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REVIEW: Can’t Hurry Love by Molly O’Keefe

Dear Ms. O’Keefe:

Just last month, I wrote an almost giddily positive review of your debut single title contemporary Romance, Can’t Buy Me Love. I still remember reading that book for the first time and feeling both excited and afraid to read Victoria’s story, Can’t Hurry Love, given her pitiably flawed presence in Luc and Tara’s book. Fluctuating between cringing (and cringe-inducing) emotional weakness and raw unlikeability, the disgraced, widowed Victoria was hardly the stuff of romantic heroism, so it was clear that her own journey to happiness would be dramatic and intense. What was less clear to me was how convincing that journey would be, given the steep learning curve Victoria would face in becoming the heroine of her own life, let alone her own book.

Can't Hurry Love by Molly O'KeefeVery little seems to have changed for Victoria in the month between Can’t Buy Me Love and Can’t Hurry Love. She and her son Jacob are living at Crooked Creek Ranch with Luc’s mother, Celeste, the housekeeper, Ruby, and Eli Turnbull, whose anger at being cheated out of so much of his family’s land has become a psychic sledgehammer in search of a nail. And Victoria is the nail.

Eli wants to be nice to Victoria long enough to buy the ranch from her, so that he can fulfill his own dream of starting a horse-breeding business. But Victoria does not want to sell the ranch; she wants to learn how to be a rancher and fulfill the conditions of her father’s will. The “scarecrow,” as Eli unkindly thinks of her, is one more Baker standing in the way of what he’s owed, of what he’s worked for all his life. What Eli does not realize is that Victoria feeds off his hostility, tied so closely, as it is, to the reluctant attraction and childhood history the two share.

So when Eli tells her that he is selling the Angus cattle her father so loved, and one of the most valuable assets of the ranch, Victoria finally begins to connect to her own anger in a new way:

After years of lying down, of capitulating, of surrendering before she even realized she had something she wanted to fight for, she was filled with an unholy hostility.

There was a war’s worth of lost fights inside of her. And if Eli was going to stand in the way of what she wanted … well, she smiled, he’d better brace himself.

She was a woman who was just beginning to realize how scorned she truly was.

When Victoria was a teenager, she had a crush on Eli, and he could not resist the way she followed him around. As the older of the two and native to the ranch, he held the advantage in their budding friendship. So when Victoria returned and did not even recognize him, the rejection stung. As someone who had always been on the margins at Crooked Creek, Eli was not about to let Victoria boss him around. And Victoria, who had always felt that she was on the margins of her father’s “real” family and her high society married life, was sick of being bossed around by people who judged her unworthy. That both Victoria and Eli cultivate the necessary loneliness of perennial victimhood makes it even more difficult for them to recognize their similarities and negotiate their attraction in an easy, healthy way.

Instead, the contest of wills between Eli and Victoria frames the novel. Eli makes her muck out stalls when she wants to watch the sale of the Angus herd; Victoria cleans the stall and then douses it with potpourri to piss Eli off; Eli sells the cattle knowing that Victoria will not be able to run the ranch without its income; Victoria figures out another way to keep the ranch going and piss off Eli, and so on.

Initially, the competition seems to invigorate Victoria and unbalance Eli. Victoria begins to eat and enjoy the taste of food. She, Celeste, and Ruby concoct a plan to turn Crooked Creek into a spa that Victoria will run. And in finally embracing her own will to live, Victoria comes back to life, a vivid physical and emotional presence that makes Eli painfully aware of his own myopic loneliness. He is emotionally stooped from the “weight of a hundred year-old grudge on his back,” and his Uncle John, who had been urging him to get the ranch land back into the Turnbull family, is disappointed in Eli’s desire to breed horses.

However, because their relationship is so much about power, it never rests for long with one person. Once Eli becomes more conscious of his attraction to Victoria, as well as her reluctant attraction to him, he feels more in his element. Unlike Victoria, who had turned her entire life over to a man who ruined her and then checked out permanently, Eli has taken great pains to keep from getting too close to any one woman. He had never even brought a woman back to his home, the same house he had grown up in – the place filled with memories of a mother who left when he was eight and a father who then drank himself into dissolution and dementia. Emotionally he may be closed off, but sexually he is confident and assertive, and unashamed to use whatever tools he has to get what he needs from Victoria and the ranch:

“Victoria.” He caught her hand, panic making him reckless. His instincts told him to stop, but this was too much to lose; he needed the barn. The ultrasounds and chute were equipment he couldn’t start his business without.

