Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-000925-X
Contemporary Romance, 2004
After reading Daisy’s Back in Town, I wonder whether they have some sort of boot camp for romance authors where they learn all the tricks and tips on Bad Romance Clichés 101 just to torture readers like me. Rachel Gibson has stringed together some of the more overused clichés in town in an uninspired manner for this book that it is hard for me to actually work up much enthusiasm for the story.
Fifteen years ago, Daisy Lee Brooks, her late husband Stephen, and Jackson Parrish were buddies. Stephen and Jackson are both attracted to Daisy and make some sort of vow never to risk their friendship by competing for her. But Jackson, the bad boy, and Daisy got busy anyway, resulting in Daisy being treated just like how you would expect an insensitive kid to treat his girlfriend. Then came the magical moment that defines ninety-nine percent of romance heroines’ lives: Daisy is pregnant with the jerk’s baby. Jackson had just dumped her (again) and with his parents getting killed soon after in the same car crash that takes the lives of around two thousand parents of romance characters every year, Daisy never had the chance to tell him. Stephen, who had the word “Loser” and “Sucker” tattooed in invisible ink on his forehead, stepped in to marry Daisy. Daisy was grateful. Jackson was not. He had been Betrayed! Women are now sluts forever and he will sleep only with bimbos that reaffirms his belief!
So now, fifteen years later, the loser is dead and Daisy returns to Lovett to tell Jackson that he has a son named Nathan. But before she can do this, she will have to break down Jackson’s defenses first. Jackson by now is predictably a total Grade A jackass, but Daisy, being the darling she is, keeps trying to find contrived ways to meet Jackson and tell him. I find myself wondering why she just doesn’t get a lawyer to send him a nicely worded letter instead of humiliating herself like this.
Daisy doesn’t have much of a character outside the Single Mother, the woman so in lust that she cannot do anything but to succumb to the hero, one completely oblivious as to how real life works (a lawyer, what’s that?). In short, Ms Gibson may set this story in present day and call Daisy a contemporary heroine, but she ignores some of the more pragmatic actions Daisy could have taken in favor of unrealistic contrived actions Daisy apparently has no choice but to do, just so that Jackson and she can get together again in some way or the other. As for Jackson, he comes off very badly as a childish twit that allows an incident that happened fifteen years ago to color his perceptions and behavior in the years after. There are men like this in real life, I’m sure, but they don’t make good romantic hubbies, surely? If Jackson can let something that happens fifteen years ago make him treat people as if life owes him an apology and a BJ, what happens when he and Daisy face bigger and more difficult issues later on in their marriage? His miraculous change of behavior is unconvincing. A doormat heroine and a son do not automatically heal screwed-up men – we have medications for that.
The only saving grace of this hopelessly formulaic story is Jackson’s relationship with Nathan. That aspect of the story is the only thing that’s close to being real. Everything else, main plots and subplots and all, comes off as stale and just not worthy of the author. I guess I can only hope that the magic will come back to town in the next book.