Honeymoon Hoax

Making Over Mike

Outlaw

 
Falling for April by Lisa Plumley
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-7111-6
**
I’m not a big fan of a) plots that rely on heavy contrivances to set them up, or b) characters who vow to break away from their family background but act just like their family members. Falling for April has both of these, right from the outset, and it colored my reading experience.

April Finnegan is a cook for a gourmet caterer in her small hometown of Saguaro Flats. Business is poor (no kidding, how much demand could there be for a gourmet caterer in a town this small?) and April’s boss isn’t sure what to do. When he finds that April has actually fulfilled a customer’s request and created anatomically correct chocolate confections in the shape of a man, he does what any customer-oriented businessman would do.

He fires April.

See what I mean? In order to get this woman unemployed, the boss has to act like an idiot. April, in need of money because her roommate just moved out and her freeloading brother just moved in, crawls back to the caterer and offers her services free, for a month. She’ll be a community liaison, and try to get the local businesses behind the gourmet catering business.

Meanwhile, rich socialite Ryan Forrester has been fleeced at the altar and decides to actually go to work at the family firm, Forrester’s Department Stores. After all, he has a job title as Vice President of something-or-other, he’s just never seen the inside of an office. In a scene more appropriate for a Danny deVito movie than a romance novel, Ryan is literally thrown out into the street by security guards the first time he shows up at company headquarters. But our hero is undeterred! First stop: Saguaro Flats, where the “flagship” Forrester store is located.

April is bucking family tradition. As in, all of her relatives are flakes, and she wants to be taken seriously. Her mother bounces checks and haunts garage sales. Her uncle filches bagels. Her brother, as we’ve noted, is a mooch. And how does April buck this tradition? By dressing in outfits like flowered miniskirts and hiking boots. Oh yes, that’s sure to make people take her seriously. I guess she’s meant to be a Free Spirit, not a Flake. But frankly, I was having a hard time buying this aspect, either. Why not just kick her brother off the couch, put on some normal clothes, and go look for a job?

Instead, Ryan first meets April when she’s dressed in a giant chipmunk costume at a pizza parlor. He’s there to drum up interest in community liaisons with the department store. April is incensed. How dare he horn in on her idea! Since Forrester’s isn’t in the gourmet catering business, I figured there would be room for both, but that would leave the plot with nowhere to go.

So April challenges Ryan to do without his family money, and he accepts. Now he has to win people over on his own, including April. No more buying people off.

A story with these kinds of improbabilities and over-the-top situations ends up sinking itself. As I read Falling for April, the whole book seemed to be screaming “I WANNA BE A SCREENPLAY!” The characters, the situations, the humor all appeared to have been written as though the end goal was to be a “madcap comedy” for the big screen, Julia Roberts in the title role, please. At least for this reader, it backfired. By page 50, I was so annoyed with good looking-but-useless Ryan and flaky-as-a-box-of-Wheaties April that I was hard-pressed to continue reading. Neither of them felt remotely like anyone I’d ever met or even imagined meeting. Sort of like most characters in Hollywood comedies.

The author has a strange writing style. April and Ryan utter a sentence of dialogue, then expound on it with internal dialogue and throwaway one-liners. Then there’s another line of dialogue, then another few sentences of one-liners. It was tiring to keep up with them. Some of the internal banter was funny, but the overall effect was that I lost the train of conversation.

Okay, I agree. Humor is about the most subjective element a romance novel can have, and Falling for April is a shining example. It just didn’t work for me, but others will read this synopsis, their interested will be piqued, and they’ll want to take a look.

--Cathy Sova


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