Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-058247-0
Contemporary Romance, 2007
Sixteen years ago, fat dowdy girl Harriet Smith went on a date with Jake Porter and put out. Before you can roll up your eyes, yes, pregnant. Alas, he left town, but fortunately, there was her gay best friend who needed someone to throw off his overbearing family that wouldn’t accept his sexuality, so Zach still managed to grow up with a daddy. The husband conveniently died before this story begins, and Harriet has, for some reason, decided that she would never marry (and in romance novels, never marrying means never dating or never having sex – ever) so we can all breathe a sigh of relief that Harriet is still unsullied by any man who is not the hero.
Anyway, Harriet is back in town after a long absence to play the doormat for her father and care for her ill mother-in-law. Naturally, some of the old hags in town sniff at her in disdain – since Harriet refused to stay in town and take care of everyone like God put a woman in this world to do, she is so unworthy. Jake comes back to town after a long absence to attend his father’s wedding to his latest wife. The same old hags drool because here is a new penis in town and penises are always good – they can never do wrong. Seriously, reading this book reminds me why I make it a rule not to read more than one small town romance a month if I can help it.
Anyway, Jake meets Harriet, but doesn’t recognize her as she is now thin and sexy. He may claim that he liked the previous fat version of Harriet because of some connection that fat chicks always hoped to have with the hot guys in high school, and now life has rewarded her for boning a fat chick back in high school by turning said fat chick into a hot thin bae. She understandably plays along by pretending to be someone else at first, but she soon worries when things get heated up. How will she ever explain to him that he had knocked her up all those years ago?
Not the Marrying Kind tries to cover a lot of ground – too much, in my opinion, to the point that much of this story feels superficial. Jake has family issues – his father’s failed marriages sour his opinion of romance, blah blah blah – and so does Harriet – lack of love and appreciation from Mom and Dad, she wants to be an artist but nobody but Jake understands her, blah blah blah. She also has issues with her mother-in-law, who accuses her of “pretending” to love the now dead gay husband and trying to steal Zach from the family. Zach’s father and his wife-to-be want their share of the limelight too. Various other secondary characters also show up to say hi. As a result of all these things, the author don’t have much space to develop each element adequately.
As a result, Jake’s epiphany seems to come from the fact that he learns that he is a father and, somehow, having a brat in his life changes everything, erasing all doubts and insecurities in his life just like that. I wish real life is that simple, I really do. There is a tell-more, show-less quality to the character development in this story, which is a shame because there is a lot of pleasant things here. Jake, for example, behaves quite reasonably when he learns that he is a father – he listens and understands why he wasn’t told earlier, and he’s willing to do the right thing with Zach. Harriet’s reason for delaying the revelation can be iffy to some readers, but I like her – she has believable emotions and she is also pretty smart and sure of her self-worth, and I find her actions and motivations understandable and even relatable.
If the author had cut down on the clutter, this one would have been a clear, straightforward four-oogie read. As it is, I do like it, but I feel that it could have been so much better. The groundwork is all there, but the author ends up biting off more than she can chew when it comes to the amount of things that she has put into the story.