|It’s been a while since I picked up a Silhouette Romance, and I was looking forward to re-acquainting myself via this series, “Love at the Goodtime Café.” Based on A Taste of Paradise, it might be a while before I venture back. Have traditional categories really gotten this by-the-numbers unimaginative? Okay, boring?
Tori Sheridan overhears her father and her fiancé discussing a business merger on the eve of her wedding. It becomes clear that the fiancé is a snake and Daddy engineered the marriage so Tori’s shares of company stock will be under control, so he’s essentially bought her a husband. Shaken, Tori decides to run away – in her red 1966 Corvette. It never occurs to her that the car will be a bit conspicuous, but then, Tori doesn’t have a lot of smarts at any time during this story. For example: we find that Tori won’t get her inheritance until she’s either thirty or married. But she’s already twenty-nine. So why can’t she tell the fiancé to kiss off and just hang loose for six months? No, it’s easier and far more dramatic to run away.
Tori manages to get herself to Arizona, where her car breaks down outside the small town of Haven (get it?) Who should come along but the local sheriff, handsome Nate Hunter, who takes one look at the trail of oil from her car and declares she has a problem with her “rear end.” Tori’s initial nervousness subsides as she decides, “surely her father hadn’t alerted the authorities.” Let’s see. A wealthy businessman’s daughter disappears on the eve of her wedding, which is supposed to be the “society event of the year” in San Francisco, and she reasons that he won’t even bother to call the police?
Tori accompanies Nate into Haven, where they contact the local mechanic and end up sitting at the Goodtime Café. Tori is almost out of money, and her corporate credit card (she works as an “executive assistant” for her father, though she has a college degree in child development) has been declined and confiscated. All she has with her is her honeymoon suitcase, which is apparently full of lingerie and little else. Conveniently, the café’s owner, Sam, is in desperate need of a waitress and even has a shabby apartment sitting empty upstairs. Guess who’s going to get a real job?
Nate thinks Tori is beautiful but high-class, etc. Besides, he has no time for love – he’s busy trying to buy back his family’s ranch. Being a hunky sheriff isn’t enough – as an insurance policy, let’s make him a cowboy, too, and a master woodcarver, and an ex-football star who just missed making the pros due to an injury. (I am not making this up.) Tori isn’t sure she can trust Nate. Plus, what will happen when Daddy finds her? But in the meantime, she’ll Be Independent! Yes! She’ll Learn to Take Care of Herself!
Good lord, couldn’t the author come up with something, anything less generic than this? Even the names of the characters are all out of some Stock WASP-Sounding Name Directory. Ryan Clark. Nate and Betty Hunter. Jed Foster. Alliston Denton. Nancy Turner. This is Arizona - how about a Martinez? Or a Whitehorse? Or even a Dombrowski?
The plot proceeds with faithful predictability as everyone in town comes to love Tori and she and Nate fall for each other. Tori, who has Daddy Issues and wants Daddy to love her, does nothing surprising, even at the end, when she has a perfect opportunity to turn the tables on her father. This sets up a contrived climax that’s as exasperating as it is conventional. Just once, wouldn’t it be great for one of these needy heroines to say ”Screw you, Dad, you S.O.B., how’s it feel to be lied to and used?” and then ride off into the sunset with the hero? I know, I know, what am I thinking? Rest assured, it doesn’t happen here, either.
The story isn’t badly written, but it’s about as entertaining as watching bread rise. Or to use another analogy, reading this book is like going to your favorite old pizza parlor and being served a bowl of Cream of Wheat. Unless you’re in the mood for a recycled plot and stock characters, A Taste of Paradise is only going to taste bland. I can’t recommend it.