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Susan Mallery

REVIEW: Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery

REVIEW: Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery

Almost Perfect by Susan MalleryDear Ms. Mallery:

As you might have guessed, I have a love/hate relationship with your books.   My favorite is Simply Irresistible and I don't know if I could pinpoint exactly why but it is a contemporary I recommend with some regularity.   (I tried to give it to some reporter for NBC at the RWA in San Francisco but I can't remember if she took it or not).   The problem I had with the first book in the series is that I felt that the premise didn't match up with the way the story played out. Luckily I had no such problems with Almost Perfect. (As an aside, if you don't want to read my review, read natuschan because her review reflects most of my feelings about this book).

Almost Perfect is an amalgamation of popular contemporary romance tropes.   It has the secret baby.   The small town girl from the wrong side of the tracks making it big and coming home to win the heart of the town's golden boy.   The small town ostracizing the bad girl and then coming around to protect her.

Liz Sutton was a pretty girl whose mom is the town bicycle and because of her looks, her mother's promiscuity, and their poverty, Liz is targeted in high school as a slut.   She isn't, though, and doesn't give up her virginity until she falls for Ethan Hendrix, back from college.   Ethan is the son of one of the town's founding families.   He urges her to keep their relationship secret. One day she overhears him being asked if he is seeing her and he denies it and denies ever wanting someone like her.

Liz is crushed and runs away only to discover she is pregnant.   She returns to Fool's Gold   but finds Ethan in bed in his tiny apartment above his parent's garage with another girl, a girl who was mean and horrible to Liz in high school.   Liz runs away again.   Five years later she returns, feeling guilty about having kept their son a secret.   Only Ethan isn't there and he is married so Liz tells Ethan's wife about the son and in return receives a letter from Ethan telling her he wants nothing to do with her or her son.

Fast forward 6 years.   Liz is now a successful mystery writer but returns home to Fool's Gold when she discovers her nieces have been abandoned by their stepmother after their father (and her brother) was sent to prison.

Everyone in town treats her like she pariah.   They never thought much of her before and they despise her even more for keeping Ethan's son away from him.   In turn, Liz can't wait to shake the dust of Fool's Gold off her feet fast enough.

Like Nat, I thought the kids were realistically portrayed in the book.   Liz was a great parent and her son, Tyler, is really well adjusted but finding out who his dad was throws a wrench in things and suddenly Tyler thinks he loves his dad more, maybe even wants to live with his dad.   Then there are her two nieces.   Liz hasn't been much of an aunt before and these two girls are very gunshy when it comes to parenting adults.   They don't welcome Liz wholeheartedly.

I also appreciated the showing of how difficult parenting is, particularly when Ethan is forced to realize it isn't all pizza parties and take out.

I was a little disappointed at how quickly Liz fell back into bed with Ethan.   I recognize she had been alone for a long time and that despite the way Ethan had failed to be there for her, repeatedly, throughout the years, that she had a lot of feeling for him.   But more importantly, they did not use a condom.   WHAT THE HELL!   She had gotten pregnant with Tyler being with Ethan in high school and had to raise the kid by herself for 11 years.   She never once thought to use a condom?   I guess it was to show how swept away by passion they were, but seriously?

I liked Evan less than I did Liz.   Like Nat, I felt he was incredibly selfish and rarely thought about anyone else's feelings but his own.   He had a strong code of honor yet it was never employed for the benefit of Liz.   In fact, throughout the book, he continually acted in a manner that seemed unconsciously designed to hurt Liz.   Eventually he comes around and makes a grand gesture, but I never quite felt like he loved Liz like she was his one true love.   He seemed like   one of those guys who just wants to be in a relationship and so long as that relationship provided him with a comfortable life, he would be satisfied.   I wondered whether he knew himself.

Still, I did understand Liz's attraction for Ethan.   He represented all that she never had: safety, security and respect.   Add in that she was sexually attracted to him; he was her first love and the father of her child; and it all made sense why she was with Ethan.     There was a weird suspense plot at the very end which I think served to distract from the coalescing of the romance than further it.     It came out of nowhere and I don't think it was needed to propel the characters to the end point.

