Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7340-2
Contemporary Romance, 2002
Look, I know I am not the most cheerful person on Earth. Some things make me laugh, and some things don’t. Stupid heroines rarely make me laugh. Guys with a too large sense of self-entitlement (“City gals must follow my philosophy and learn to love nature because that’s the only way!”) make me groan. A plot that makes a mockery of love and career makes me nauseous. Combine all three in a book and you see me weeping into a giant glass of tequila as I sing off-key to Bryan Ferry’s Oh Yeah in an attempt to numb the pain in my heart.
It’s not the plot, really, it’s the execution. Lisa Plumley misses the boat by believing that it’s better to just have the heroine stumble, fall, shriek, and exclamation-mark herself into love again instead of taking time to show me why she should fall in love.
Jayne Murphy is the bestselling author of Heartbreak 101, a book she wrote based on her broken love affair with Riley Davis, a typical outdoorsman type who just upped and vanished one day. Can I not go into this author’s idea of overcoming heartbreak? Let’s just say it involves, among other things, dolling oneself up with too much make-up and singing too much bad karaokes.
A miscommunication leads Jayne and her workshop entourage to the backwoods area best called Paul Bunyan Land. She is expecting spa, jacuzzi, and other ersatz nature resorts catering to the rich and pampered, so she is ill prepared – and ill-equipped – to handle the wilds. So who comes in to the rescue but Riley Davis? Yes, that Riley.
If the author wants me to believe that these two reconnect, she better dang well show me why. But instead, all I get is Riley baiting Jayne and Jayne rising hysterically to bite the bait and gets into all sorts of wet, messy, dirty, and humiliating situations as a result. So much so that I am convinced she loves him in the end out of exhaustion and mortal fear of falling into yet another river/ditch/whatever.
I don’t think the women in Jayne’s entourage actually said anything apart from nodding and chiming “Oh yes!” like robotic sheep. Why put in so many characters when the author can’t even handle two characters well?
It is also quite sad that the secondary “romance” between Riley’s teenage niece and an equally teenage guide is the most mature element in this story.
But the final and mortal insult the way the story is resolved. Jayne decides that she has never gotten over Riley, so she can’t betray herself. So bye-bye ambition, dreams, and career – all tossed away for love with the monkey man! When I reflect at the way the whole relationship between Riley and Jayne is so badly handled, and when I take in the apparent message from the story – getting over a lousy ex is something that is essentially wrong – I see red everywhere.
I’m sure there are readers who find Ms Plumley’s pathetically naive outlook of love and romance (in romance there is no such thing as goodbye, so keep waiting and waiting for him to come back, girls, it’ll be worth it, because it’s always one and only one forever) acceptable, while others can choose to see this book as a silly but fun light-hearted romp.
But as for me, stupid and silly and bad writing are three things too much for me to take. Reconsidering Riley has me considering several enjoyable alternatives during the course of me reading it. The final conclusion? It’s a toss up which will be a better experience than this book – between bathing in molten lava or swimming naked in a pond of ravenous piranhas, it’s a really tough choice.