Dear Ms. Graves,
Lately I’ve been trying to read more new-to-me authors and when your latest book, “Heartstrings and Diamond Rings” landed in my arc pile, it was fate. I had heard you have a good reputation for humor and this story certainly backs that up. That plus good hero/heroine snappy dialogue are what makes the book for me.
After her latest long term relationship disaster, Alison Carter ends venting and crying to her best friend Heather. Where have all the good men gone and why can’t she find one? Alison isn’t really asking for much – just a decent guy who wants to settle down, raise a family or at least a date who won’t ask her if she’s interested in a threesome. Heather urges Alison to try a matchmaker – not just Match.com but a real, live, old fashioned matchmaker and then offers the clincher that the woman had matched one of Heather’s coworkers who will now be headed down the aisle in a month or so.
With nothing to lose except – hopefully – bad dates Alison makes the call then arrives for her appointment to discover that Rochelle died two weeks ago and her grandson Brandon Scott is taking over the business. A little shocked at first – because what guy knows anything about romance or what a woman wants – Alison lets herself get talked into taking the $1500 plunge for five matches. But despite all he tells her, little does she know that Brandon has no interest in love, romance or matchmaking. Instead he sees this as his chance to earn the quick cash that he needs to enter a real estate partnership after which it’s adios to Dallas.
Yet as Brandon attempts to do what he’s being paid for in order to keep being paid, he starts to fall for Alison and her trusting nature. Is there any way he can keep from breaking her heart since he’s never pictured himself as the “9-5 with a family” kind of guy? Or when he’s earned what he needs, will he head on down the road?
To me this is a very funny book. I especially love Alison’s blow by blow recounts of her dates to Brandon. Yeah, they might be exaggerations – at least I hope no woman has gone through these for book research purposes – but the ways in which these men are so awful as dates is wickedly inventive fun. My favorite is the Pharmaceutical rep with bonus points to you for getting the police involved on the date.
I also love the kittehs in the story. I grew up with Siamese and can testify to their rwonks! Lucy, Ethel and Ricky are lucky to have found such a good home and loving cat slave who’ll accept their early morning drag races down the hall.
Alison is lost at times in the glory that is Brandon without his shirt on as he tries to fix his broken AC but she isn’t tongue tied around him for long nor does she fall over things or engage in other twatish nonsense to show how hotly she lusts for his bod. It’s also nice that though she physically doesn’t change at all, and Brandon doesn’t initially think she’s more than just a nice girl who’s okay to look at, by the end of the book he’s totally fallen for her – he’s smitten and wanting the best for her. He wonders – as he’s still trying to set her up – if there’s any man out there who’s good enough for her. Then after he decides he’s too in love with her to ever leave, he makes the supreme sacrifice and does something just because he knows she’ll love it. This is what I like to see from a hero – that he’s a man who’s either noticed what his heroine likes or he’s willing to do something that he thinks he’ll hate just for her.
You did surprise me by not bringing a certain character from Brandon’s past back into the story for which I thank you. Brandon also doesn’t use this person or his childhood to have “sworn off romance for all times!!” No, he just doesn’t think he’s cut out for staying in one place for long, that’s all. This is such a nice change from what I’ve come to expect from not just historical but also some contemporary heroes.
The secondary characters are great in the story from Heather and her husband Tony to Alison’s dad – whom I loved for his plain spoken bluntness and the pistol packing Bea. This is Texas after all. And it’s not just Alison and Brandon who are funny together but all these people. This works as an ensemble piece.
Another thing I like is that Alison ends up helping Brandon almost as much if not more than he helps her by using her marketing skills. When I had mentioned at DA that I was reading this book, a reader questioned whether or not Alison comes off as pathetic because she wants to be married so badly. Her competency here is part of the reason that, to me, she didn’t. Beyond her job skills though, you give Alison a background from which it makes sense that she wants marriage and a family: her best friend is happily married and Alison’s suffered some family losses that would lead her to want to establish her own.
The changes in Brandon are gradual, begin at the halfway point and the HEA doesn’t depend on some last minute change of heart that I’ll find too quick. But he’s not all RomanceLand hero – he does his share of smoothly checking out the neckline of Alison’s little black dress, her slutty pink shoes and he takes a lot of pleasure in watching her position herself for a pool shot.
I love a book that amuses me as it entertains me and if this is the typical style you write, I think I’m going to enjoy seeing what else out there you’ve got. B