St Martin’s, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-98727-7
Contemporary Romance, 2004
Too bad I am reading this book long after Christmas is over. I may be more charitable to Some Kind of Wonderful and its overcooked potpourri of baby-on-doorstep, small town maternal value, Scrooge gets Christmas’ed, small town goo-goo ga-ga antics, lawman hero, and “sassy” matchmaker old ladies, among others. Then again, I may also be more charitable and invite my neighbors for an all-night karaoke rave on Christmas. Oh who am I kidding? I don’t think I will like this book during any time of the year. Too many cooks spoil the broth but too many clichés can be potent poison.
Set in small town Christmas where Christmas is happening all year around, Carol Baker walks around in an elf costume, lives and breathes Christmas, and tries to forget her past filled with textbook torments and tortures. There’s a boarder in the apartment across from hers, Jack Reilly, whom she is attracted to apparently because he is handsome enough to make her overlook the fact that he treats everyone around him like the gum stuck on the sole on his shoe and he needs to rub it hard against Carol’s back until the gum finally gets unstuck. Because it’s a tough work showing me why Carol will even like this guy, Ms Child use the ever-darling plot device of Carol finding a baby in the town’s nativity scene and will need Jack, the acting sheriff, to help her fulfill her dreams of being a “real” woman at last.
The whole Christmastime atmosphere of this book can have its charms at times, but I am hard-pressed to care about the romance. Carol is so generous, so saccharine sweet, so understanding, so kind, so honest, so lovable, so much so that if this is a horror movie, she will have ENABLER instead of 666 tattooed on her head. And an enabler she is, because Jack is so whiny and self-absorbed that he treats her very badly until she starts sleeping with him, and even then his behavior is still far from charming. Jack is a town cop so this means that he will have the usual predictable baggage and guilt. As a result, he will spend nearly the whole book whining that he doesn’t deserve love, he doesn’t want love, and this is his excuse to say stupid things to drive people away while acting like a coward and he’s sticking to it. Why is Carol sleeping with this man? If Ms Child is trying to go about telling me that a “nice woman” sleeping with a “bad boy” will redeem this “bad boy” magically, she’s doing it all wrong. She’s instead writing a classic big mistake story many women wearing “I Hate My First Lover, I Really Do, That Jerk” T-shirts may relate to.
Some Kind of Wonderful offers a really contrived story of a woman letting a man treat her badly while sleeping with him in order to “rescue” him because she needs a man to complete her new family, set in a small town where clichés thrive unchecked. Having a high threshold limit for mediocrity may be just what the doctor ordered before one starts on this book.