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REVIEW: Mr. Fix It by Crystal Hubbard

Dear Ms. Hubbard:

book review When I first started this book, I thought it had a lot of promise. It featured a romance author heroine and had kind of an insider’s tone to the story which I thought romance readers would get a kick out of. But then it took a turn, a nose dive even, resulting in one of the most unlikeable heroines I have read in a long time. I know that we women are accused of being harder on other women and I asked myself this question as I wrote the review because we essentially have a role reversal in this book. The heroine is the bitter wealthy asshole and the hero is the doormat. In some books, I can stomach this combination. It’s fairly prevalent in Harlequin Presents books. What makes the asshole character acceptable is some recognition in the end that the character is being an asshole, some kind of redemption. This never happens in this story. In fact, the story is written as if the asshole is the victim and the doormat is the one constantly at fault. It was a strange lack of self awareness on the part of the characters.

Khela Halliday is a famous and successful romance author who is suffering a crisis of confidence. She is not in love in any longer and she feels like she doesn’t believe in love or the happy ever after that she writes about. She feels like a fraud particularly when she has to get a date for an annual writer’s award. Her good friend, Daphne, suggest she ask the hot handyman to pose as her date. Khela, desperate to keep up appearances eventually caves.

We find out that Khela is not just a woman with a crisis of confidence, she’s also one who too many men have come onto because of her money. Thus, her knee jerk reaction is to treat men like shit. When Carter, the handyman, shows up to her townhome with a tux, this is her reply:

"This looks really good," Khela said, examining the tux through its plastic. "I’m impressed."

"Whoever gave you this tux has excellent taste." She ran her fingertips over the finely woven wool. "I’ve seen designer tuxes that aren’t this nice."
"It’s Calvin Klein."
"Who did you get it from? The concert pianist in unit C?"

Which is followed by:

"Is something bothering you?"
"Why do you ask?"
"A lot of people get hives when they’re stressed out," he explained.
"How ’bout you get to fixing my busted hotbox and leave my ugly welts to a dermatologist?" She pointed to the light fixture centered in her ceiling fan. "The lights went out for no reason."

And then:

"I’m sorry I dawdled back there," he said as the driver smoothly eased the limousine into traffic. "Jerry makes a lot of runs to and from the brownstone, so I see him fairly often."
"Was he surprised to see that you were a passenger this time?" Khela uncrossed her legs …

Khela is constantly insinuating that he is of a lower class and wouldn’t know the finer things in life unless someone gave them to him. The story is full of contradictions and dropped plot threads.

For example, Khela is initially angry that Carter isn’t more interested in her writing career or that he doesn’t realize what a famous person she is.

"It doesn’t mean anything," he said. "I knew you were a writer, but I didn’t know that you were so big."
Stung, Khela stared at him. She’d been amazed and gratified that he had accepted her invitation, but now a stab of regret made her head slightly achy. It wasn’t her style to flaunt her career or her success, but for reasons unknown even to herself, she wanted him to be impressed. She would have settled for interested. Or at the very least, she’d hoped that he would have asked her about her work.

Then a few pages later despises his nosiness:

"I didn’t know you were a hotshot romance novelist."
"I like to keep my business my business." She stubbornly crossed her arms over her chest. "More people should try it. It’s fun."
. . .
"Why do you care?"
He braced his elbows on his knees and laced his fingers together. "Call me interested."
She gave him a toothy, artificial smile. "Hello, Interested. I’m Minding My Own Business. Pleased to meet you." She crossed one leg over the other and turned one shoulder into the back of the sofa to fully face the television.
. . .

Then Carter is complimented by Khela in a very offhand way. He treats this nonchalantly which is totally at odds with a later assertion that he is tired of being someone’s pretty boy:

"Don’t apologize. I’m flattered." He flexed his biceps, then his triceps, exaggerating the poses until Khela gave him a reluctant smile. "I’ve never been the pretty thing on a successful professional’s arm."

versus

That plan fell apart when he discovered that his own fiancée wanted him for the only reason so many other women had-’because he looked good. His love for her had not mattered, nor had his earning potential.
He needed Khela to see him differently than everyone else did, certainly more than Savannah did.

