May 3 2006
Dear. Ms. Blazer,
I like a lot about Brand Name Dates yet at times I wanted to scream with frustration. I’ve had a hard time coming up with a final grade and might still flip-flop a bit more. You’ve got the classic elements of Chick Lit – first person narrative, good but not top notch job (applause for using photojournalism instead of the usual PR position, and you obviously know a lot about it), a pushy parent urging the heroine to date more, friends alternately helping and hindering the story’s progression, a hero present from early in the book who is basically a decent guy and a series of loser men who serve to show the heroine what a catch the hero is. I never wanted to toss the book and in fact read steadily until the end because I wanted to know how it would all work out. So, what didn’t I like?
Well, for starters I know this is Chick Lit and that things are played a bit broadly in those but the heroine annoyed me more than once. Jill has been getting some harassment at work and her mother’s ad in the paper seeking men to apply for a position as her boyfriend has been bringing some bozos to her door yet she still goes off with men from the dating service that her paper has hired her to report about with seemingly very little regard for her personal safety. Yes, she pays for this later on but she entered into some situations that were past my comfort level for a long time. And when that something bad was attempted, she goes off to someone’s house rather than go home because she doesn’t want to hear her roommate tell her “I told you so?” Then lugs her camera equipment into that house even though she’s been injured?
And Hayley the roommate annoyed me at times. She urges Jill to date then seems to criticize Jill for doing exactly what she suggested. Then when she could have said something about one of Jill’s dates, she clams up after a few cryptic sentences. I know this is for plot reasons but if any friend of mine left me to twist in the wind like that, I’d shake her and yell some choice dirty words.
I really like the hero. He’s a decent guy and I like that you don’t make him a high powered professional or give him cliched employment. There are too many books that seem to think only doctors, lawyers and cowboys deserve love. But, at the risk of being contrary, he’s almost too Beta. And people with so few friends make me think of serial killers who finally get caught by the police after running out of room to bury the bodies. It’s just bizarre that he immediately starts spending so much time with Jill and Hayley. And I don’t like that he’s willing to lecture Jill but also won’t tell her the scoop. Again, I know you had to do it for the plot…
OK, what kept me reading? I like how much Jill likes her job and how well she does it. Usually Chick Lit heroines bitch and moan through the whole book about how much they hate their jobs. And as I said before, I like that you pick something you know about and tell us about it without overdoing the information. I hate lectures.
I like your use of humor which doesn’t involve pratfalls and slapstick. I like that you didn’t make Jill’s dating service men caricatures and that she doesn’t turn bitchy or snide about them. I like that she appears to learn and grow as a person and that you don’t rush her into a quick HEA.
Call me weird, but I really enjoyed the final showdown scene when all the dirty laundry got aired. Jill has a right to be mad and she is. I also thought the scene when her mother talks about true love was well done. The grand finale “I love you” scene with the hero is well written. Not too corny or over the top but very emotional none the less.
Perhaps the things that bothered me won’t be a problem for others and I don’t regret reading it but this one is not going to turn out to be a favorite of mine.
~Jayne – who hates the sound of tearing styrofoam too! Oh, it makes my skin crawl.