In the end, though, I agree with Nat that Liz is what makes this book.   She refuses to be intimidated, she accepts responsibility for her actions, and she stands up to her critics whether it is Ethan's mom, the town or even Ethan himself.     B-

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery

REVIEW: Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery

Chasing Perfect By Susan MalleryDear Ms. Mallery:

I liked this book but not as much as I thought I would. Maybe in another re-read it would be a favorite but for some reason I never became emotionally engaged.

The hook is that Fool’s Gold is a town with too many women and not enough men.    Charity Jones   is brought in as a city planner for Fool’s Gold and charged with the mission of bringing new businesses to town, starting with a research facility to be built by California University. The research facility will bring an influx of males into the town because, ah, researchers are male jobs? There was this weird dynamic going on between what I think was supposed to be a pro female story (we women can be business owners, engineers, mayors, city planners, chiefs of police, etc.) but the whole goal of the town is to bring in men for the women to marry and thus that meant bringing in men jobs.

(I get that there will be a bunch of books around the men of Fool’s Gold and the desperate women who need them)

If men are the scarce meat in Fool’s Gold then Josh Golden is prime Waygu beef. Second youngest cyclist to win the Tour de France, Josh Golden retired at the prime of his career after the death of one of his teammates in the peloton. Golden didn’t retire from grief or injury. He retired because he is full of fear. He is scared that the next time he races he’ll be the one with the severed spine.   But Josh is as afraid of showing his weaknesses as he is of the weakness itself.   His past is a Lifetime Original Special, left tattered and broken by his mother, Josh is taken in by the town and has become its celebrated son, an image he works hard to keep polished.

The besetting sin of this book is its  superficiality because I often felt that what was so obvious on the surface was contradicted by the actions of the characters.   For instance, from the minute that Charity comes to Fool’s Gold she is warmly embraced by all the single women.   Further, everyone starts pushing John and another local single male at her. The ease at which Charity is  assimilated  into the small town with nary a hint of animosity is also almost utopian.

Wouldn’t a town that is desperate for men be jealous of its precious and scarse resources instead of throwing them at some pretty stranger?   I don’t think that a truly man hungry town would be throwing their tastiest treats at a new diner. And why wouldn’t the mayor, desperate to bring men to the town hire a male city planner and not a female one?

Josh, who rides bicycle at night so no one can see him, spills all his dirty, dark secrets to Charity after almost no prompting and only a few days of acquaintance.

I did appreciate the manner in which Charity’s attraction to Josh was portrayed.   She recognized that she was developing a huge crush on him and her star struck response, not at his accomplishments, but at his stunningly good looks, was charming.

The conflict that separated the two, however, wasn’t well developed.   I understood that Charity wanted to settle down and create roots after the nomadic existence she lived with her flighty mother, but I wasn’t able to translate this desire to settle down with her antipathy toward Josh, the star athlete.   She was convinced that if Josh raced again that his quest for fame would take him away from her.

I think I understood what   you were going for. Josh came to Fool’s Good to lick his wounds and once his fears dissipated so would any relationship or so thinks Charity. The problem is that I didn’t believe in it. Because we were in inside Josh’s head, we knew his quest to get back into competitive racing wasn’t for the fame component.   Plus, there wasn’t anything externally   that would   give Charity the impression that Josh was a fame whore and that he was an inconstant guy.

Sure Josh lived in the hotel but he had dozens of ties to that community and it was clear he would always return there.   Maybe if the conflict had been that Charity wouldn’t have wanted to travel with Josh or if she wasn’t prepared to become an athlete’s wife who would spend hours alone while her husband trained, I could have been more sympathetic but that isn’t how it was portrayed.   It centered around this whole “fame” thing and Josh was never portrayed as a fame hungry man, making Charity’s opposition to their relationship as irrational.

Despite the problems I had with Charity, the story was an easy read.   Josh was charming with a somewhat simplistic story arc.   The matriarchs of Fool’s Gold were both smart and comical.   I thought for the most part the story was a very pro feminine one but I would have liked the insides of the cake to have matched the outer frosting.   It would have made for a more palatable desert.   C+

Best regards

Jane

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