|I hadn’t read any of the previous books in this series about two beauticians who moonlight as sleuths, but the glowing reviews promised lots of laughs. Unfortunately, I didn’t find them.
Darla Denman is a fifty-something country singer whose once-stellar career and happy marriage self-destructed in a haze of partying, infidelity, and general diva behavior. That was fifteen years ago, and now she’s attempting a comeback under the management of her ex-husband, Bob Denman. Darla’s opening act will be Roxie Jo Denman, Bob’s young, talented, shrewish wife. Darla, Bob, Roxie Jo, and the band are headed for Midland, Texas and an appearance at a telethon when their aging bus breaks down outside tiny Salt Lick.
When Roxie Jo informs the band that they are flat broke and no payroll is forthcoming, the backup singers abandon the band and head back to Nashville. Darla comes up with a brainstorm: hire a couple of locals to act as backup singers, since the music is pre-recorded anyway. All they’ll have to do is stand there and lip-sync. She heads to the local salon, and runs smack into two of her biggest fans: Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin. The two readily agree to the plan and once the bus is fixed, the entourage heads for Midland.
A big problem arises when Roxie Jo turns up dead in her dressing room with a nail file stuck in her neck. Since Darla and Roxie Jo had been sniping at each other all along, and Bob and Darla are discovering maybe their old flame is still burning hot, Darla is the immediate suspect. Good thing Debbie Sue and Edwina are licensed private investigators known as the Domestic Equalizers, because they can switch gears and get to the bottom of things.
The good news: Darla and Bob are fun, especially Darla. She’s portrayed as a woman with plenty of miles under her belt and some hard-won wisdom of how she screwed up her life. Darla is plenty feisty, but she’s definitely got warmth and charm, and her reconnection with Bob is enjoyable. One can’t help but root for them.
On the flip side, though, we have Debbie Sue and Edwina. By the third chapter, I had them labeled “the Mouse and the Mouth.” Debbie Sue spends too much time meekly deferring to Edwina and complaining about stuff that isn’t funny the first time, let alone the fifteenth. There’s a running joke about Debbie Sue only owning one pair of stilettos and not being able to balance on them, so she’s sure she’ll fall off them and disgrace herself as a backup singer. (Get a different pair of shoes, fool. Nobody is looking at the backup singers anyway.) Edwina struts around dropping the f-bomb into every other sentence, it seems, but rather than make her look tough and street smart, she just seems like a pushy loudmouth. I didn’t much like either one of them.
Speaking of running jokes, every fan Darla runs into thinks she’s been dead for years. I’m pretty sure country music fans (and I’m one myself) know how to Google, so this got old in a hurry.
As a humorous mystery with a touch of romance, I Can’t Make You Love Me didn’t work for me, but humor is about as subjective a reading experience as one can get, so I’m urging readers to check it out for themselves if they’ve enjoyed other books in the series or if this one sounds interesting.