REVIEW: Inside Out by Lauren Dane
Dear Ms. Dane:
After I read Coming Undone, I was struck by the lack of either emotional angst or emotional conflict between the characters yet I found myself liking the characters quite a bit. They acted like grown ups, albeit totally put together, free of drama, grown ups, but it was a nice alternative to the high agnst books I usually read. I wanted to try out another Brown book because the people are so likeable so I picked up Inside Out as soon as it hit my doorstep.
About 4 chapters into the book, I started getting confused because all of the characters’ names seemed to start with vowels. Then I realized that all the heroines in the Brown family books had names that started with E: Erin, Elise, Ella. Then I noticed another striking similarity. All the heroines in this series were formerly abused women.
There was no internal acknowledgment of this commonlity such as the three women met at a shelter or a battered woman outreach. No, just coincidentally, one Brown sister was abused, one Brown brother marries an abused woman, and a friend of theirs is abused and hooks up with another friend. At one point, I wondered if I had read Inside Out before, what with the similarity in names, past dating history, and even character speech.
Cope has a reputation for being a womanizer. There was some confusion for me as to whether Cope played the field because he enjoyed playing the field or because he was waiting for Ella to heal from a past abusive relationship. He says that he knew right away that Ella wasn’t someone you played with but that he wasn’t ready to settle down. Things have changed and Cope is ready to set aside his predilection for no strings affairs and pursue Ella. Problematically, everyone, even his family and friends, see Cope as a player so he has to suffer through each character giving him a lecture about not hurting Ella.
Ella works at Erin, the Brown sister’s, cafe. She’s put her life back together after being in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Ella has fantasized a lot about Cope but given his reputation, kept her feelings to herself. Ella is a survivor and when faced with a serious flirtation with Cope, she’s ready to explore a relationship with him.
Inside Out, like its predecessor, has very little emotional conflict or agnst. The story relies heavily on dialogue to move it forward, but the dialogue isn’t witty banter but ponderous monologues about self reliance and survival.
"I don't know really. Stupid huh? We had a close family growing up. My parents hung out with Todd's parents so much it was like we were all related. Todd may as well be my blood relation, we're that tight. Hell, our fathers have been as close as brothers until, well, you know that part of the story. I grew up fishing and boating, wood- working and carpentry. My dad and I used to do carpentry together. He isn't mad at me for taking Ben's side. I think he's just mad at the world for changing. He doesn't understand it, and instead of dealing, like everyone else, he's just throwing a tantrum. My mother had a hard time, but she worked it through. Ben is the favorite, so it was easy for her, I think. But my dad, he's sort of stuck there. He loves Ben, Ben loves him and he's still the favorite, even when they don't speak."
That’s a lot of talking. Because the story is so dialogue heavy, I would have liked for the characters to have exhibit different speech habits. But instead, if I closed my eyes or removed the dialogue tags, everyone sounded the same. A simplistic example is that Ella, Elise and even Cope uses Pfft as an expression.
While Cope and Ella are good friends and have been for 6 years, the romance on the pages takes place over two weeks of time. I would have liked to have seen evidence of their past relationship. Given the types of discussions they had with each other on page, it didn’t seem like they knew each other very well which made me wonder how good of friends they truly were. In fact they do so much talking and connecting that I started wondering when the sex would show up. I think my expectation was that this was going to be an erotic romance. The first in the Brown series (featuring the first E battered woman) was a threesome. The second, Coming Undone, had a strong sexual overlay. Other than a couple fantasy scenes, the first coupling didn’t take place until page 139 and there wasn’t a lot of sexual tension leading up to it.
Probably the most compelling storyline in Inside Out isn’t the romance between Cope and Ella, particularly if you have read previous Brown family books. Instead, it’s the drama that surrounds Cope’s brother, Ben, and his participation in a committed threesome with Erin, the Brown sister. Ben’s family, particularly his father, finds this alternative lifestyle troubling. It was also nice to see how the Brown family and friends are doing post their own romances.
If a reader is looking for a specific book, this Brown series has a lot of consistency. Drama free contemporary romance about a nice community of individuals. It’s kind of a book you read over the space of several days. As there is little drama, you can put the story down and revisit it later without any loss of momentum. I think what makes the Brown series interesting is the community of people that you’ve written about and their ongoing lives and how they intertwine. To some extent, these books remind me of Robyn Carr’s series where the books are less about the individuals and more about how the individuals make up a family of disparate people; or rather, the connections that people have with each other and how those connections sustain relationships. Only, of course, the sex in the Brown series is much more explicit. For me, however, the story was dry. I’m not sure if I am up for another Brown book after this one. C