|Tawna Fenske stumbles a bit in her second contemporary romance, Believe It Or Not, relying too much on romance novel clichés. Violet McGinn is a practical-minded accountant who lives in Portland, Maine, about as far away as she can get from her mother, Moonbeam, who is Portland, Oregon’s most successful psychic. But when her mother breaks several bones in a fall, Violet agrees to come home temporarily and take on Moonbeam’s clients, although she lacks either psychic abilities or a belief in any sort of extrasensory perception.
Drew Watson, owner of the bar next door to Moonbeam’s office, is immediately attracted to the buttoned-down yet sexy Violet, but he and Moonbeam are often at odds and he’s not looking for another relationship with an uptight chick like his ex-wife. But as Violet desperately attempts to keep her mother’s business afloat, she starts to wonder if the hair-band rock songs Drew spins for his wildly popular male stripper nights are sending her psychic messages. And although she is pursued by an eligible, straight-laced doctor, she finds that her fantasies all involve Drew – and learning how to use that stripper pole.
Fenske’s debut novel, Making Waves, was a delightful surprise and one of my favorite contemporary romances of 2011. Unfortunately, it’s easy to pinpoint where Believe It Or Not fails to measure up. The book’s Portland setting, while full of native quirkiness, is no match for Making Wave’s tropical adventure on the high seas. The clichés – from Violet tripping and falling into Drew’s arms numerous times to Drew’s patented “no more women like my ex-wife” attitude, to copious scenes of coitus interruptus – overwhelm the clever dialogue, and the secondary characters, especially Moonbeam’s hippie friends, are over the top caricatures.
Fenske does have a definite talent, however, for creating strong chemistry between her likeable lead characters, and it’s fun to revisit the hair band (or “butt rock,” as Drew calls it) songs of my youth. If this is the author’s sophomore slump, it’s not a major step backwards, and I still consider her one of the brighter stars on the contemporary romance horizon.