David Reichart, $0.99
Contemporary Romance, 2011
Annalisa’s Highway Blues is one of those stories that you will either love or find overwritten. Take a look at the first two paragraphs of this short story – the rest of the story is written in a similar manner.
She was in the grip of a wicked downward spiral when she approached her home town, riding in the back of a shabby minivan that the driver, bless his heart, called an airport limousine. The sight of cozy little Tetagouche, with its sidewalks already rolled up by seven p.m., brought her to the verge of tears, but she managed to get by with a heavy sigh.
Many of the buildings on Main Street were vacant, and most of the businesses that were making a go of it were small shops that occupied space once used by Western Auto, Rexall, G.C. Murphy and other iconic retailers of days gone by. Now, with night falling fast, the minivan pulled up in front of the one spot in town that was still bright and lively — Crawdaddy’s Lounge — and Annalisa Rochon stepped out onto the sidewalk.
Annalisa Rochon left Atlanta to come home because… I don’t know. When her father has a heart attack, Annalisa decides to become a truck driver to help the family. This is despite the fact that she has no experience beyond being a pouty brat who hates everything. Why? I don’t know. She used to be a prom queen who dumped the football star. Why? Again, I don’t know. Now, she loves Mike Cindik and he her, although again I have no idea why.
That’s the problem with this story. It’s very descriptive, as the snippet I’ve given would demonstrate, but it doesn’t tell what I need to know to enjoy the story. Character motivation is sketchy. Annalisa is a one-dimensional pouting twit who hates everything. I don’t know why she’s snippy and being bitchy to pretty much every other person in this story, and I have no idea why she does some of the stupid self-sabotaging things she pulls off in this story. As a result, I can’t bring myself to care about her problems. She doesn’t feel like a coherent character, more like a puppet whose jerky thoughts and antics are dictated by the plot. It also doesn’t help that she has a tendency to blame everything that went wrong in her life on various secondary characters. Why was she so passive back then? Again, I don’t know. Mike is even worse – there is so little exploration of his character that he comes off like a meat trophy for our heroine.
And then we have the conversations, which are written in a stilted manner that, perhaps, aspires to be literary only to have me scratch my head and wonder whether real people actually talk like that.
The author has spent too much time telling me things here and not enough showing me of what is happening inside the characters’ heads. This is a fatal flaw especially for a romantic story as romance is, after all, as much about the brain as the heart. It needs strong and well-drawn characters who can relate to each other. Without any of these, all the long sentences in the world cannot salvage this story.