Liquid Silver Books, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-62210-238-9
Contemporary Romance, 2015
I know I am going to have problems with Kristine Bria’s Not Quite Home when I read the opening paragraph of the story.
Adam squeezed his eyes shut against the shelves filled with legal books and clenched his fingers in his hair. He didn’t even have the benefit of a view from the high-rise office building in downtown Atlanta. Instead, he stared down the sleek oak conference table surrounded by trendy black chairs filled with relatives he had never met and never planned to see again.
How can he shut his eyes “against” the shelves? And if he has “squeezed his eyes shut”, how could he be staring down a table?
Adam Moultrie, our hero, has inherited the Oakwood Plantation in Moss Point from his late great-uncle. He doesn’t want it, of course. He ditched that place and the family that came along with it a long time ago, but it looks like he’s being “forced” to go back and confront his demons now. Still, even if “Oakwood was his albatross”, he would “suck it up and fly solo”. Don’t ask. At any rate, he now wants to renovate the run down place and then sell it off. But he can go ahead with his plans, however, he learns that there is a lawsuit filed against the owner of that place for deliberately letting the place go to ruin and putting kids who trespass at risk of injuries and worse.
Wait, you can sue someone for putting the lives of trespassers into his property at risk? Well, I suppose it can happen…
Meanwhile, Kate Braswell is a divorcee and the owner of a soon-to-be-opened coffee shop in Moss Point.
When Kate lifted her eyes, she squinted and craned her neck at a weird angle to see through her rain-splattered windshield into her shop.
No. It’s a trick of the light. I must need glasses. This is not happening.
Kate opened the door of her car and stepped into a light drizzle. Her keys, which now included one to the door of her maybe-hopefully-soon-to-be-coffeehouse, were in her hand. She carefully stepped around her car, eyes locked on the ceiling of her new place of business. She approached the plate glass window slowly then cautiously crept toward the door.
No. I’m wrong. There’s another explanation.
She tried to convince herself of the possibility and shake her fear by holding her shoulders back as she unlocked the front door.
I should be excited about this. This should be a happy moment. If I hadn’t earned it myself, I would want someone to carry me over the threshold like a bride…
The lights weren’t on, but they didn’t need to be. The space was filled with natural light even in the gloom—one of the reasons the location appealed to her. She could see perfectly, yet she couldn’t believe what she saw.
Brace yourself for the horror: Kate sees that the roof is leaking.
The architect comes to town. Kate needs someone to fix up her shop. I’m sure you can connect the dots and see where this story is heading.
The biggest problem I have with Not Quite Home is how overwrought the whole narrative style is. Everyone’s constantly being torn apart, shuddering in horror, being eaten inside, and what not, but far too often, their reaction seem way disproportionate for the circumstance they are reacting to. When everything is treated like a matter of life and death, I become quickly desensitized to whole thing and even begin to find these characters’ constant hand-wringing tiresome to follow.
Also, some parts of the story are just… weird.
She couldn’t believe he had her so close but hadn’t tried to kiss her yet, which was fine by her because she wasn’t really into playing tonsil hockey with a walking bottle of booze.
“You’ve done a great job, Adam. You fully accomplished your goal. Let’s sit down.” Kate used her cheerleading moves to deftly turn out of his arm and pull him down beside her on the sofa.
Cheerleading moves… what?
The author also confuses personality and characterization for issues. Adam isn’t a character as much as he is a walking laundry list of issues. Kate is defined by her problems and her ability to constantly mother and cheer Adam on while being unable to deal with her own issues.
The underlying story in Not Quite Home is a familiar one, and really, it’s not bad at all. But the author’s florid and overwrought style of writing is a tough one to get used to, and the awkwardly stilted conversations and phraseology further bog things down. Let’s just say that, from all appearances, this is a classic textbook example of a work that manages to find itself published when it could use a few more rounds of tough love polishing first.