Grand Central Publishing, $8.00, ISBN 978-1-4555-7497-1
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Rochelle Alers doesn’t particularly exciting stories in general, but Magnolia Drive, the latest in the increasingly unrealistic series set in the perfect paradise Cavanaugh Island, manages to be especially boring.
Francine Tanner, formerly of Broadway, fled the big city to come home to Cavanaugh Island after her marriage crumbled. She used to find joy in acting, but now she discovers that she has found her calling: being a hairdresser in her mother’s salon. That salon, by the way, has to be the most boring one in existence because no gossiping is allowed in there. I think this story must be served up for those religious folks who frown on women painting their faces and traipsing on stage as well as women with idle mouths, the same readers who also love to read about people having sex in their novels. Keaton Grace, a film maker who moves to Cavanaugh Island to flee the big city, wants to date Francine. He, by the way, gets to keep his high-paying job and big cars, because Jesus dictated to his apostles that a man must be drowning in money to make his pious home-bound wife very happy.
That’s basically the story, it’s about romance with the people involving having ex issues. There is nothing new here, but unfortunately, the author writes like she’s transcribing slow afternoon courtroom sessions. There is just too much exposition here – too much telling, not even a little showing. As a result, everything reads like a dreary textbook. These people talk about things, and worse, they often talk about things they already know in an obvious effort on the author’s part to bore everything silly. Characters can start reminiscing about things they should all be familiar with at the most bewildering moments – Keaton sees Francine, thinks she is hot, and then starts a conversation with his female BFF about how he and this BFF got together. Apparently seeing a woman that gives a man a chubby can drive this man to talk about bygone days involving people he is not sleeping with.
Worse, the exposition extends to things that would have worked better with a more dramatic reveal. For example, Francine has second sight! She occasionally sees visions of things! Ooh, isn’t this exciting? The author doesn’t think so. This comes up in between Francine thinking about her ex and coffee, in one long boring interior monologue that never changes its pace or rhythm. I guess second sight is now mundane – everyone has one, right?
The author relies too much on interior monologues and stilted exposition in this story. When the characters do talk to one another, every line feels stilted and rehearsed, driving home the fact that these people never talk or behave like real people would.
I’m also not too fond of the romance, as Keaton strikes me as someone who loves for selfish reasons. When Francine says that she is not ready for commitment, for example, he feels that she is taking the wrong approach to relationships. Why? Because she is not like his ex or the other women he slept with without offering his commitment, so she must want to agree to be his steady bae. Anything else is wrong because he wants it and, therefore, she must agree. Everything is about him, in other words. Not surprising, his attitude, given that he gives Francine his card and barks at her to go on a date with him seconds within they first meet. What’s really sad is that he has been fascinated with Francine for a long time – they used to move in the same industry, after all – so I can only imagine how he treats a woman that he feels a lesser degree of obsessive compulsion for.
Magnolia Drive is, at the end of the day, too dreary and slow to be of any use other than a sleeping aid. Where’s the passion in falling in love? Where is the drama, the magic? God, all those boring walls of text. Like the blokes who call themselves Walk the Moon would sing, sometimes we just need to shut up and dance.
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