Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-234668-1
Contemporary Fiction, 2015 (Reissue)
The Sweet Spot is marketed as “a novel”, when it’s actually a straight up romance novel, and it’s probably a good thing because romance readers would most likely find this one very dated in feel. In fact, a cynical part of me wonders whether the author read her more famous relative’s category romances from the old days for inspiration. For example, the hero Chase Walker immediately pegs the heroine as someone who has “breeding” when he discovers that she comes from a rich family, never mind that a guy from his background would most likely not see the world through the lens of a character from Danielle Steele’s novels.
Chase is a pro baseball player who has given up the more exciting part of being famous. No more groupies, no drugs, no alcohol for him, thank you very much. Our heroine is Amanda Cole, another heroine described euphemistically as having “curves, lots of them”. This is, amusingly, a complete 180 from the last book (the heroine of that one had to slim down before she could nab the guy). I wonder whether it’s deliberate, as the author is not writing for Harlequin Presents, so it’s not like there is an editor pressing a gun against her head and insisting that she praises the virtues of wearing “minimal make-up” and having “curves”.
Anyway, Amanda runs the restaurant that Chase drops by for a meal one day, and I’m told that it’s love.
Yes, I’m told.
They began dating and the game changed. She dropped the attitude and focused on his company. That following Monday and Tuesday, she tagged along with Chase on some of his routine. She went with him to the gym, and won what she secretly named “the eye-candy sweepstakes”.
Isn’t that romantic? Can you feel the heat emanating from these words? The chemistry!
Seriously, the entire book is like that. Things that would have made the romance feel more real are glossed over, just like in the excerpt above, and as a result, the romance feels rote and mechanical. Another scene of note is that the heroine’s father, after talking to Chase for a while, proclaims that the man has integrity. How does he know? Because the author says so, clearly. A lot of things in this story have to bought by the reader wholesale, without questions, because the author says so. Otherwise, it’d be hard to enjoy the story.
It doesn’t help that the author’s efforts at comedy here often feel creepy. For example, when they first meet, Chase pretends to use his cell phone so that he can check out Amanda’s ass and curves without anyone noticing. Put the whole scene in a subway train and it would probably feel more appropriate. Or that Chase gets jealous when a male masseur starts working on Amanda, with the author describing in detail – yes, now she goes into detail – how the guy’s hands touch this, squeeze that. It’s like reading about a clumsy oaf manhandling dough in bakery class.
In the meantime, there are lots of unkind thoughts about other women who respond favorably to Chase’s charms and looks, with Amanda not even sparing some kindness for her employees.
But Nicki was probably just his type: perky, freewheeling, and always ready for her close-up. If he played his cards right, he could be banging her before daybreak.
The hypocrisy here is that Amanda is aching to be banged by him before daybreak too, so the whole thing makes her look as petty as can be. But that’s okay, she has CURVES, so she’s the good one!
As the romance progresses, Amanda exhibits the brainpower of a gnat. The back cover synopsis describes her as a “smart, headstrong businesswoman”, and Chase spends a lot of time saying the same thing about her in his head. But I don’t see it. She acts like someone who can’t function without her parents, especially her father, holding her hands, and by the late third of the book, her father is practically lecturing her on how to be sensible. Meanwhile, Amanda starts going overwrought and overboard, accusing Chase of all kinds of villainy (and throwing insults to actresses and other non-curvy females in the process) until the author runs out of pages, the two have a hasty marriage, and it’s a happily ever after, the characters apparently having learned nothing from their silly antics up to that point. But that’s okay. Amanda is curvy, she wears minimal make-up, and she has an amazing sweet spot between her thighs that makes her scream and flail around like an epileptic gorilla the moment Chase hits the home run, so she is the good one and OF COURSE there will be a happy ending. Yes, the title refers to that spot, you can read this book yourself if you don’t believe me.
With dated ideologies on how a woman should look and behave or how her “breeding” somehow makes her superior stock compared to low-rent skanks out there, crammed full of “telling, not showing” kind of narrative, and filled with increasingly overwrought and ridiculous behavior from the main characters, The Sweet Spot is more like… well, let’s just say that a more appropriate title for it would be one in which the word “sweet” is replaced by another S word usually associated with foul smells.