. . .

Her eyes were wide, her pink lips open, a blush burned onto her cheeks. She was so beautiful in her surprise and his body reacted, his heart pounding.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. Whether he was sorry for what he’d done, or what he was about to do, he couldn’t say. Without thinking, he leaned forward to taste those pink lips, the sweetness of her amazement.

The smack never came; it was as if she were a fly in a web and he was the terrible spider who had caught her. He pressed his lips to hers. She jumped as if shocked, her mouth opening, and he fought himself not to take advantage. Not to push this strange moment into shattering. He kept the kiss tender, her chapped lips all but breaking his heart.

Carefully, as if she were a horse that might spook, he touched her cheek with his fingertips, and when she didn’t shy away he slid those fingers around her neck, cupping the heat of her skin, the pounding of her heartbeat in his palm.

There was a vibration in her throat and he felt it in his mouth, in his hand, and he knew she was moaning. Crying slightly, because she hated herself right now, hated that she couldn’t resist him. And the devil in him loved that. Lived for that.

He should have done this earlier, cut through all the bullshit negotiation and bullshit communication, and gotten right to this.

Because sex, he understood. A woman’s soft groan reverberating against his tongue was all the communication he needed.

He stepped closer, caution be damned. She wanted him, he’d known that about her for a while, and if he couldn’t win the honest way, he’d win like this.

One of the things I most appreciate about Victoria and Eli is the way they challenge the very stereotypes they often adopt as a protective shell. Victoria can be the snooty society denizen, but it’s only a costume. Eli can be the laconic, manly cowboy, but he is definitely not the idealized Western hero. That O’Keefe allows her characters to use these clichés gives them even more dimension and appeal, and even when the characters suffer from a lack of self-awareness, the narrative does not.

Normally, at this point in the review, I would be discussing the emotional dynamics between these two very complex characters – the self-hatred both struggle with, the sense of shame that drives each of them toward and away from each other, the intense emotional loneliness that comes from being abandoned and misunderstood, the need for autonomy that is shared by both male and female characters. And certainly all of this comes into play in the novel and its romantic trajectory.

However, there is so much more in Can’t Hurry Love that makes it one of the most ambitious novels I have read in a long time, and one of the most challenging to review cogently and comprehensively. [and I need to issue a mild spoiler alert here for the rest of the review]

For example, there is a substantial subplot involving Luc’s mother, Celeste, who not only serves as one of Victoria’s partners in the spa, but who also struggles with her attraction to a younger man (and her raging paranoia about getting and looking older). Then there is the spa construction itself, which involves Victoria, Celeste, and Ruby managing construction, developing menus, planning services, hiring an architect, etc. And the architect they hire just happens to be . . . Eli’s estranged mother, Amy, the very same woman who left him and his father many years ago and has not seen nor communicated with him since. Bringing Amy into the picture catalyzes a series of conflicts with Eli that intersect and challenge his developing (and already tumultuous) relationship with Victoria. Not to mention the fact that Eli is already dealing with his father’s dementia — even though his father is in a full-time care facility — and trying to manage his Uncle John’s growing disapproval with his personal and professional choices.

It is a testament to O’Keefe’s agility as a storyteller and the depth of her skill that she manages all of this without completely overwhelming the central relationship between Victoria and Eli. In fact, it is the consistency of thematic concerns among all of these subplots – alienation, rejection, shame, self-blame, marginalization, seeking happiness in the wrong places, personal fulfillment v. responsibility, divided loyalties, just to name a few – that makes the book cohere to the extent that it does.

However, there are problems. One issue I had that was not related to the character crowding was the way Celeste possesses a casual bigotry and racism in her view of Ruby. She refers to her “Mexican soap opera theatrics,” and mocks her with sarcastic accusations of “stealing silverware” and stereotyped descriptions of her clothes. While I think the descriptions are intended to reflect Celeste’s insecurities and snobbery, they come across as cheap shots and one-dimensional stereotypes that stand in sharp contrast to other examples and objects of sarcasm in the novel.

