Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-61787-1
Contemporary Romance, 2008
If Tall Tales and Wedding Veils is anything to go by, I’ve better hope that Jane Graves doesn’t show up at my doorstep with some swamp land to sell me because I suspect that I won’t be able to say no to her. By right, I’m too cynical to appreciate a story with a premise like Tall Tales And Wedding Veils. I know that the romance will most likely end in tears and lots of embarrassing drunken behavior. But when Ms Graves is selling me the fantasy, I lap the whole thing up like a starving mongrel.
The premise is, to me, pretty silly. In Las Vegas, we have our heroine Heather Montgomery fully intending to have a miserable time with her cousin Regina and the other bridesmaids of Regina’s upcoming wedding. Our hero Tony McCaffrey is in town hoping to win twenty thousand dollars to buy a bar. Heather knows Tony from afar because she drops by the bar now and then to get a drink. When Heather learns of Tony’s plight, she decides to help him win the money. She gets him the money and somehow, in the joyous celebration that follows, they get so drunk that they end up married. If you have read enough Harlequin Blaze books, you will know what will happen in the morning and thereafter, I’m sure.
Oh yes, I have my issues with the story. Let’s begin with the question of what kind of stupid woman that will give twenty thousand dollars away to some guy that doesn’t even know that she exists until that moment. It’s not as if she’s paying for his stud service, which I’d at least understand even if I think that no man is really worth twenty thousand bucks, especially when you can buy so many pretty things with all that money. Heather’s biggest problem, to me, is not that she is fifteen pounds overweight or that she is too plain-looking – she is mired in inertia. Seriously, she doesn’t even think of using that money to get at least a face lift, instead she’d rather spend time telling herself that she is not pretty because that is how much she has become used to her situation. It is frustrating, therefore, to follow Heather at various moments in this story as she tends to wallow in her inertia way too much. Also, she is a standard romance heroine in that she also has this lovely tendency to insist on being miserable because she imagines that other people will feel happier that way. Heather has her various annoying moments in this story.
Tony is no prize either. This is one guy that can’t keep his pants zipped up, doesn’t have any decent sense of responsibility, and decides that he wants Heather only after she says that she loves him. I have this feeling that for him, love is all about what he wants. In this case, a woman loves him and therefore, he thinks it is so cool. Besides, a cynical part of me notes that Heather, while staying with him to give everyone the impression that they are really married, cleans up every room in his house without being asked and she also puts out and is willing to be tossed aside like wet rag if he doesn’t want her afterwards because she’s so nice and sweet like that. Seriously, what’s not to love? I suspect that if I ask any random guy on the street whether they can convince themselves to love an undemanding, placid, and eager-to-please brown cow like Heather, they’d say yes in a heartbeat.
But… I love this story. It helps that the brown cow Heather has her share of one-liners, although I wish she’s a little less self-depreciating in her barbs at times. Tony is a funny fellow as well. I’m not sure whether I will marry him were I Heather because this fellow is more of a fling material rather than long-term husband material, but then again, I’m not desperate like Heather, heh. Ms Graves’ greatest triumph here, aside for the fact that she made this story a laugh-out-loud too funny romantic comedy, is just how well she turns Tony into a woobie. Seriously, folks, I actually cry at the reconciliation scene because this is how well Ms Graves sells me Tony’s woobie status. Oh, the fellow has a sad past, awww. He just needs some love and understanding, how sad. The cynical part of me will scoff at the whole idea that a man is fooling around with thin and pretty women because he is searching for love and understanding that only the fat girl, patiently waiting in the wings to clean and coddle him, can provide. But because Tony is such an effective woobie, I find myself buying the fantasy without even realizing it until it’s a done deal.
I really shouldn’t enjoy this story because the plot and the characters are textbook examples of contemporary romance clichés that tend to get on my nerves. But Ms Graves manages to spin the whole thing into a wonderfully funny and even moving romantic comedy that I can only wonder how she does it. Tall Tales and Wedding Veils shouldn’t work for me, but it does. I really like this story and I… actually feel good about that, heh.