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REVIEW: A Basic Renovation by Sandra Antonelli

When it comes down to it, rats in the oven trumps Lesley’s desire to never set eyes on another Brennan family member. So Lesley, a pro at property redevelopment, scrambles to Dominic Brennan’s hardware store for supplies. Dominic knows poison — rat and otherwise — and he sees it in Lesley. The woman ruined his brother’s life. Now that she’s back in town, Dominic’s afraid she’ll drag up the past, the secrets, and the pain. They clash immediately, but mix in a teenage boy, a puppy, some white paint, and some loud music, and what starts as cold fury transforms into a nuclear attraction. This basic renovation becomes a major life refurbishment for them both.

Dear Ms. Antonelli,

Jane forwarded me your offer to read “A Basic Renovation.” As a woman who vividly remembers watching “The Partridge Family” and “Get Smart” – just aged myself, didn’t I? – the plot of two older people finding love grabbed my attention. Usually “older” means mid 30s, or 40 at the latest so it was a blast to actually have a couple in what I feel is the prime of life – ahem – who finally find The One. I also totally agree that they do tell us about middle aged spread but no one ever spills about the hairs in screwy places.

a-basic-renovationThe start is “in your face” with the number of characters letting it verbally all hang out. Lesley and Dominic – at first rip each other to shreds. Dominic’s bizarre, almost psychotic mother and Lesley’s GP. At least with GP we get a lesson in Italian curses 101. While Dominic’s mother – a woman who is seriously bat-shit crazy – could teach a class in Intro to Insults. Dominic and Lesley aren’t slouches when it comes to scream fests either which all sort of almost killed my early buzz for the book. One, or two, loud mouthed characters can add spice but it took me a while to get adjusted to the number of them here. But then I guess Dominic and Lesley are products of their environment so for them not to curse would seem strange and you’re not afraid to show your characters with some warts and blemishes. Still … readers with delicate sensibilities should just be aware of what they’re getting into.

The dialog of the book is also one of the strengths. Dominic and his son, Kyle, and best friend Fabian talk to each other like guys. A little bullshit, a little testosterone, a lot of ribbing and the honest truth when they tell Dominic that he needs to make up to Lesley for how he ultimately hurts her. I also enjoyed Dominic and Kyle’s relationship as Dominic continues to help guide his 16 year old almost-man towards who he will be as an adult.

Lesley is a strong woman who, even though peri-menopause will soon not be just a word to her anymore, can handle power tools and isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty doing home renovations. She also shows, several times, that she’s one of the more mature people in this town yet she’s ready, willing and able to sling shit, tell someone off and stand up for what she deserves. She had Dominic sweating there at the end.

Dominic did deserve to sweat. His family had turned Lesley into a convenient scapegoat for years to cover all the screw ups perpetrated by her ex-husband – would he still be an ex if the marriage was annulled? I was confused about that too – who happens to be Dominic’s little brother. Glory days though, once Dominic starts to see the light about all this, he mans up and goes to Lesley’s house bearing gifts and an apology. More on the gifts later. Meanwhile, Lesley is savvy enough to accept the gifts and willing to let Dominic’s actions speak louder than his former words. And then they talk, really talk, and get a lot of things and issues out in the open and dealt with.

The book is also funny. In places it’s sidesplittingly funny such as when Lesley and Dominic get trapped in his truck by a bear trying to claw its way in while Dominic tries to keep its ass out.

‘The point is,’ he told himself, ‘this was all about survival of the fittest.’ Lesley’s jokes about his junk food diet aside, he was pretty fit for his age, and he’d be damned if some stinking, three-hundred pound tub of lard tried to prove otherwise. Man had evolved. Man made fire, invented the wheel and indoor plumbing, while bears, as they witnessed earlier, still shit in the woods. Yeah, as a man he was the superior beast solely on the merit of brain power and the flush toilet. ‘Screw you Yogi, this man has a PhD.’

As I said, I was delighted to find an older couple who think in terms that people my age would – relating home décor to the Brady Bunch and concerned about “sell by“ dates. Anyone worried that Lesley will be a dried up prune need only look to her cherry red Harley and red cowboy boots. Dominic, who sits his reading glasses on the end of his nose, will hopefully never get to the awful stage Andy Rooney mentioned – men in yellow pants trying to pick up younger women. Instead he appreciates that Lesley has some intelligence, is someone he can talk to and who “knows what she’s doing and how to do it.” The way these two eventually burn up the sheets, and scorch some counters and flooring, shows that age and experience count for something.

I was also tickled pink that Dominic is the one chasing Lesley. He’s the one pushing for a long term relationship over a brief “down and dirty sex on the floor” fling. He’s the one who wants to see her toothbrush and tampons in his bathroom. And when he feels the moment is right, the one to make a heartfelt proposal.