The romance author having a crisis of confidence is totally dropped and it becomes some . . . story about Khela not finding Carter to be the man she thinks he should be. Ultimately the message isn’t that a writer can write anything even if you don’t live it because writing is about creativity. Instead, the message must be (because it isn’t addressed conversely) that you must be in love to write about love.

Second, I thought Khela’s existence as one of the super rich romance writers was overblown. She has the best of everything (Prada handbags, designer clothes, stove from France, toilet from Japan) and her books are so successful that they are on the bestseller lists before the book is released due to the outrageous number of pre orders. Plus, we are treated to granular details about the writing business. There is even an explanation of the term “newbies” along with a whole two pages devoted to how Khela’s signings are structured down to the exact “schwag” that is given out.

Khela always provided her own signing favors-’promotional materials designed to stand out from the usual bookmarks and ballpoint pens other writers typically offered their readers. Taking her time so as not to forget anything, Khela positioned stacks of oversized refrigerator magnets, Post-It pads, boxes of wooden matches, miniature chocolate bars and tea bags adorned with the images of her book covers. One of her handlers questioned her choices of promotional schwag, noting that the items didn’t seem to go together.

Khela’s explanation had been simple. "I want people to think of my books at times when they aren’t typically thinking of books. If my book cover is on the fridge, the reader will see it every time she opens the door to take out milk or eggs. The next time she’s at the bookstore, hopefully she’ll have my name, if not my book cover, in her head.

"As for the other stuff, I like to give people things that are useful. It’s always nice to have matches in the house, and Post-It pads are handy in your purse, on your desk, or by the phone. And I’d love it if someone relaxed with a hot cup of tea brewed with one of my custom tea bags and munched a few chocolates while reading one of my books. Everything actually does go together because it all has something to do with my books."

Khela rose to greet and kiss the cheek of a reader named Mary, who always turned up at her signings no matter where she appeared in New England. Khela signed Mary’s book after writing a long personalized message, and then placed a gold star on the book. Gold stars signified a complimentary copy of the book for which the customer was not to be charged.

This overly detailed style of writing really bogged down the book. I wondered why I needed to know who the heck Mary was and why gold starred books were complimentary when there were storylines incomplete.

The book ultimately became a tosser when Khela’s arrogance and condescion was overwhelming. Khela never came to any understanding of her writing and role as an author and what impact her life makes on her stories. Neither did she come to any awareness that worth isn’t measured by dollars even when given the opportunity to do so:

“No wonder you never seemed interested in money,” she said. “You’re probably worth more than I am.”
He shook his head vigorously. “Nope, never. You’re worth a hundred of me, Khela.”
“So underneath that cool and confident façade, you’ve got the same insecurities as everyone else,” Khela said.

She doesn’t even get that worth isn’t the constant measurement of finances. What is the point of making that the center piece of the story without some realization by the protag of her myopathy?

“Someone who accepts me whether or not she understands me. Someone who’ll accept me for my faults and not punish me for them. And who’ll make me a better man without changing who I am.”
“That’s odd.”
“Why?” he asked against her lips.
“Because that’s what I want, too.”
Carter offered her a sweet smirk. “You want to be a better man?”
“I want you to be a better man.”

Why does Carter have to be the better man here? He obviously doesn’t care about wealth and outward trappings. But Khela does and she thinks that everything revolves around her? What had an intriguing beginning ended up being a trainwreck for me. The last five chapters meandered in an emotionally meaningless wilderness and what passed before it was just full of wtf-ery for me. D

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or Powells. No ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. Leah
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 07:03:17

    So Carter turns out to have tons of money? She can’t appreciate him for himself, rather than looks + cash? I guess it would show that he really isn’t into material things, but at the same time, it’s a little disappointing, like the fat heroine who loses weight, and then gets the guy.

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  2. Hilcia
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 07:39:55

    Sounds like a wallbanger.

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  3. imi
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 07:52:24

    I read one of her books once before, never again. I can’t remember ever being so annoyed by a book. The heroine was pretty much like this one and had serious issues. What the hero saw in her I’ll never know. Oh an he was rich but wanted to be loved for himself but kept on flashing the cash. WTH? I thought his wealth was really overblown and downright unrealistic considering his profession. It was a nice idea but it really suffered due to the poor execution.

