Bennett Street Books, $10.99, ISBN 978-0985812539
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Oh yes, you read right, It Had to Be You is a contemporary romance. Instead of going down the route of new adult with barely adult wretches moaning about how sexual abuse and alcoholism would bring them together, Deborah Simmons opts to serve up old-school romantic comedy as her indie debut.
Paige Porter is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t want to depend on any man for comfort and money. She also doesn’t do casual sex because she’d feel like a slut afterwards. Yes, she’s that kind of heroine. In this story, her ability to defuse a bridezilla from hell impresses the very wealthy matriarch Bebe Maitland, who decides to hire her to give her granddaughter a wedding to remember. Consider how many bags of money the Maitlands have in their possession, Paige can only say yes because she is a sane person and she loves money just like you and me. Unfortunately, the Maitlands are a crazy bunch, and some of them probably are up to no good. Paige is going to have her hands full with these folks, and that’s not even counting Siegfried the heir apparent whose nerdy nature and willingness to stay cooped up in his lab are balanced by his hot looks and his hotter bank account.
I call this one an old school romance because it really brings to mind those comedies set in an era when slapstick routines and the heroine acting all precious and cute are considered humorous in a diabetes is so much fun way. The hero falls on the heroine, oops, and they can’t un-stick themselves! The heroine stares wide-eyed at people because everyone is crazy and eccentric; Bebe is just like Shirley MacLaine playing a wacky old lady in a Lifetime romantic comedy. Some staff are rude, others are weird. All in all, there is something familiar about the whole ensemble as everything seems to be a pastiche of stereotypes associated with wacky rich people living in big houses. That doesn’t mean it’s all boring, though. That sarcastic Mia is adorable as she often says cynical and funny things that mirror my thoughts often. When everyone here is fluffy cute and lamb kisses all over, it’s good to have someone who doesn’t take completely to the whole set up.
As a romance, this one can be tad problematic because much of the romance is narrated from Paige’s point of view. This is problematic because she spends more time with Siegfried’s various family members than she does with him, so I have no idea what he is thinking most of the time. It doesn’t help that he’s not the most socially aware person around, so he spends most of his time in Paige’s company acting all socially awkward and weird. These two also often behave like cute children rather than adults, despite Paige’s thoughts often sinking into gutter level in a rather childish manner when it comes to Siegfried. Still, Paige claims to have had sex before, so I guess she’s at least anatomically correct. Then again, who knows, maybe sex to her is like Jessica Rabbit committing adultery behind her husband Roger’s back by playing patty cakes with the villain – it’s only X-rated if you are in a cartoon.
It Had to Be You is a pleasant read – I finished the whole thing in one painless reading session – but the romance is lacking and the whole thing is a bit too much on the cute and precious side for me. I’d rather be standing in that corner with Mia, sharing a toke as we snicker at how ridiculous everyone else is being. This story is alright, but I sure could use something more than just alright.