Linda Seed, $0.99
Contemporary Romance, 2015
I’m not going to lie, I picked up this book because of the author’s last name. I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I have an embarrassing crush on Joseph Seed in the Far Cry games, and if you ply me with enough alcohol, I’ll admit that his siblings John and Jacob are kind of hot too. Hence, when I see the author’s name, my fingers have checked out this title before I realized what I had done. This is why I always say kids shouldn’t try to be like me when they grow up.
Moonstone Beach kicks off the author’s Main Street Merchants series, and this one revolves around the bookstore owner Kate Bennett. It’s been about two years since a bitter divorce, and she’s thinking that maybe she should dip her toes back into the dating scene. Meanwhile, we have Jackson Graham, the head chef at the neighborhood upscale restaurant who calls Kate an idiot shortly after they first meet for not knowing her wine. Naturally, he’s the romance hero.
I know I am going to have issues with this story when in the first page alone, Kate lets her employee berate her like a shrieking harpy on drugs, and tells me that she can’t fire that disagreeable old bag because Althea was hired by her late mother. Given that Kate runs a used bookstore, it’s likely that she is going to go bankrupt soon in this economic climate, and she is also spineless enough to let her employee treat her with utter disdain. Fortunately, I soon realize that this aspect of Kate’s personality is deliberate, designed by the author to be part of our heroine’s character development. Similarly, Jackson being an asshole is by design, he is going to be a more agreeable bloke by the time the story ends.
In a way, this is nice, as I don’t have to worry about my blood pressure while I am turning the pages. On the other hand, this may not necessarily be a good thing, as I can detect the author’s intention right away. When I do this, it means that it’s either the author being a bit too transparent with her hand, kind of like a bad card player, or I am not engaged enough by the story to be swept away by the characters. I’m leaning towards a mix of both, actually, to describe my reaction.
I’m not too engaged by the story because, for some reason, the heroine spends more time with another guy than Jackson at the first third or so of the story, and when Jackson does appear, he’s being an ass. I don’t see any chemistry developing between these two, and it doesn’t help that there are various secondary characters milling around these two like people who really need a life, egging them on to hook up and copulate. The whole thing feels like any generic small town romance out there, only this time the chemistry is further muted to make the romance feel even less interesting.
Also, while the scenery is nice, the whole place feels a little too good to be true.
The author is too transparent with her hand because the first half and the second half feel like they were each written by a different author. In the first half, Kate is such a doormat with other people, but when the author feels that it is time for her heroine to shape up, Kate morphs abruptly into a completely different person altogether. The “epiphany” and “self improvements” aspects of the heroine take place too drastically and in an unnaturally accelerated manner. Our poor heroine is like a marionette with strings pulled a little too obviously by the puppet master. It’s the same with Jackson. He’s such an insensitive boor, and then, all of a sudden, he’s a completely different guy.
A little research reveals that Moonstone Beach is Linda Seed’s first published story, and yes, it certainly feels like a debut effort. The author has a good idea about what she wants in her story and where she wants her characters to go, but she tends to get impatient and has her characters experience character growth in an unrealistically quick and drastic manner. Secondary characters behave more like heavy handed plot device than anything else, and there are moments when characters speak like guests on a talk show host rather than organically. Thus, there is a very contrived feel to the whole thing. Everything feels staged, nothing feels organic.
Still, the fact that the author has a sense of awareness about her characters bodes well for my potential enjoyment of her subsequent titles. The problems here are pretty typical of those in a debut effort, usually due to inexperience. Good things may still come one day.