Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3621-0
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Okay, I am early this month with the TBR Challenge review, but that’s because I confused next month’s date with this month’s. The theme is my favorite trope, which means, naturally, hot MILF-y ladies getting the wildest ride of their lives at the saddle of the hottest studs in town, woo-hoo. I bought Midnight Ride a long time ago mostly because of those arms on that cover guy, and also because the synopsis on the back cover promises a romance between an older lady and a younger hottie. And then this book sort of got lost in the shuffle over the next two years or so, until I finally pulled it out in anticipation of this month’s TBR Challenge. Really, that is a very pretty cover, and if you disagree, let’s agree to never acknowledge one another again unless it is absolutely necessary.
Alas, the age gap isn’t that big enough to be considered “OMG! Shocking!” like Jamie Smithwick, our heroine, tends to feel. She’s 36. He’s 24. Maybe it’s just me, but in a time when the current French Prime Minister’s life story is literally the lyrics of Fountains of Wayne’s Stacy’s Mom, the twelve-year age gap is nothing, especially when the author adheres to the gender norm of romance novel characters: she’s practically inexperienced, having married her now dead hubby young and she never had much time to explore a man’s fountains of wayne because she had to take care of her family prior to that, while he wags that thing with aplomb and finesse. Therefore, the age gap is actually just an excuse for the main characters, especially the heroine to make a big deal out of the inevitable boinking. Age gap aside, everything else conforms to the genre conventions, so the party isn’t exactly a wild and happening one.
Oh yes, let me get to the plot first before I forget about that completely. Yes, it’s that forgettable. Widowed Jamie is now carrying on in the farm she and her hubby set up, but as you can guess, she’s broke and she could use some help. Tyler Jenkins’s latest weekend shenanigans – there’s a “she” in his shenanigans, like it always does – culminates with him escaping the enraged fiancé of the woman who almost added some whipped cream onto his banana split, thanks to Jamie’s conveniently parked vehicle, so he decides to repay our heroine by helping out at her place. Soon he’s wielding his mighty farm equipment and making all these deep indentations on her libido and her heart, but oh no, he’s 24 and she’s 36. How can they ever be? As the story progresses, the same old song and dance keeps going. Surely a 46-year old woman should not be consorting with an 18-year old boy! What will the world think if she, a 68-year old woman, shack up with that 12-year old Tyler? Will romance readers ever accept a romance between a 97-year old heroine and a 6-year old hero? Okay, I’m deliberately exaggerating the age gap between those two, but that’s in response to the tedious blues that keep going in this one.
Here’s the thing – he’s of legal age, and I don’t know why she acts like having monkey sex with him means that it has lead to something permanent. It’s not like once it gets in, it’s going to be stuck there forever, so what’s the big deal? And yet, Jamie tries to continuously do silly things to drive Tyler away, even as the author at same time comes up with contrivances to keep those two together. At the end of the day, the whole thing feels as contrived as can be, and all over a boring conflict.
On the bright side, Tyler seems like a person with working pee-pee, and this is a good thing, because many romance authors try to overcompensate for a younger hero by turning that fellow into some unnaturally sage, saintly prophet. Here, Tyler is just an earnest guy who loves hard – I like that. But the author, perhaps because she’s worried that readers may think less of an older heroine for wanting to boink a younger guy, has the heroine being the plot device that continuously inflates the “wrongness” of the age gap to show that Jamie is “noble” enough to do the “right” thing by trying to put out instead to men around her age. Maybe because trying too hard to violate the established conventions of the romance genre is wrong, although that gives rise to the question of why the author then writes such a premise in the first place.
Does it matter, though? I want sexy fun. I want a naughty older woman giving a hot stud a ride in her little red Corvette and completely ruining him for other women, and it is the poor guy who has to ask her to slow down so that he can catch up. I want… something that is different from what this safe, tame, and formulaic tale has to offer. Yes, despite all the hype about how “sexy” and “satisfying” the author’s stories can be, this one makes me feel like my little red Corvette sputters to a stop after a few feet out of the gate and the party never even started long after I close the book. The whole thing is readable but still, I knew I should have just played Prince’s early records and practiced my best sultry Jessica Lange impersonation in anticipation of karaoke night this coming weekend.