|Note to self: in future, read dedication page before believing rave cover blurb from big-name romance author.
Following a “chaotic roller-coaster ride” of a childhood, Julia Wright loves the peace and quiet she’s found as reference librarian in Serenity Falls, Pennsylvania. She’s carefully constructed a life she enjoys – a cross between an L.L. Bean catalogue and a Pottery Barn display – and isn’t thrilled to have “hottie biker-man” Luke Maguire breeze into town and upset her apple cart.
Luke is the smoking, drinking, class-skipping bad boy Serenity Falls never forgot after he rode his motorcycle down the high school hallway to claim his diploma, then left town. After declining to attend the funeral of his abusive father a month ago, Luke has returned to claim his inheritance – a bar called, appropriately enough, Maguire’s. His father’s will stipulates that he has to live in Serenity Falls and run the bar for six months before he’s allowed to sell it.
Just to make Julia’s day complete, her wacky, free-spirited mother, whose “chosen name” is Angel, also shows up, with Julia’s sister, Skye, and Skye’s daughter, the aptly named Toni the Biter, in tow. They’ve also brought the two llamas that are Angel’s latest business venture.
Julia isn’t the only one who sees these arrivals as bad news. Neither Angel nor Luke’s brand of rebellion is welcomed by a mayor determined to get Serenity Falls on the list of Top Ten Best Small Towns in America by passing ordinances restricting the height of lawn grass and compelling everyone to paint their front doors an identical shade of green
In other words, abandon all hope of plausibility, ye who enter here.
Although it was nice to see a librarian who isn’t a dowdy prude, this book is definitely built on a shaky foundation of clichés and unfortunate stereotypes. The so-called humor depends almost entirely on the premise that small towns are populated by credulous dolts with the odd cynical loner thrown in for variety. Here’s an example. Most of the population of Serenity Falls flocks to see one of the llamas after one of the town’s well-known nutcases reports seeing an image of Jesus in its fur. If you find this sort of thing hilarious, then read the book rather than the review, by all means.
Be warned, though, there isn’t any kind of story – there’s just a long string of similar situations strung together. Presumably the author hoped we’d be so amused we wouldn’t notice the total lack of plot or conflict. I supposed this shouldn’t come as surprise – I mean, the only device she could come up with to get Luke to Serenity Falls was the perennially ridiculous ‘will stipulation.’ Unfortunately, it wasn’t any more believable here than it was any of the other hundred times I read it in romance novels.
Although, to her credit, the author managed to generate some nice sexual tension and some real heat between Luke and Julia, they don’t actually spend much time together. Instead, lots and lots of time is spent telling us the same things over and over – the townspeople are boobs, Angel is a well-meaning ditz, and Luke is a bad boy with a heart of gold. There’s a secondary romance between Angel and the town oddball, and Angel drops a bombshell on Julia about her father – but it’s all just filler.
There are no characters here, just stereotypes wandering in circles for 310 pages. There’s nothing keeping Julia and Luke apart except for his feelings of unworthiness (hardly any cliché there) and pages and pages of the verbal equivalent of Styrofoam peanuts.
And, oddly enough, even enthusiastic assurances from famous authors can’t make them taste any better.
-- Judi McKee