Then there is the issue of Eli’s mother and the deep well of emotions her presence opens up. I realize that her return gives Eli the opportunity to heal the wounds of his past so that he can be emotionally strong and whole for Victoria, but in a novel where his own romantic relationship is so complex and difficult, any reconciliation of that secondary storyline is difficult to accomplish in such a short, chaotic period of time. Since Eli’s emotional wounds seem actually deeper than Victoria’s, his epiphany and recovery just feels rushed. And because Amy has her own backstory, and her own issues regarding why she left and how that has made her feel, she is always walking a line between being a sympathetic figure (especially as Victoria’s architect) and a villain (mother who truly did abandon her child), in a way that ultimately flattens out her character a bit and makes the resolution of her subplot somewhat facile.

Another problem is that all of this secondary action imposes a good deal of external drama on a relationship that already has a good deal of internal (and interesting) drama. The way, for example, that the anger in both Eli and Victoria plays out in their sexual relationship is really well-portrayed and powerful. Victoria enjoys it when Eli gets a little rough with her, which plays into Eli’s self-hatred, and yet simultaneously elicits his protective instincts. And as Eli becomes more comfortable with his own vulnerability, Victoria has to deal with her own insecurities, not only around her deep trust issues, but also in terms of how Jacob can and should fit into her growing attachment to Eli. And then there are the emotional tests that Victoria, in particular, must endure regarding her own reclamation of her dignity.

I will say that I think O’Keefe does an admirable job of making all of these elements cohere, and I still marvel at the sheer ambition of the book. And it is not just ambitious in terms of how much is going on, but also in the way so many of these elements challenge and complicate our conditioned expectations for genre Romance. O’Keefe definitely knows her way around an angry heroine and hero, and that knowledge is definitely on display in Can’t Hurry Love. And despite my frustration with how the runaway mother subplot gets worked out, I was thrilled that Amy’s character was not automatically slotted in as the “bad mother.” While her storyline did not get the nuanced treatment I think it deserved, it got much more nuance than we so often see in the genre. And while Celeste’s own story was another complicating story element that sometimes edged into familiar, stereotyped terrain, I still enjoyed it immensely, in part because O’Keefe breaks a few more stereotypes with Celeste’s love interest (and let’s face it: it’s fun to watch Celeste fall from her own high horse, especially when you know the fall will ultimately be a happy one).

And then there is the writing, which, while sometimes rough, is also sometimes deeply affecting in the way it connected me to the characters intellectually and emotionally. My investment in their happiness was not connected to how much I “liked” them, or whether they “earned” their happiness; it was a function of their compelling complexity, the way they always have dimension and a fundamental structural integrity, even as the evolve and grow. In fact, I don’t even think of my response to the book in terms of “like” and “dislike,” but rather in terms of the extent to which it engaged me from the very beginning and kept me invested until the very end. Even a few cheesy or over the top moments did not throw me out of the story.

All of which makes Can’t Hurry Love a difficult book to discuss and recommend without a hundred caveats and caveats to those caveats. Some of the very reasons it is so engaging are the same things that don’t fully succeed. And yet I would not want this book to be any less ambitious, because I think the genre as a whole needs more of this kind of ambition, and I certainly think O’Keefe has many more interesting and challenging stories to tell. For this one, though, B-

~ Janet

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isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

14 Comments

  1. Jinni
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 11:51:39

    And this is what I miss from the eighties. I miss good category authors building their craft and going on to write more complex, full length novels. I’ll skip what I think is happening on that publishing front right now, but it’s not author/craft driven anymore. I’ve enjoyed this author’s category work (at DAs recommendation) and will certainly try this out.

  2. Janet
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 12:07:55

    @Jinni: Your comment reminds me that I need to say that while CHL is a stand-alone book, I think that the first book (and I added the link to that review in the first paragraph of the CHL review) in the series provides really good background and foundation for this book. Although I do know people who have read them in reverse, so it certainly won’t ruin your experience of either book, IMO.

  3. Janine
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 12:35:21

    I’m on the fence about whether or not to read this book. I read Can’t Buy Me Love after you recommended it here, and while I found things to admire in the writing (most particularly in Tara Jean’s characterization) I also found Luc’s character wildly inconsistent. His anger and misogyny toward Tara Jean were difficult for me to get over — partly because (I felt) they smoothed out too easily and simply.

    I also think I have an easier time connecting with angry heroines than I do with angry heroes, because male anger is something that can feel unsafe in real life. Thus, the amount of anger in Can’t Buy Me Love felt like too much. It lent Luc an instability that made it hard for me to believe that he was a healthy choice for Tara even after his anger at her (almost magically) evaporated.