Tied to the end of the ribbon was a fair-sized ruby framed by twin diamonds that were set into a platinum band. She looked up into Dominic’s face. Hot aquamarine eyes gazed back.
‘I like you in red,’ he said, pulling the blue length free of the ring. It slid on her finger easily.
Dumbstruck, Lesley felt herself blink.
Long fingers skimmed into her hair and Dominic held her face between his hands. ‘You thought you could walk away? I love you. Don’t you know? If you leave me, I’ll come after you. I’ll go caveman on your ass. I’ll grab my club, track you down and drag you back here, by your hair if necessary. Don’t make me do that. Don’t make be a savage brute. Save me from that. Stay here. Stay here with me. Marry me.’

He not only loves Lesley, he respects her. While he enjoys sex as much as the next man, he finds and treasures the fact that he enjoys just being with her, holding her and snuggling in bed with her. And he wants the whole wedding shebang – white dress, tux, flowers and ghastly six layer cake.

Dominic is the master of the appropriate gift. He first comes to Lesley’s home renovation project bearing chocolate and rat traps, moves to a gorgeous sounding engagement ring to go along with his proposal and later, after he fucks up and knows he’s got to make his apology count, he shows Lesley that he knows her, has listened to her and always will with the perfect thing. I was as delighted with the contents of the white paper bag as Lesley was.

I hope your book is only the beginning of ones that feature characters in their middle age finding love. And not as the secondary or “aw, aren’t they cute?” tertiary back ups to the younger main couple. After all, fifty is the new forty. Or is it forty is the new thirty? B



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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. LeeF
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 08:28:28

    I like the sound of this new author. When I looked at buying A Basic Renovation on Amazon, I noticed her next release (in September) is avaiable for pre-order for 99 cents.

  2. Jayne
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 10:40:52

    @LeeF: I’m so glad you mentioned that. Looks like the hero of that one is a secondary character in this book.

  3. Lada
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 11:01:33

    And then they talk, really talk, and get a lot of things and issues out in the open and dealt with.

    I’m 60% through this book and still waiting for this to happen. So far, Dominic and Lesley have mostly talked in circles even though Dominic has finally accepted the extent to which his brother lied to the family and how badly his family has treated Lesley. Silly shenanigans keep getting in the way of The Talk and I’ve gotten stuck waiting. The main characters are both smart and straightforward so part of my frustration comes from it feeling out of character for them not to just deal with the problems head-on.

    There are also a number of formatting and editing issues that keep pulling me out of the story. As far as I can tell, this book isn’t self-published but is from an independent pub but if an editor has seen it, I can’t tell. Most annoying are the jumps in POV without any breaks or indicators as well as a couple of mistakes using pop-culture references ( Sex IN the City? Seriously?).

    I’m still happy to see authors writing about older couples finding romance and love later in life and as Jayne points out, there are a lot of good things about this book. Despite my issues, there is a good story here with likable characters and I’m sure I’ll finish it. I’ll have to wait and see about the author’s next book though.

  4. Patricia Eimer
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 11:16:35

    OMG they actually talk like adults? Holy crap Batman, there’s maturity in them thar pages. Oh and I love the idea of an older couple finding The One.

  5. JoJo
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:10:08

    I really enjoyed this book. It was refreshing to read about a mature couple! Seems like the market is saturated with YA/NA books. Secondary characters are charming and I’m looking forward to the next book.

  6. Sunita
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:13:48

    Thanks for reviewing this, Jayne! I was interested in it when it was in process (the author and I followed each other on Twitter when I hung out there). But then I heard mixed things when it came out and somehow it fell off my radar. Back on it goes. ;)

  7. Of Rules and Maidenheads | Sandra Antonelli
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 20:38:34

    […] then. In the Dear Author review of A Basic Renovation, Janye S makes note that there are “readers with delicate […]

  8. Jewell
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 02:03:14

    Yes, he respects her so much he refuses to allow her to make a free choice…

    “‘You thought you could walk away? I love you. Don’t you know? If you leave me, I’ll come after you. I’ll go caveman on your ass. I’ll grab my club, track you down and drag you back here, by your hair if necessary. Don’t make me do that.”

    Do what I want or I’ll make you! How is that respect?

  9. Jayne
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 03:26:19

    @Jewell: I guess this is a situation where a reader has to already have been introduced to Dom and realize that he’s going overboard in what he says here to emphasize just how much he loves her and needs her. Sorry my quote choice gives the wrong impression of him.

  10. Jewell
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 06:47:21


    Thanks for clarifying!

  11. Shelley
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 13:14:24

    I really, really liked this book though I wanted to love it. I had a couple of issues (a) I didn’t really feel like he respected her that much if his last blow up at her was any indication, and b) His grovel at the end was not worthy.) But all in all, I loved the mature protags, the teen son didn’t get on my nerves, and the grandpa KILLED me!!! I would reread this one.

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