Dear Ms. Moore,
The first two pages of your novel Trouble Me made me uneasy. Your heroine, Jade Radcliffe, is driving to her family farm, Rosewood. As she drives, she thinks about all the people there she’s looking forward to seeing. There are her two sisters and their two husbands, her six nieces and nephews, and an elderly gentleman who’s worked for the family for years. Immediately, I felt as though I’d been dropped into someone’s family reunion without any idea who all the people milling about were. Trouble Me is the third in the Rosewood series. The first two books, which I’ve not read, tell the stories of the Jade’s sisters. By page three, I’d forgotten which perfect sister was married to which perfect guy; perhaps I might have enjoyed this book more had I read its predecessors, but I doubt it.
By page three of your book, Jade has decided to stop driving—it’s begun pouring rain—and spend the night in a motel. She does so, in part, to show her sisters, Margot and Jordan, “how much she’d matured.” Even though she’s only twenty-two, she’s “leagues removed from the Jade of yesteryear.” The old Bad Jade was
the one who sometimes felt the need to step right up to edge and do something crazy with a wild, fiery lick of danger. But though she’d had her share of parties and experiences, it hadn’t prevented her from getting straight A’s even with a super-charged course load, being the top scorer on her riding team, and writing a very popular advice column for the school paper.
Hmmmm, I thought, Bad Jade, doesn’t seem very bad to me. In fact, she seems like an over achiever. I began to hope she wasn’t going to be one of those practically perfect in every way heroines. Then, on page 17, after Jade has checked into a hotel, showered and put on “her white jeans, a Jean Paul Gautier chiffon tank… and a pair of high-heeled sandals” to head down to the bar where she just wants to have a drink and relax, she is described by Rob, the hero of the book.
Magnetic was the first word that came to his mind; within seconds she’d drawn every male eye in the bar to her. Trouble was the second. A woman who looked like this, slim yet curvy in all the right places, with sun-streaked hair that fell past her shoulders in thick waves, and with a walk that was bold yet carried sensual promise in each step, could only cause mayhem….
In the wrong place, this woman could start a riot.
The dynamite package only got more explosive as she neared and Rob took in the lushness of her lips and the high slash of her cheekbones. Passion and drama.
By the end of the third chapter, where Jade is proved to be not only super smart, a great rider, fabulous with kids (she’s just started teaching second grade), a vixen in bed, and able to eat all the junk food she wants without ever gaining a pound, I was ready to put the book down. Flawless folk don’t do it for me—and New Jade is flawless.
The only reason I kept reading was to see what came of what happened in Chapter Two. In that chapter, Jade walks into the above mentioned bar and, unsurprisingly is instantly hit on by a steady stream of losers. Rob tells one of the most overeager to get lost and gets Jade to dance with him instead. After standing in each other’s arms for about two minutes, Rob asks Jade—Bad Jade is back!–if she has a room. She says yes and off they run to have a night of no-holds, barred, staying up all night, smokin’ sex. Their encounter is supposed to be a one night stand—Jade won’t even give Rob her name. They part; sure they’ll never see each other again.
But, of course, such isolation is not to be. Not only does Rob live in the same town as Jade’s family—Warburg, Virginia—he and Jade have A PAST. Rob is twenty-nine and, like all the men in his family, has worked for the Warburg Police force his entire adult life. He busted teenage Bad Jade twice—she thought of him as RoboCop–and, the second time, while he was booking her, his saintly and beloved wife died suddenly, at home and alone, of a burst appendix. Ever since then, he’s blamed Bad Jade for the fact that he wasn’t at home to save his wife. Jade and Rob hadn’t seen each other since that night and, despite how unique looking Jade is, Rob didn’t recognize her nor she him the night they got down and dirty.
Rob is completely freaked out when he realizes that not only is Bad Jade back in town; she’s his daughter Hayley’s new second grade teacher. So, he goes to parent/teacher night at the school, and both he and Jade are SHOCKED to see that the other is that wild one nighter neither can forget. Rob of course, does the only thing any sane man would do in a classroom on parent/teacher night. He glares at Jade throughout the evening and then, when all the other parents have left, comes up, bitches her out for being a slut and thus inappropriate to be a second grade teacher, grabs her, kisses her passionately (she, of course responds), sticks his fingers in her panties, and asks if she has a condom. Jade who interprets his question to imply he really does think she’s a slut, shoves him off her, kicks him out of her classroom, and then sobs because—I think—she’s devastated he has such a low opinion of her. At this point, I made a notation in the margin of my book: This book is peopled by aliens.
Dutifully, I kept reading. I learned lots about horses—the Radcliffes own many, ride often, and discuss them at great length. I marveled at how completely unrealistic Jade’s teaching experience was portrayed. I paged through the very odd sub-plot in which Jade hires a private investigator to find out who her dead mother was cheating on her dead father with. (The resolution of that plot is so bizarre, it was almost impressive.) I yawned as all the other Radcliffes and their perfect families floated in and out of the story, full of love and trifling bon mots. I wasn’t the least bit startled to see Rob realize teenage Bad Jade was just misunderstood and New Jade is a goddess. I considered flipping to the end to see how it would all turn out, but realized there was no need—there was bound to be a wedding, a baby on the way, lots of kids decked out in cute outfits, and probably a horse or two. Sadly, I was sure there wouldn’t be a mother ship taking the perfect Radcliffe family and their spouses back to Alienland.
Frankly, if I were the peerless Radcliffe family, I’d want to get the hell out of Warburg. It is not my kind of town. At one point, Jade almost loses her teaching job because, horrors of horrors, she once wrote a sex/relationship advice column for her college paper. This heinous crime is taken very seriously by much of the town, the principal, the School Board, and several of her students’ parents; Jade is forced to take a leave of absence. It’s only after several people actually read the column and decide it’s a good thing to
have young people be informed about sex and sexuality through the intelligent writing of their peers
turning to the distorted world of reality TV and the Internet for their information
that the town embraces Jade.
This book was a slowly paced, unbelievable read. I suspect many might find it charming. I found it tiresome and unenjoyably superficial.
If this book were a painting, it would have been painted by Thomas Kinkade—it’s a story full of glorious joy, charming children, doting siblings, and oodles of truer than true love. It reads like this piece looks:
I give the book a C-.