Dear Ms. Hill:
I get the sense from this book that there is a whole series of stories on the LeDeux family led by Tante Lulu, a ninety two year old woman seeking to bring the thunderbolt of love to the LeDeux menfolk. Only this time, the target of the love match isn’t a LaDeuxs but former poker playing Champion, one time Playgirl model, and current treasure hunter/construction owner, Angel Sabato.
Actually the person who needs the shaking up is Grace O’Brien, the object of Angel’s love and lust. He proposes to her in the first chapter of the book and is soundly rejected. Angel decides his next treasure hunting endeavor will not be with Grace and takes himself away, the just friends offer from Grace left behind in the gravel along with the remnants of his pride and heart.
I think the first chapter really demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of this book. So Into You is full of fun and laughter and steamy sexual tension but it’s also disjointed in its characterizations.
Angel’s proposal to Grace came out of nowhere. It seems that while they have known each other for a decade, they only kissed maybe once, and they’ve never actually dated. It’s hard to say what led Angel to believe that proposing to Grace made sense.
Then there is Grace. Grace tells Angel that if she could love someone, she would choose to love Angel. Grace’s explanation for why couldn’t love Angel had to do with her complicated past which included a child given up for adoption, an abortion, a stint as a nun, playing poker, and treasure hunting. Grace is now apprenticing herself to Tante Lulu to become a faith healer.
Grace had such potential to be an interesting character. She was a wild teenager who slept around and got pregnant more than once. She had made both the decision to give up a child for adoption and to have an abortion. Her wild teenage ways led her to the nunnery but the yen for poker playing required her to leave the order. She was a character rich with flaws but those were never fully explored. They were simply part of her past as meaningless, at times, as if she had blonde hair that turned brown as she aged from childhood to pubescence.
Tante Lulu decides that post Katrina, she needs to do more to help families and with the assistance of Samantha Starr, another prominent Louisiana family, sets up a foundation: Jude’s Angels. Jude’s Angels will build houses for needy families. Angel is lured back to Louisiana by Tante Lulu’s pleading and the fact that Grace is still single.
Part of the book is like a guide to readers of the North in the charm of a mysterious culture known as the South.
“Hey, y’all watch this.!”
Everyone know that when a southern male called that out, he was about to do something stupid, likie stick a hand in a gator’s mouth, or jump off a tall tree in a shallow bayou stream.”
“Grace was beginning to learn that in the South you could toss out any kind of insult as long as you attached ‘bless his or her heart’ to it. … Grace also knew she would never be considered a true southerner, best explained by that famous saying, ‘I’m a southerner born and a southerner bred, and when I die, I’ll be a southerner dead.'”
That Grace just couldn’t find it in herself to accept Angel’s love because she was searching for something, someone (who she is searching for is fairly obvious) was frustrating over time. I needed to see more about what made Grace and Angel tick in order to accept the conflict. The more that I read of Grace’s inability to allow herself to love Angel or accept his love, the more I needed to know why and the why that was provided simply wasn’t sufficient for me.
The story felt rushed many times as every LeDeux tried to jockey for page time in order to set up the future romances or help us reminisce about past ones. I do appreciate the humor, the Southern charm, and the big family dynamics but the romance fell largely flat for me as the focus seemed more on crazy Tante Lulu and her machinations than on Angel and Grace. C+