Ellora’s Cave, $6.99, ISBN 978-1419913419
Contemporary Erotica, 2007
MA Ellis’s Love’s Choice will be a familiar story to readers of small town romance. Hot city babe, Claire Arnet, zooms into Haisville, Georgia, driving over the speed limit. If you have read enough romance novels, you will know that this is the best way to meet the hottest guy in the area, and what do you know, here’s the cop Collyer James to inspect her driver’s license very, very thoroughly.
I can’t seem to find any evidence online that this story has been republished since the Ellora’s Cave folks took a trip to the next galaxy in the UFO of Bustville, and I am almost moved to say that it’s a pity that this is the case. Structure- and pace-wise, this story has many things done right. The chemistry feels right, the sexy moments are nice, and there is a believable relationship building up here. The secondary characters add to the story instead of just showing to advertise future and past titles, even if for the most part they are all stereotypes. All in all, this is almost an easily digested read, pleasant and satisfying in an admittedly rather generic, read-this-before-many-times way.
Almost, that is.
You see, when it comes to light contemporary romps, conversations can be a tricky beast for authors to wrangle. Some authors get it right, some get it better and make their characters feel like funny, witty fictitious BFFs of the readers. Others… well, some, like MA Ellis, make it appear as if they learned how to write comedy by watching way too many bad sitcoms and following social media so much that they assume real people talk like what they encounter in those places.
“Go the opposite way, Claire.”
“And what if there isn’t a restroom that way? If I piss my panties on this brand-new leather you’re paying for the cleaning, Nostradamus.”
“Just do it. And no Nike comments that will undoubtedly segue into the professional basketball players and their hotness topic which will then lead to thoughts of those yummy boxer brief ads.”
There is no context for the Nike comments and basketball players and boxer briefs—they just come up like that in the conversation, making me scratch my head. The heroine laughs after that last line, because that’s the author’s equivalent of running the canned laughter track in the background in order to get me to go ha ha ha too, but I’m just distracted instead by trying to decipher what the whole exchange is about.
“Listen. According to the road sign I’m fourteen miles from Haisville, Georgia, so if you don’t hear from me again you’ll know where to have them start the search.”
“Stop it,” Tawny laughed. “You’re the one who wanted to head to the boonies.”
“Yeah. But I expected to hear the soothing tones of Zen instrumentals, not the sound of ‘Dueling Banjos’,” Claire replied, only half joking. She closed in quickly on the truck in front of her. “I’m currently stuck behind some guy going exactly the speed limit, pulling a boat named…oh, this is sweet…Playin’ Grab-Bass.”
“Ooooo. Is he one of those authentic Southern cutie pies? Not like the posers down here. I’m talking about the real cuties. The ones with refined manners and a body designed in heaven and chiseled to earthly perfection from toiling away in the hot summer sun?”
I feel that the author is trying a little too hard to be funny.
“So was he CPS?”
“Cutie pie status?”
Now, I’m confused. When characters talk like this, usually, the intention is to get me to laugh at these characters, because they are saying things that make them look, at best, foolish twittering magpies and, at worst, the embodiment of how fifteen-year girls talk as envisioned by an octogenarian that has never conversed with a teenager in decades. Here, however, the author is pure business, as she seems to believe that her characters are genuinely hilarious. Oh, I’m sure there are readers that will agree, but I’m not one of those readers, sadly. I alternate between wincing and cringing each time the author decides to enact her brand of sitcom conversations in this story.
Hence, poor Love’s Choice is one of those few Torrid Tarot titles that I’ve read recently that I really would love to like without reservation, but unfortunately, it just have to have that one fatal flaw that keeps me from doing so.