St Martin’s Press, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-250-01039-1
Contemporary Romance, 2012 (Reissue)
I won’t be surprised should I learn that Love in a Nutshell is one of Janet Evanovich’s early unpublished category romances given a new spin with the help of Dorien Kelly. This story certainly has much in common with the author’s Loveswept romances, after all. Still, let’s all be nice and just think of nice things because it’s the start of a new collaboration, after all. Who knows many many exciting adventures are forthcoming?
Oh, who am I kidding. This book is, in a word, dull.
Let’s start with the story first. Our heroine, Kate Appleton, is a divorcee who has recently lost her job as an editor in the big city due to an unfortunate video of hers running around topless on the street going viral on Youtube. It was not really her fault, she was sabotaged a colleague who wanted her job, but the damage was done.
Despite having little skills or financial power, Kate decides to head over to Keene’s Harbor in Michigan, where she somehow thinks it’s a brilliant idea to wait tables for pennies to save up to pay for expensive repairs and turn her parents’ run-down summer house into a B&B. Did I mention that Kate has only a few months to do this? Or that she lacks some fundamental skills to run a business, therefore even if she succeeds in this nonsense, she’d probably screw things up in a month or two? But hey, heroines are like are to be adored because they are so cute and precious when they are flailing their arms in brainless enthusiasm, so woo-hoo, go Kate.
When Kate gets fired from her waitressing gig – oh, let’s not act so surprised – for serving beer from our hero Matt Culhane’s Depot Brewing Company that turns out to be awful tasting, she heads over to our hero’s office to tell him that her firing is his fault and he, therefore, owes her a job. Matt believes that someone is sabotaging his business, so he hires her to be his undercover spy. She will work and mingle while looking out for saboteurs and worse. Never mind that Kate has no experience in this or that he initially thinks her crazy. Precious heroines are so cute, so who can say no them?
Despite the train wreck that this story promises to be after the whole set-up, the whole thing ends up being rather flat, though. This one isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, which may not be a good thing as people usually pick up a book with Janet Evanovich’s name on the cover because they want to laugh more than anything else. Instead, this one is a rather slow day-by-day account of Kate’s personal Kitchen Nightmares adventures which, while interesting, are often interrupted by banal scenes with boring and stereotypical secondary characters that fail to tickle the funny bone. The mystery is predictably throwaway, so really, the only good reason to read this book is for the comedy, and it doesn’t deliver that.
As for the romance, it is pretty superficial. Matt and Kate are typical characters from Ms Evanovich’s Loveswept romance stories, and the romance is one of those “they like each other, so it’s love – not much complications to worry about” things. This is fine if there is plenty of comedy or wacky suspense stuff to make up for the superficial romance, but there’s none of that here.
Also, while I’m not exactly full of youth and vigor myself, I often get the impression that this book is written by and for octogenarians or something. For example, Kate describes her flirtation with Matt as “youthful” despite the fact that Kate is not exactly a relic herself. The authors also seem to worry too much that I may miss out on subtle details, so every conversation or punchline has to be explained in more detail, to the point that reading this book often feels like an experience of listening to two authors who are talking down to me because they think I’m too dumb to read between the lines of a scene. After a scene where Matt drives a hard bargain, for example, there would be a paragraph or two explaining that Matt has just driven a hard bargain because he is a businessman, blah blah blah. Come on, I get that just from following the conversation. There’s no need to launch into an explanation to tell me what I may miss.
If I overlook the “Hey, stupid readers, let me explain to you things because you are too dumb to understand me” style of the story, this book isn’t awful. The thing is, it’s just boring, which makes it worse than a bad book because at least a bad book would be memorable even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. This one just meanders around, boring me and making it too easy for me to put down this book. The best thing I can say about this book is that it lacks the very tired recycled gags that litter Ms Evanovich’s last dozen efforts, and that’s certainly not a good reason to put down $8.99 for this book.