    My other problem with Can’t Buy Me Love is one that you touch on in this review when you mention the way the characters wear the outer shells of cliches like the snooty society denizen or the laconic cowboy. I found it problematic that almost all the characters with a significant role in Can’t Buy Me Love had some cliche as their starting point. I agree that the characters are more than these cliches, that they can be conscious of these as exteriors they present to the world, and that they are ultimately multidimensional.

    And yet, I still found the way the characters were rooted in these cliches problematic. I think it boils down to the fact that in real life, many of the people I encounter don’t fit stereotypes even superficially. Or maybe it is me who doesn’t see most people this way? I don’t know. I only know this aspect of Can’t Buy Me Love felt artificial to me, and made me long for a significant character that wasn’t in any way connected to a stereotype. I hungered for such a character.

    Between that and all the anger boiling through the book, I didn’t get what I was hoping for from the reading experience, although I do, as I said before, truly admire several aspects of O’Keefe’s writing. I absolutely agree with you about ambition, too — the genre needs ambitious writers. And part of me is deeply curious about whether O’Keefe can, as you say, pull off Victoria as the heroine of her own life, and the heroine of a romance. So I’m still tempted to read Can’t Hurry Love, but also torn.

  4. Jinni
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 13:03:46

    @Janet – I hear your warning but Janine’s comment below about Can’t Buy Me Love (and others like it) has shied me away from that. Male hero anger in any form is really off putting for me – whether it’s alphahole, or whatever.

  5. Cally
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 14:32:54

    I had this pre-ordered after reading the first book in the series, on DA’s recommendation, and read it immediately when it arrived on my kindle. I had a handful of issues with it (was pretty unhappy with the I’LL KISS IT AND MAKE IT BETTER as a solution) but the fact that the book didn’t shy away from presenting them as issues saved the day for me, and in the end I did like the book. I agree that the bits with Amy were presented a little shallowly, but I actually wished we’d get to see more of the hunky contractor because I think his characterization was a little on the light side — I kept hoping for it to be presented as a set-up for the next book and not a mere subplot, but instead we’ve got the Billy thing up next, alas.

  6. Robin/Janet
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 16:46:42

    @Jinni: You might want to try a sample of Eli and Tori’s book, then, because Eli is a pretty angry guy.

    @Cally: I would have loved to have read a whole book featuring Celeste as heroine, too. I’m not averse to heroines who are substantially younger than I am (although sometimes those 18-year-olds in hist Rom can feel a leetle young), so I sure wouldn’t complain about reading one who is substantially older, as well.

    @Janine: For me, part of the genius of O’Keefe’s books is the fact that the starting point for a number of characters is the stereotype. I absolutely believe that people have a socialized inclination to label people in RL, especially when we don’t know them well, but I think that’s doubly true in Romance. I feel that O’Keefe’s challenge to that is both welcome (to me) and unsettling, but in a good way. As I said in my review of CBML, I feel like she’s renovating the genre from its very core, starting with the (arche)types, instead of ending with them.

    I’m also kind of intrigued by your comment about male violence, since I feel that a lot of the books you love have really angry heroes (TH&TH, Anne Stuart’s books, Linda Howard, etc.). I actually thought you had a higher tolerance for that than I do.

  7. Janine
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 17:32:30

    @Robin/Janet:

    For me, part of the genius of O’Keefe’s books is the fact that the starting point for a number of characters is the stereotype. I absolutely believe that people have a socialized inclination to label people in RL, especially when we don’t know them well, but I think that’s doubly true in Romance. I feel that O’Keefe’s challenge to that is both welcome (to me) and unsettling, but in a good way. As I said in my review of CBML, I feel like she’s renovating the genre from its very core, starting with the (arche)types, instead of ending with them.

    I see your point, and I can’t deny the merit in what O’Keefe is doing. But I think it would work better for me if it were only a couple of characters in a book that had their starting point in stereotypes. I sometimes love characters that start as a sterotype, but it needs to feel more balanced to me. You’re right that what O’Keefe is doing is unsettling, and maybe, when combined with all the anger (as well as all the cowboy/leather stuff, which as I’m vegan, also bothers me) is too unsettling to be fully enjoyable to me.

    I’m also kind of intrigued by your comment about male violence, since I feel that a lot of the books you love have really angry heroes (TH&TH, Anne Stuart’s books, Linda Howard, etc.). I actually thought you had a higher tolerance for that than I do.