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  4. Jane
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 15:35:22

    You, as the reader, knew that Carter had money early on which made it all the worse as Khela is being disdainful of Carter for not being used of the finer things. I wished that I saw Khela come to love Carter regardless of his wealth or that she would come to the realization that wealth was not the best way to measure a person.

    Imi – I kind of feel that way too, that she had a good idea, but the execution wasn’t there.

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  5. Clio
    Oct 21, 2008 @ 15:20:35

    With all the quotes taken out of context from this book in this review, it would seem like you’d have actually read it.

    I didn’t find Khela Halliday at all as you ladies did. Khela is a wealthy, successful writer who basically keeps to herself. She’s the daughter of a convicted criminal and a deceased drug addict, and the book explains that writing was her way of coping with her early upbringing before being adopted and raised by an elderly couple who were friends with her father’s parents.

    The book also shows you that Khela’s first husband, a big golddigger, is the one who wanted to spend her royalty checks on the finer things in life. Khela states that she’d have rather spent the money on a baby, or on her adoptive grandparents had they still been alive.

    As for her relationship with Carter, she’s allowed to make assumptions about him. We all do it, and if you say you don’t, forgive me for saying that you’re kidding yourself.

    Khela is generous with her time and her advice, something I can’t say for a lot of the authors I’ve met in the real world. There’s a scene in the book that I especially enjoyed, where Khela is giving a talk at an inner-city high school and you find out that one of the attendees is an aspiring writer. I also liked the scene where Khela is signing books at an event to raise money for the child soldiers of Africa, which is a very real cause.

    I found Khela to be warm if a little too guarded, and genuinely likeable because she’s worked hard to get where she is. Carter is a wonderful hero who had me wishing for a Mr. Fix-It of my own.

    From the reviews I’ve read about this book and other books by Crystal Hubbard, people either love them or hate them. There doesn’t seem to be an inbetween. I loved M. Fix-It and I loved the other book that I think was briefly referred to here, Crush. There’s my two cents.

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  6. A. Munroe
    Oct 21, 2008 @ 18:16:46

    I didn’t think Khela was an a-hole at all. On the contrary she was conscientious, generous and creative. When she made a cake out of beef for the charity auction, I laughed my head off. Carter had money but he was aimless. Khela turned her vocation into an occupation and what I got from her conflicts with Carter is that she wanted him to do the same thing. He had a business degree from Boston University but he worked as the maintenance man in the buildings he owned. He also got into a fight as a way of coping with his emotional confusion over Khela. By wanting Carter to be a “better man” I think Khela just wanted him to grow up and be a man who contributes to the world around him. I loved the ending because I was surprised by the way Carter chose to make himself the kind of man Khela deserved.

    I didn’t get Khela being concerned with money. She was concerned with love and being loved for who she was, not what she has. The writer had to show Khela’s lifestyle and monetary worth, but I didn’t get that Khela only cared about money. Her comments to her friend Daphne and Daphne’s wedding articulated Khela’s belief in love, not material possesions and money. This isn’t a deep book, I’ll admit but it was a good read if you like a meat and potatoes romance. You put up a lot of quotes from the book but I don’t think your explanation of the set-up to them is accurate.

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  7. Eugenia
    Oct 21, 2008 @ 20:04:48

    Jane, what the hell were you reading it’s obvious you’re the most dimwitted reviewer I’ve ever seen. Did you read the book or did you just decide you didn’t like the main character and to make that true you took portions of the story to prove it? There was nothing wrong with Khela she’d been burned by a gold digger ex-husband and was cautious. What’s wrong with people having some baggage in a story and growing actually growing and changing and finding out that nobody’s perfect but people are still worth loving. Carter has his own issues with being good looking, they both had issues you know real people have those. If this tripe you wrote passes for a review, that’s why most of the time I don’t pay attention to reviews because people like you write them. She explained writing for people who know nothing about writing. She explained the part about writing because Ms. Hubbard is a writer and wants people to come into her world. Obviously you can’t write because you can’t even write a review. She obviously much more talented than you because she’s written and published several books and is about to publish another one. I hope you’re choking at the thought. I like her details, they deepen the story and the characters. If you want shallow meaningless mess with perfect heroes and heroines there’s lots of that out there, go find it and have yourself a good time. This the problem with the internet any fool with half an idea and no talent can make up anything about themselves and put on here like it’s the gospel.

