Silhouette Intimate Moments, $4.75, ISBN 0-373-27283-9
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Suzanne Brockmann’s Letters to Kelly have three purposes in life: to keep her fans happy, to give the author some pocket change, and to showcase two characters that are so in love with the martyr concept that they annoy the hell out of me. One may consider this book “risky”, but “risky” here is gimmicky writing that serves to impress than to actually add anything of value to the story.
Tyrone Jackson Winchester the Second is our hero. I will call him Jax from now on, because for some reason “T. Jackson Winchester” is repeated many times throughout the story that I will eat my own fingers if I have to read that name one more time on a page or on a computer screen. He was 22 when he fell in love with 16-year old Kelly O’Brien. In real life, we call the cops on this guy if he makes a move – that creep. In romance novels, we are supposed to sigh wistfully. Creep. Before he can do anything that will end up with him in jail and looking over his shoulders nervously before bending down to pick up the soap in the showers, he gets thrown into some South American jail instead for seven years. Kelly thinks he sucks and SUCKS for leaving her without a word. He was supposed to show up for her eighteenth birthday where she would then let him deflower her! How insensitive, that brute! She then gets married to a Mr Wrong, gets divorced, and now she is 23 and so over the concept of marriage. Or so she says. So what will she do when Jax reappears in her life?
There is an easy solution to the whole mess. Jax will sit her down and tell her that he’s been in jail for the last seven years through no fault of his own, not any fault to be ashamed of anyway. She will listen and nod. Then, now that she’s legal, they can proceed to have all kinds of sex without fearing that the FBI will break down the door, grab Jax’s stash of girlie porn, and drag Kelly to Social Services.
But no. He can’t tell her why he’s gone. She, in her eagerness to play the tragic ssnowflake hurt by love, can’t even see that he’s sick, much less deduce anything or read between the lines. He can’t tell her anything, she doesn’t want to be anything but a tragic morality tale of the dark side of love, and the whole story drags on and on most unnecessarily. But what do I expect from a heroine that’s 23 but acts as if she’s still 16 and a man that is attracted to immature jailbaits?
Yeah, yeah, Jax writes romance and he talks to his alter-ego Marty Sue named Jared. Which could have been “risky” and “experimental”, but to me, it’s like yet more fireworks without any substance behind it. If anything, a guy writing a story about himself and his girlfriend only reinforces how creepy his codependent and clingy passive-aggressive feelings for Kelly is.
In another book, a well-written and better plotted one perhaps, I may find Jax’s letters to Kelly, written to her when he was in prison and of course never delivered, romantic. But in this book, letters and what seems like scenes from a mediocre romance novel are transparent plot contrivances to substitute for communication. One can argue that in a relationship, trust and communication take precedence over fancy letters; therefore, Letters to Kelly is just an overly fancy showcase of style and techniques trying to make up for a plot that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.