by Rose Middleton, contemporary (2006)
Linden Bay Romance, $6.99, ISBN 1-905383-45-8
Stop me if you have read a story with a plot like the one in Rose Middleton's One Foot Forward: Molly Keating has always adored the best friend of her best friend's brother, Mick Knight, but she doesn't know how to approach him. When he's up in a bachelor auction, however, she bids on him. She doesn't know that he has a crush on her all these while too (do I hear Urge Overkill's Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon playing in my head?). However, she is shy and her hero-worship of him holds her back, which is good or those two will hit the sack by page three and the story will end two pages later. The two characters then spend their time wringing their hands. Of course, all that issues about whether or not they can last do not stop them from jumping into bed, but that's why we have talkshows on TV, I suppose: when the going gets tough once the honeymoon is over, Oprah is here to save the day.
It's a typical story that has been covered by countless Harlequin Blaze and other sexy contemporary lines over the years. Ms Middleton makes Mick a fireman so basically she has all the grounds covered when it comes to ensuring that this book has as much mass appeal as possible. Mick's baggage is familiar: he doesn't want to commit to a relationship where he can die and leave the wife a widow. Molly on the other hand is a heroine that one doesn't encounter too often: she wears a prosthetic leg, having lost a leg in an accident that Mick saved her from and she has just come out from physiotherapy.
The romance in this story comes off more like hero-worship and a need to depend on someone during a very confusing time of adjustment in her life on Molly's part while Mick does protest too much, if you ask me, about how Molly must never care for him. Those two embark on an affair that they both insist is temporary, and I'm sure we all know how that will turn out.
One Foot Forward bewilders me. On one hand, this story is brimming with overused plot devices and the author happily uses some Hallmark movie drama towards the end to get our characters to realize that ohmigosh, love is precious so they must seize it when they find it! The characters can be very predictable stereotypes, Molly's prosthetic leg notwithstanding, and everything from the temporary love affair thing to the events that shortly follow is just as predictable to the point that the author's too obvious rehash of these plot conventions makes this book too easy to be put down and forgotten.
But there are times in the later parts of this story when Molly displays traits that break the stereotype that she is during the most part, especially when she decides that Mick's excuse to break up with her is pure BS and she even gets angry at him for pretending that it's her and not him that is the cause of the breakup. It's too bad that author needs to set up a Hallmark drama towards the end to get Mick to tell Molly his feelings. It's also too bad that Molly starts reassuring Mick that she understands when he's barely spilled his guts out. Does this mean that another dramatic Hallmark event needs to happen a year later to get Mick to remember the date of their anniversary?
One Foot Forward for too long comes off as if the author isn't plotting a story of her own as much as she is following too hard some guidelines set down by the friendly Harlequin Blaze editor. It is only towards the end that Ms Middleton shows signs that she is capable of allowing her characters to react spontaneously to a situation without resorting to formulaic behavioral responses, but unfortunately all that is soon drowned in cheesy melodrama. One Foot Forward is actually a more appropriate title for this book that Ms Middleton may like to believe.
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