St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22626-6
Contemporary Romance, 2009
After reading the first fifty pages of Susan Donovan’s The Girl Most Likely To…, I actually paused to check the name of the author on the cover. For a while, I was convinced that I had bought a book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips by mistake. No, this is not a compliment, sorry. I gave up on Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s books when she started churning out books featuring creepily tragic martyrs with wounded doe fragility. I’m not a bleeding heart type that enjoys this kind of stories.
And this one is definitely a story for bleeding hearts out there. The heroine is in such an unhappy place that her romance with an unreasonable jackass of a hero ends up being the best succor she can find from the relentless tragedy that is her life. I end up pitying her rather than cheering her on.
Kit Cavanaugh was in an unhappy place sixteen years ago. After catching her abusive father in an adulterous shag, she lashed out at him only to learn that her own mother wouldn’t stand by her side. Cast out of her house, she ran to her boyfriend Riley Bohland, wanting to tell him that she was pregnant with his kid, only to have the rich brat tell her that he didn’t want to see her again. She fled… and now she’s back, twenty years later and all of 36, in Persuasion to settle some loose ends. She finds her mother dead, her father at the brink of death still acting like an asshole, and Riley lashing out at her for being so cold as to deny him their kid for twenty years.
Oh, Riley. I love this fellow. He tells Kit that he wasn’t really meaning to dump her, he just wanted his own father off his back, so she should be understanding rather than holding a grudge against him. And yet, at the same time he continuously lashes out at her for being “selfish” and “cold” even after realizing that Kit wasn’t in a happy place sixteen years ago. This is a situation where there is no one that can blamed – they were both kids and perhaps it is time to just make peace for the sake of the kid. But no. Riley, pushing 40, keeps behaving like an emo brat whose self-pity party for one is even pointed out early in the story by his P Diddy-wannabe of a brother, and I tell you, such behavior is most unappealing in a hero of his age. Is his anger reasonable? Perhaps, but his continuous anger isn’t, especially when he can’t understand why Kit doesn’t just forgive him even as he refuses to do the same to her.
The story keeps piling on the tragedy, the angst, and the melodramatic anguish on poor Kit that I find myself wondering whether I have picked up a script for One Life to Live or something. There are some amazing hard-to-believe coincidences here as well, and really, poor Kit can’t catch a break.
Ultimately, for a romance to work, I have to believe that it is worth it. In this case, poor Kit has to settle for Riley who isn’t just an ass but a close-to-being-bankrupt one as well, one who comes with an insane ex-girlfriend for a baggage to boot. If I were Kit, I would given the whole town my middle finger by page 100 and flee the place in the next bus, because even a stay in Salem’s Lot would be more preferable to heaving to endure a single day in this pit of ridiculous melodramatic angst. And the hero isn’t even a decent catch! What is the point of the whole thing?