Dear Ms Kwitney,
I got started reading your books way back (well not all the way back with your first one) with “The Dominant Blonde” and haven’t missed one since. As my fellow blogger Janine says, you have a way with flawed characters. They usually seem flawed in a believable, human way instead of a “flawed for a plot point in my book” kind of way. I want to root for these people to find their own little place in the sun because I like them and not just because they’ve been written as angst-filled, nearly broken people I’m supposed to cheer for.
An accomplished journalist, Zoe Goren can’t drive and she doesn’t cook. But that’s never been a problem in Manhattan, where the streets are filled with taxis and takeout restaurants, and a busy single mother can find everything she needs right at her fingertips. In fact, Zoe can’t imagine living or working anyplace else. But when Zoe’s daughter is diagnosed with dyslexia, she decides to make the ultimate sacrifice, moving two hours from Manhattan in order to enroll Maya in an excellent school for children with learning differences. Stranded in a rural paradise, Zoe must grapple with isolation, coyote howls, and the lack of good delivery services. But when she decides to overcome her fear of driving and take lessons, she meets Mack, an unnervingly attractive townie, back from the war in Iraq and trying to adjust to civilian life. With a budding new romance and a reporting gig for the local paper, Zoe just might survive in the wilderness of small-town America after all.
The book has a great start. We see Zoe in her element, in control of herself and her surroundings in her New York apartment, going shopping, doing all the day to day “city” things. And then we see her in almost another universe even though she’s less than two hours from NYC. It’s a universe that requires cars and being able to drive them. Now I can see why Zoe wouldn’t need a car in the city since she’s got public transportation, great take-out and works from home. But thank you for giving her a viable reason to not drive at all. If you’d written that she doesn’t drive merely to set up the interaction with Mack, I’d have kept reading but would have raised a skeptical eye brow.
And what’s not to love about a hot, younger man falling for her warts and all? Well, if you hadn’t have made Mack a real person with his own faults then I wouldn’t have. His initial scene with his girlfriend and his desperate attempts to figure out what she wants to hear in order to salvage their relationship is hilarious. His dislike of crowds and tendency to start getting ragged around the edges while in them nails what he went through while on duty in Iraq.
But while I liked Zoe and Mack, I did have some problems and questions with other things. Mack’s sister’s marriage certainly falls apart rather quickly. It is described as dull and predictable but with no major problems until suddenly – WHAM! it’s all over in one short scene. And why have the bit about Zoe fearing Maya’s safety after the set-to at the Parent’s Day? It seemed to come from nowhere and was a moment when I could really see the strings being pulled — but for what reason as it’s certainly not brought up much afterwards. I also wondered
what was in Mack’s file that Moloney hinted at seeing? And though I liked the fact that there’s no trite reconciliation with her father, that whole issue felt tacked on and unexplored. I did wonder that there wasn’t a great school for dyslexia in NYC. I mean, if it would be anywhere in the US I’d think NYC would have it.
I liked that Zoe doesn’t have a sudden epiphany and fall in love with the country and country living. I think she’s always going to be a Manhattan girl. The open ending about saving the wetlands leaves the imagination to fill in whatever the reader wants without shoehorning the book into a neat tidy ending. I laughed my ass off at Claudius’s first foray into country living — though it wasn’t such a good ending for Bugs. The sex is hot but nothing felt gratuitous or stuck in just to satisfy a requirement. But the second half felt more like I was deliberately being moved around by the plot after the easy flow of the first half. Still, the pros outweigh the cons and I’d give it a B.