by Celeste O Norfleet, contemporary (2004)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-404-8
Celeste O Norfleet is still at it in her matchmaking schtick, only this time she has added an extra bonus of the Evil Mommy to thrill fans of this kind of thing. The author's use of glaringly artificial plot device to get her characters together (or conversely, to keep them apart) results in Reflections Of You being a story that doesn't "flow" naturally. Everything about it feels stilted and false.
Angela Lord grew up an orphan but she's done well for herself. She's now an architect. But she has no life, no fun, the same old thing, and she's also hoping to discover more about her roots. She's now at Puerto Rico to look for some answers. While she's at it, her friend - the kind that is unnaturally preoccupied with the heroine's sex life - suggests that she sleep with some "Latin lover" to loosen herself up. Whether this suggestion is to be taken literally or not, I don't want to know. But playboy business tycoon Marco Santos may be the loosening up she needs. That is, if he can't get over the fact that she is a dead ringer for his dead wife.
Everyone loves the idea of these two getting it on, so eye-rolling matchmaking attempts ensue. But Marco's mother does not approve, and the Puerto Rican Cruela de Vil here will do all it takes to make sure that Angela will Die Forever, bwahahahaha. Give me a break.
Melodramatic family secrets are everywhere in this book, with the plot twists here reminiscent of some of the more outrageous plot devices of soap operas. While this could have been a trashy and enjoyable soap opera though, the characters rarely behave consistently in this book, with irritating miscommunication and misassumption conflicts crippling the relationship between Angela and Marco. Both characters don't seem to have any independent thought of their own - they are like puppets at the mercy of Ms Norfleet's matchmakers and villain. I hve no doubt that without the matchmaking antics of Ms Norfleet's secondary cast, these two would most likely have a fling and then maybe go separate ways one day, because they have no chemistry. The only reason they are together is because Ms Norfleet makes sure that they do through her very transparent plot machinations.
A good romance author should be able to convince her readers that her characters are falling in love naturally because of compatible interests, sexual attraction, mutual respect, and friendship. Ms Norfleet, however, overlooks these aspects of a relationship building and instead focuses on blatant plot machinations that are obvious to the reader. Instead of merely telling a story, she steps into the story right in front of the reader's face and direct things around like an air-traffic controller, so to speak. Reflections Of You isn't a romance story as much as an exercise in me watching the author direct her characters around like puppet even if what she orders them to do doesn't make sense and are often inconsistent with their previous actions or mindset. Instead of letting the chemistry of the characters flow naturally, she forces them to do what she wants them to do just because she's the boss of the show.
Because Ms Norfleet concentrates on the wrong things in her story, the romance feels unnatural and forced. This book only demonstrates the dangers of an author relying too much on her matchmaker secondary characters to bring the couple together instead of developing her characters and letting the readers know why they belong together - the result is a book where the romance comes off as manufactured and will always be in danger of collapse once the matchmakers stop babysitting the couple 24/7 and move on to their next victims.
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