Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-5900-5
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Kristen Proby is one of those authors who hit the big time on the indie circuit, and Pocket wastes little time scooping her up to publish her books under their romance imprint. Loving Cara is the first book in a new series, Love Under the Big Sky, and it revolves around guys in a ranch who wear Levi’s – that’s Levi’s, not Wranglers, and the author makes this distinction because, I guess, real cowboy studs only wear Levi’s, probably with no underwear underneath. Like most stories in the Kindle indie pool, however, this one is told from alternating first person point of view, from the hero as well as the heroine.
Cara Donovan works in a school at Cunningham Falls, Montana. She once had a crush on Josh King, who is now one of the cowboy studs whose virility keep the Lazy K Ranch standing upright like a monument of “Girls, don’t you wish you have a real man like us to ride on, every day, every night?” greatness. That was when they were kids, of course, and now that they are all grown-ups, Cara still doesn’t believe that he’d notice a wallflower like her. When he hires her be to be his troubled nephew Seth’s tutor over the summer, he wastes no time flirting with her, however, and she’s like, “Oh my gosh, but I’m fat and… well, not that I’m really fat, as I’m hot and gorgeous, but if I embrace my hotness, then all the dumpy sexually frustrated people reading my story won’t see themselves in me, and then they’d write one-star reviews on Amazon panning me for being a shallow twit, so HELLO, I’M FAT!”
“If you say fat, I will take you over my knee, Carolina. You were not fat then, you’re not fat now, and next to me, you are tiny.”
There’s no way to put this nicely: Loving Cara is a revenge of the fat girl fantasy. The entire story can be summarized into one sentence: things happen to get everyone to assure Cara that she is not fat, but in fact: gorgeous, special, lovable, and adorable. Cara is, predictably enough, someone who wears sweetness and guilelessness like sparkling pink hearts on her blouse sleeves. For someone who teaches kids, she is uncharacteristically shocked when kids display signs of low self-esteem or when some adults demonstrate that they don’t like kids. Kids are special, adorable, innocent unicorns in the indigo rain that we should all walk together with in nature!
Josh is a sweetheart. The only thing remotely “alpha” about him is the way he insists on calling Cara “Carolina”, a name she claims to detest, because he likes that name on her – at least it isn’t “Rover” or “Sparky”, I guess – or that he makes angry love to her when she dares to call herself fat and he has to roger her into realizing what a sex magnet she is. Josh has been celibate for a year, cares for kids, and falls for her easily, without any hesitation, because Cara is simply awesome just by breathing alone. He hates other women that come on to him, because he used to pork them when he was younger, and he knows now, especially after wagging his pee-pee in Cara’s presence, that big-breasted women that are too forward, wear make-up, and low-cut blouses are all whores. (Josh used to sleep with such women, but that only enhances his mystique as the sex god in Cara’s eyes, because we all know that, in romance novels, nothing a romance novel man can do is even remotely bad.)
The author however isn’t above having him say nasty things to Cara in the heat of the moment, often for conflict that turns Cara into a whipped puppy needing once again assurances that she is lovable and adorable and desirable and whatever-able, and she does this often clumsily and transparently for the sake of conflict. This only makes Josh, already a near-perfect guy to the point of creepiness, seem like one of those seemingly serene and perfect gentlemen who actually have a dozen corpses dangling from the ceiling for his basement.
Still, this story isn’t as bad as it could have been. Every woman that poses some sort of sexual competition to the heroine is depicted as a skank, and the combo of low-cut blouses, make-up, and forward attitude is used as a short hand for “slut”, but Cara tries her best not to let these women put her down with their mean girl attitude. Cara may be set up as a Mary Sue placeholder for fat girls looking for love out there, but she has a sense of humor and she doesn’t care to let life steamroller her into submission. The author often portray Cara as a damsel in distress or someone that needs constant assurances in the eyes of the people around her (especially Josh whose zealous determination to protect her can be disquieting. considering how easily he can also turn on her) , but Cara doesn’t play the victim card herself or act like a martyr. Therefore, the heroine’s point of view is very readable, and there are some charming moments.
Yikes, however, at the author’s writing style. She is obsessed with eye colors, smiles, smirks, and winks, judging by how often she dwells on these things. I am especially not partial to the words “smirk” and “wink” liberally applied to the good guys, as to me, smirking is usually done by cartoon villains while constant winking is associated with smarmy people. So, I can only grimace each time these people wink and smirk, which is way too often for liking. The author also describes smiles and eye colors like they are the most profound thing ever, to the point that I can only make a face when she lovingly describes how Cara’s eyes “go from amber to hazel to green”. What, Cara is Mystique or something?
Oh, and before I forget, the author also seems to have an aversion to the word “said”. Therefore, her characters mutter, exclaim, agree, interrupt, and more. This is fine if done within reasonable limit, but here, the characters all end up coming off like overly-animated creatures high on caffeine or worse.
Additionally, the author makes everything related to Josh so big that it’s hilarious. The house is huge, the butt is big, the bicep is as big as Cara’s thigh (really), the lust is enormous, and his cattle prod is even more enormous. Sex with Josh is like copulating with King Kong – everything is so big on the screen, ooh.
Loving Cara may seem like a clumsily-written fantasy of a fat girl, but still, I can’t help but to like it despite my reservations. It’s like me being confronted by a thirteen-year old girl who earnestly tells me that she has finished writing a book. No matter what the quality of the story is, I can’t help but to clap my hands, you know what I mean? Of course, I did pay money for this book, so there is a limit to my liking, fortunately. Giving this insipidly-written book a much higher score would be embarrassing. I’m already being more generous than I ought to be.