    My comment was about male anger (rather than just male violence). Gaffney and Stuart’s heroes don’t lose their temper at the heroines, even though they are violent toward them. It’s more of a violence that stems from twisted ulterior motives, and that is actually easier for me to read about.

    Linda Howard’s heroes do lose their temper at the heroines, and a lot of times those are the scenes that are least successful for me. But then I can also think of angry scenes that work for me in romances (for example that angry sex scene toward the end of Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart)– I think that they work to the degree that I feel that the anger is there but still leashed.

    I have a longstanding friendly argument with another reader who likes Judith McNaught’s heroes and dislikes Sebastian in THATH. The argument is about about which is preferable — a hero like Sebastian (or Bastien in Stuart’s Black Ice for that matter) who is self aware and knows the heroine doesn’t deserve what he’s doing to her, but is just as much of a threat to the heroine, for all that, or heroes like McNaught’s who are jealous, possessive, and IMO have anger management issues.

    My friend prefers McNaught’s heroes, who would never harm the heroine if they didn’t believe some false thing about her, while I actually find the hero who knows all along that the heroine isn’t to blame for his asshattery more trustworthy. The latter type of hero also seems more in control of himself than heroes like McNaught’s. (I’ll add that I have enjoyed some of McNaught’s books — but that anger thing is always problematic to me when I read them).

    So I guess it boils down to the hero’s self-control. All violence is equally wrong, but uncontrolled violence is harder for me to read about. O’Keefe’s hero wasn’t actually violent IIRC, but his rage felt out of control to me and therefore unsafe.

  8. SonomaLass
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 03:59:52

    I am one of those readers who read these two books out of order — I was offered a review copy of this one, and after reading it, I sought out Luc and TaraJean’s story. It was fascinating to go backwards, especially to see Victoria’s character in the early book after I knew how she had grown and changed in this book.

    I agree that the ambitious scale of the book is at once a source of strength and weakness, like my favorite works by a lot of dramatists, including Shakespeare. Ultimately the book succeeded for me; I wanted these characters to get things right, even as I despaired that they might not. I was invested in their story, as you say, not because I “liked” them, but because they were flawed and complex, and their efforts to work through their problems were rarely simple or easy. It wasn’t an easy book for me. I especially had trouble with Amy, but I appreciated the level of resolution achieved in that regard. Especially with family, you sometimes have to just forgive and move on in order to allow some sort of relationship to grow. There are some mistakes that you can’t go back and fix, but you can move forward and try to make something good, rather than clinging to anger and bitterness. I liked that about this book.

  9. Rosario
    Aug 05, 2012 @ 02:49:45

    @Janine:

    I have a longstanding friendly argument with another reader who likes Judith McNaught’s heroes and dislikes Sebastian in THATH. The argument is about about which is preferable — a hero like Sebastian (or Bastien in Stuart’s Black Ice for that matter) who is self aware and knows the heroine doesn’t deserve what he’s doing to her, but is just as much of a threat to the heroine, for all that, or heroes like McNaught’s who are jealous, possessive, and IMO have anger management issues.

    My friend prefers McNaught’s heroes, who would never harm the heroine if they didn’t believe some false thing about her, while I actually find the hero who knows all along that the heroine isn’t to blame for his asshattery more trustworthy. The latter type of hero also seems more in control of himself than heroes like McNaught’s. (I’ll add that I have enjoyed some of McNaught’s books — but that anger thing is always problematic to me when I read them).

    Janine, I fall on your side on that one. To me, the difference is that the McNaught heroes are men behaving badly because they’re following their moral compass (which tells them that, say, a woman who’s slept with other men is not deserving of any respect), while Sebastian and Anne Stuart’s heroes are men behaving badly against their moral compass. I definitely find the latter more trustworthy as well, because by the end of the book, they’re in a position where the conflict that had them going against what they thought was right has been resolved. I trust that in the future, they will be able to just do what they think is right, and that this will be something I have no problem with. Whereas with the McNaught heroes, the next time there’s a misunderstanding (and you just know there will be: they’re not the brightest, bless them) they’ll be back to treating the heroine like crap.

  10. Janine
    Aug 05, 2012 @ 23:09:11

    @Rosario: Yes, that’s precisely how I feel too.

