HQN, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77215-5
Contemporary Romance, 2007
It’s pretty impressive that HQN manages to get permission from Celine Dion to use her prom night photo for the cover of Leslie Kelly’s She’s No Angel. Wait, she’s not Celine Dion, you say? Oh, okay.
This latest story to be set in the small town of Trouble pairs the youngest grandson of Mortimer Potts, Mike Taylor, with the niece the batcrap insane Feeney sisters, Jennifer Feeney. This could have been a most fabulous book were not for the fact that this book is very enjoyable in its first 60 or so pages only to stall like a very old car subsequently after.
Mike is in town to hopefully persuade his grandfather to give up his current high living as the eccentric master of all his domain, Trouble. If you have no clue what is happening, do read the review of the first book in this series, Here Comes Trouble, for a quick refresher course. Mortimer is pleased because he’s been planning to see all his grandsons settled down and Mike has fallen right into his clutches. He decides that Jennifer will be Mike’s perfect future wife.
Jennifer is in town to convince her aunts to move into an expensive home for old coots but the old biddies thwart her again and again. Mike first encounters her when she’s stranded five miles or so from Trouble and has to walk back to town. As these two get to know each other better, the secrets kept by the half-insane Feeney sisters will make things a little more interesting for everyone in this story.
At first, this book is a riot. Jennifer is the author of bestselling caustic parodies of relationship books such as Why Arsenic Is Better Than Divorce (“My husband died” is so much simpler to say than “My husband screwed our eighteen-year old babysitter in the back seat of our Lexus and is now shacking up with her in Laguna Beach while I try to bleed the bastard dry for child support”) and as a result, the men she meets nowadays are more interested in giving her ugly looks than bumping uglies with her. The prose is snappy and fun and it’s a laugh-a-minute affair where I am concerned. Mike is also a fun guy, a cold case police officer who enjoys putting puzzles together. He’s not too keen on getting involved with someone so soon after his last relationship ended with him getting shot. Don’t ask.
However, the book sputters and comes to a halt after the first 60 or so pages. This is mostly due to the fact that there is really no good reason why Mike and Jennifer don’t hook up. Ms Kelly therefore resorts to the same trick that plagued her previous books: she has her characters, especially Jennifer, indulge in excruciatingly repetitious psychobabbles to prolong the inevitable. Jennifer’s thought process is always the same: she likes him, she finds him hot, but no, she must not give in. No, no, no! Then, when she finally caves in, it’s Mike’s turn to pull the “No, no, he must not give in!” thing. She gets annoyed and decides to show him that she will not be ignored. She reels him in, things get heated up, and then she’ll pull the “No, I must not give in!” thing. Repeat and rinse. After so many of such tedious games, my eyes begin to glaze.
Repetition is also a problem when it comes to the constant rehashing of the main characters’ back story in nearly every chapter in the first quarter or so of this book. It is not as if the author is adding any new information with each rehashing of the characters’ past (Mike was shot! Jennifer gets hate mail and pointed looks from guys!). Some tighter editing to remove the redundant repetitions would have improved matters tremendously, I believe. As it is, the constant repetition of information on top of the characters’ repetitious little games with each other make this book a tedious chore of a read at times.
I am also confused by Jennifer’s relationship with the Feeney hags. These hags are macabre yet amusing when they are secondary characters but when they play a larger role in this story, I don’t know what the author is trying to do with them. Ida Mae and Ivy are no eccentric biddies – Jessica’s childhood memory of them includes one of them threatening to smother her to death with a pillow – but Jennifer acts as if they are. For all her alleged sass, Jennifer is constantly being snowed by these biddies, which is bad enough as she comes off really stupid as a result.
However, I am also told that Jennifer not only supports these women, she also cleans up their houses on her own whenever she drops by. The biddies berate her and treat her as a nuisance in return. Personally, I’d have happily let their roofs fall over their heads if I were Jennifer. Yet Jennifer claims to love these biddies and lets them walk all over her when they rarely show her any hint of affection in this story. I don’t understand Jennifer. Why does she adore these crazy women so much? There is nothing the two hags did in the past to warrant her affections. I am confused by the portrayal of the Feeney sisters and Jennifer’s attitude towards them. I can’t help feeling that Ms Kelly is unsure of whether to go all out and make the Feeney hags the twisted characters that they should be or try to make them “cute” and “eccentric” instead.
Ultimately, I’m not just bored witless by the silly games played by the main characters in order to prolong their inevitable shag, I am also totally confused by the main supporting characters in the story.
The only bright side in this bewildering story is the beautiful love story of the elderly Emily Baker. Emily spent all her life taking care of her parents until, finally, her parents have departed this world and she can finally live her own life. But at that point she’s already seventy years old. Emily has dreams of seeing the world outside of Trouble but she realizes that she will most likely never live out any of her dreams. She instead finds vicarious pleasure in watching and re-watching romantic movies on her prized VCR, until she finds love in this book with Mortimer’s best friend and manservant. This is a much better story compared to the juvenile antics of the main characters and therefore I find it most disappointing that Ms Kelly barely pays attention to this secondary love story in this book. Perhaps I will enjoy this book better if the main story is about Emily and Roderick.