LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52581-X
Contemporary Romance, 2004
Ann Kline’s debut The Ride to Dinah’s Wedding is literally a fun ride to the happy ending. While there are times when I’m not sure whether the author is making gentle fun of or outright mocking her Southern, God-fearing, kooky, honky-tonky characters and their lives, she has a very vivid voice and her sense of fun carries itself so well through the story that I have a hard time resisting it.
Dinah Lee has been left at the altar a while back by the no-good deceptively nice Woodrow Monroe. Woody’s cousin Seth Hadley is also not amused with Woody’s antics, especially the part where Woody took five thousand dollars from him before his disappearing act. Now, he believes that he has located Woody and parks his pickup outside Dinah Lee’s house at dawn and calls out to her to see whether she wants to come along with him as he go pound some righteousness into the “lying, swamp-sucking, two-toned, belly-crawling snake” (as Dinah calls Woody). She hops into the pickup without hesitation and there they go, from Florida to Spokane in an adventure of madcap mishaps and of course, love.
Not that this book is perfect. Dinah Lee has a very high tendency to annoy: she’s described by the author as someone who has problems establishing emotional boundaries even with the chicken Dinah keeps, but Dinah is also the type of person that will castigate Seth for trying to overpower and haul a young kid aiming a gun at them because the kid is young. Dinah may be feisty, but she’s also the ditzy Pollyanna type whose “Aww, everything is nice and pretty, God bless us all!” shucks-and-clucks outlook in life has me wanting to throttle her more than once. The only thing that saves her from being a total loss, in my opinion, is that Dinah possesses a degree of intelligence that allows her to be more aware about her feelings and quirks of the heart than her actions in this story would suggest. Seth, on the other hand, is a take-charge, good-natured hero who isn’t bad at all for a character who could use a little more fleshing out.
But Seth isn’t the only character that’s underwritten. Dinah Lee is too. In fact, the story relies probably a little much on wacky adventures and eccentric secondary characters our hero and heroine encounters on their trip to keep its momentum going. The secondary romance between a couple our hero and heroine encounter eventually becomes more interesting than the main romance.
But despite the thin plot, Dinah and Seth are on the whole a kooky couple that works well, with Dinah’s annoying personality actually complimenting Seth’s more good-natured, pragmatic personality very well. Some of the jokes make me cringe, but on the whole The Ride to Dinah’s Wedding brims with charming, upbeat humor. As a debut, this book has its share of flaws and misses, but Ms Kline’s sense of fun that comes through in her story is infectious. She has me smiling and chuckling all the way to the finish line. Maybe it’ll be a good idea to pay attention to what this author can come up with in the future.