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  8. Lorelie
    Oct 21, 2008 @ 21:20:38

    Clio and A. Munroe’s comments seemed well thought out and almost tempted me to try this book after all.

    Eugenia, however, managed to change my mind with one sentence. There’s no call to be so flat-out rude and offensive. But thanks. Saved me the cash.

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  9. Does an Author Have to Live It to Write It? | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 04:00:22

    [...] part the author plays in the marketing of a book. In the beginning of Crystal Hubbard’s book, Mr. Fix It, Hubbard’s heroine suffers a crisis of confidence. She is a romance writer but has stopped [...]

  10. Joshua Niel
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 20:23:13

    Lorelie, you let one sentence by another reviewer turn you off a book? You ladies come off like that group in Mean Girls. I’m probably one of the only straight men who reads Crystal Hubbard books and I liked Mr. Fix-It. My girlfriend is a big Crystal Hubbard fan and after I read Crush I was one too. You gotta love a writer who can write about sports and sex as good as she does. I gotta disagree with your dissection of Mr. Fix-It, Jane. Khela did love Carter for who he was, not what he has. She treated him the same after she foudn out he had money as she did before she knew he had money. She was also the one woman in the book who was able to look past his good looks and see that his heart was just as good. Khela treated Carter the same as she treated her pal Daphne and the few other people she came across in the book. She didn’t treat Carter or anyone else like shit. She snapped at him a few times, but who hasn’t snapped at someone when they’re under a lot of stress or feeling bad about themselves. The only person she was chilly to was Mangela, and if you read the book, you see why that was. Mangela was mean! I respect your right to your opinion Jane but I just don’t get how you were able to come up with your conclusions about this book.

    imi, if you’re referring to Lucas in Crush as being too rich, you must not have heard of the Internet and entertainment millionaire/billionaires that have popped up over the past decade. I manage investment portfolios for some folks that you’ve probably watched in movies or whose CDs you’ve bought, and I can tell you that Lucas Fletcher’s wealth, even if it was fictional, is right up there with Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and Madonna.

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  11. Ann Somerville
    Dec 03, 2008 @ 21:46:10

    Oh look, the flying m*nkeys have landed. Anyone got the popcorn and bingo card?

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  12. Emily Harte
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 12:21:07

    I’m not sure what flying monkeys are or what they have to do with popcorn and bingo. I just wanted to say that I really liked Mr. Fix-It a lot. Khela wasn’t overly concerned with money and she wasn’t a snob. Carter was the one with the insecurities which was a nice change from what you usually find in romance novels. Carter was the one who thought his life had become aimless once he came into some money. The city of Boston was the real star of this book.

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  13. Prince Henri King
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 12:56:54

    Well unlike some of the people on this thread I actually read the book before I chose to comment on it and I was surprised. This book is good! The characters are multi-faceted and the story is rich in detail. It’s not overly so as the Dear Author reviewer leads people to believe. When Khela tells Carter she wants him to be a better man she’s referring to the way he would rather spend time with his buildings than with people. Khela is guilty of the same thing in her personal life but she uses her career to help people and raise awareness of issues important to her.

    When Khela tells Carter that she would rather spend her money on a baby or on the old couple who raised her that’s when she shows that she cares more about people than money. I wonder how many maintenance men you ladies have dated and how many of them you suspected of having college degrees and money in the bank? Khela treated Carter the way any of us would. With courtesy and friendliness until they started on a relationship, and that’s when things got difficult as they sometimes do when people move from being friends to being lovers. Khela from the beginning treated Carter with respect. The only time she didn’t was when he was disrespecting to her and even then she didn’t make it a class issue. Khela came from nothing and she never forgot it which is why love means so much to her and why she was so frustrated not having it. I normally enjoy the meanspirit of Dear Author reviews but now that i’ve read one of the books you’ve reviewed very harshly, I know now to take your opinions with a grain of salt. Your explanation of the passages you took from this book are just plain inaccurate. As for you Lorelie you’re just whack. You’re gonna punish a book by not buying it because Eugenia made you mad? Girl you need to grow up.

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