this series. Since this is a romance novel, it is, naturally, logical that setting up an exclusive boutique perfume shop in a small town is a surefire way to make a living. Heaven forbid anyone in Eternity Springs to do something as mundane as flipping burgers for a living.
Zach Turner, our local sheriff, is on to her, convinced that a felon would only mar the picturesque Aryan-Kinkadian perfection of Eternity Springs, but unfortunately for him, he would have to marry Savannah anyway because, one, the secondary characters from previous books are now bent on a mission, like slavering piranhas that have not eaten for weeks, to force any single person to pair up with outsiders, convert them into the Cult of Eternity, and permanently copulate; two, inbreeding would only turn Eternity Springs into the setting of the next The Hills Have Eyes sequel and we can't have that; and three, she's hot, with "long, thick lashes" framing "spectacular brown eyes", "just-out-of-bed sexy blonde" hair, and let's not forget "that Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue build".
Aside from her physical perfection, Savannah is also a paragon. She's feisty, she doesn't take crap from anyone, and she goes around trying to help other people overcome their issues without any hesitation. Savannah's "flaws" accentuate her perfection: she can't believe that she's lovable, she talks to herself because she has no friends, and she even names the stray dog she found "Innocent" because that's such a subtle way to tell me to overlook the fact that she happens to be an ex-con for reasons that have nothing to do with a genuine interest in the agriculture of recreational herbs.
Still, I can at least delude myself into believing that Savannah would one day operate a cocaine processing facility from her basement, and find some humor in that. Zach, on the other hand, is just boring. He's basically an amalgamation of every stock small town hero, but with the disadvantage of having little room to shine as a character in his own right because he's too busy being paired off to Savannah by his friends. He could have been a tin of tomato sauce being made to pour on Savannah's pasta for all the depths he has. That poor guy is just there. Some mild amusement can be had from him going from "Oh, I'm attracted to a felon - isn't she a lucky one that she's hot, as she's... you know, a felon!" to being flabbergasted when Savannah rejects his love. However, that is negated by the fact that Savannah's rejection is a result of her obnoxious and contrived "Oh, I have a hot bikini body and every man in Eternity Springs wishes that I'm his cocaine, but oh, I'm so cute and sad and I can't believe that anyone can love me, so aw shucks, I'm so adorable, tee-hee-hee!" personality.
At the end of the day, this is an average and predictable fare that would have been better if it had been less cluttered with intrusive secondary characters from previous stories. It's hard to believe that our main characters will be genuinely threatened by any issue here, because those creepy cult members of Mother Celeste would just rush in and prop them up every time. Reflection Point doesn't really have much to offer other than uninspired use of standard quasi-religious feel-good bucolic cult tropes.
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