REVIEW: The Return of Brody McBride by Jennifer Ryan
Dear Ms. Ryan:
I bought your book on impulse. Generally speaking men in cowboy hats on the cover of books are not a selling point for me. But I do like soldiers returning from the theater of war, so I thought I’d give your book a try. What I found was a mostly entertaining book with a hero who self flagellates excessively, and a slightly over the top story device, but also a book I read in two sittings.
Brody McBride is back in town after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. A now decorated war hero, Brody is determined to right the wrongs he did by leaving and win the heart of the girl he left behind. Rain Evans was devastated when Brody left town eight years ago. She was also pregnant. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Brody and Rain had fought badly before he left and they broke up. After which, Brody slept with Roxy, the town tramp and knocked her up too. Nice shootin’ Tex!
Of course, being right out of central casting, Roxy, evil bitch that she is, told everyone in town she was pregnant with Brody’s baby, and then threatened to terminate the pregnancy. Rain, needing every piece of Brody she could get, paid off Roxy to have the baby, and then paid her another lump sum to keep the baby (although never getting Roxy to sign over any papers – why, I don’t know). So Brody returns to town to the news that he has not one, but TWO secret babies. Although, Rain had been trying her best to track him down while he was gone, she’d never been successful, and finally gave up.
Brody is horrified to hear that he fathered two children and left Rain with them. She’s been raising them on her own, and doing a damn fine job of it. But she has no money, had to give up her dream of going to college to become a mother and is working as a mechanic at her dad’s autobody shop. Brody can’t seem to apologize enough (over and over and over). He’s sorry for everything: leaving Rain, sleeping with Roxy, he’s ashamed of the PTSD he is battling, he’s ashamed of the scars he bears from serving as an Army Ranger. He’s just so sorry. I know this, because almost every time he opens his mouth it’s to apologize. Amazingly though, the moment he sees his girls, Dawn and Autumn, he takes to fatherhood like a duck to water. He’s patient, he’s loving, he’s kind, he’s fun. They adore him, and he adores them. Even though Autumn, who is really Roxy’s daughter, is afraid that Roxy will come back and take her away from him and Rain. This would be because Roxy already kidnapped Autumn once for three days when she was three. And slapped her and locked her in a closet and gave her barely any food and water. So Autumn has issues. Brody has issues. Good thing for them Rain is the best person ever. She loves Autumn no matter what, and offers comfort and reassurance on a regular basis. When Brody “slips away” into a sort of fugue state from a flashback, she knows just how to bring him back. In fact, one time, she sexes him up to bring him back. Not what I’d do, but hey, this is a romance novel, so go with it, Kati.
As well as being a decorated service man, Brody also invested in a company that has netted him a ton of money. This means that it’s only a matter of time before Roxy comes after Autumn and after Brody’s money. The end of the story mostly focuses on how they outwit her (which didn’t really seem that hard to me, it’s not like Roxy was portrayed as nuanced or intelligent).
As you can tell, I had a number of issues with the book. First there was a lot going on in this book. I got to the point reading it where every new plot development cause me to say, “Because, of course.” It just seemed like too much. If the book had focused on the secret babies, OR Brody’s PTSD, OR battling Roxy for custody of Autumn, I’d have been good. But all of those plot points together really felt like you were trying to do too much. I also thought Rain was a Mary Sue. She was practically perfect in every way, which grated on my nerves. And I felt like Brody spent most of the book in an apologetic or desperate state. This was long after Rain had made it clear that she accepted his apologies and that they had a future together. It was tiresome for me to read him groveling over and over. I was already sold on Brody as a hero, I didn’t need him to self-flagellate to make me like him.
All of that being said, I like your writing voice. I think you introduced an interesting secondary character in Brody’s brother, Owen, who I am happy to see is getting a book. I think you develop a nice sense of place, and that your sex scenes were detailed and entertaining. Overall, I felt like you tried to do too much with the book, but somehow I enjoyed reading it anyway. The Return of Brody McBride is not without its issues, but I’ll most likely give your writing another shot. Final grade: C/C-