    I should clarify that Luc in Can’t Buy Me Love fell somewhere in the middle for me, but closer to the McNaught hero end of the spectrum, though he wasn’t as bad as they can get. Luc started out hating the heroine who presented herself as someone who was marrying his father for money. Luc was angry (not just at Tara Jean but at the world and at fate, due to a career-ending injury he had suffered) and he took it out on Tara Jean. He also referred to her as “bimbo-Barbie.” That was really off putting to me. About a third of the way through the book, he realized he was wrong about her and had treated her unfairly. After that, he treated her much better, though he still had anger issues about his injury. I can’t articulate why but the combination of his rage and his jumping to conclusions about Tara Jean (even though she and his dad had set him up to jump to those conclusions) made it hard for me to trust that he would not take out his anger about something that had nothing to do with her on Tara Jean again.

  11. Robin/Janet
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 22:47:26

    @Janine: To me, Luc’s anger made perfect sense. First, he was absolutely brutalized by his father, who then teams up with Tara to use deception in luring him back to the ranch after many years of estrangement. And it’s not like Lyle is repentant, nor is Tara anything but cruel to him herself, not only by playing Bimbo Barbie very deliberately, but also by blaming Luc for Baker Leather’s near demise. In fact, the way they angrily taunt each other is one of my favorite things about the book, because I think you so rarely see a heroine give back as good (or bad) as she’s getting.

    I was thinking about Rachel, from SEP’s Dream A Little Dream, and how she is so humiliated in the first part of the narrative, even when Gabe is not treating her like crap. I like the way O’Keefe does not do that to Tara; she gives her a dignity in her bimbo disguise that forced me (and IMO Luc) to respect her, although it took Luc a little longer. At first he’s pissed that she’s NOT dismissible, as he initially wanted her to be. Had Tara been more like Rachel, I might have been much less comfortable with Luc’s anger.

  12. Robin/Janet
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 23:36:14

    @Janine and @Rosario: I find the choice between the clueless alphahole and the intentional alphahole impossible to resolve for myself, because for me it’s really about the meta-level of the novel and the way the hero’s issues are being set up to achieve a particular relationship dynamic with the heroine.

    In other words, for me, the guy who is intentional in his cruelty, like Bastien in Black Ice, is constructed that way to suck the reader in, to seduce us into seeing him as tortured and as smarter and better than what his action show. So I think we are invited to initially experience his actions as horrifying, but later give him more slack, because his obviously higher morals prevail. That dynamic is especially prevalent in THATH, where Sebastian has that revelation about his own intentionality, and from then on he does everything he can to comfort and protect Rachel, even giving her the puppy she always wanted. While I adore that book and appreciate its incredible self-consciousness, I absolutely am aware that in real life, a guy like Sebastian would disgust me and be immediately classified as a batterer, his self-consciousness about his actions an indication of something close to sociopathy or worse.

    OTOH, with the oblivious alphaholes, intellectually I find them more honest, even though I don’t enjoy their elevation to romantic hero status. I suspect as a reader I’m supposed to simply accept them as ‘that’s how some men are’ or ‘that’s what you get when you want the excessively devoted alpha’ or ‘that’s what a hard life does to a man’ or something like that. But more I feel less manipulated as a reader by those portrayals, which makes me feel that the construction is less artificial, even though it’s obviously fictional. Certainly, those heroes seem less principled, but they are also not hurting the heroine with the same level of self-conscious intent before they shift into sympathetic mode, so I find the trade-off almost impossible to accept.

    For the most part, I’ve been willing to let myself be manipulated by the self-conscious jerk hero, assuming he comes around and is well-written, but I definitely see it in that way. Maybe that’s why I appreciate O’Keefe’s characters — by putting the types on the table right at the beginning, I don’t feel so manipulated, and I still feel like I get the pay-off of a hero and heroine who are well-matched, albeit not perfectly healed by the end of their book.

  13. Ruthie
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 17:21:31

    Thanks for this cogent and engaged review. I just finished reading this book, and it really blew me out of the water. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s thoughtful and emotional and complex, and I really, really enjoyed reading it. I think O’Keefe is pretty amazing.

  14. What-To-Read Wednesday: Can’t Hurry Love | Ruthie Knox
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 08:44:31

    [...] and a couple days later I’m still chewing it over. I love books that make me do that. In her review of Can’t Hurry Love at Dear Author, Robin calls it “one of the most ambitious novels I have read in a long time, and one of the [...]

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