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reconciliation

REVIEW:  A Black Tie Affair by Sherrill Bodine

REVIEW: A Black Tie Affair by Sherrill Bodine

Cover image for A Black Tie AffairDear Ms. Bodine:

A Black Tie Affair begins a series about the Smith sisters who are famously as beautiful as the “Cushing, Bouvier, and Miller sisters.” The Smith sisters have had a long history with the Clayworth’s of Chicago, the last event being the hasty termination of their father, former treasurer of the Clayworth department store. There are rumors that Mr. Smith was let go because of something shady and this only serves to foster negative feelings by the Smiths toward the Clayworths, or so we are told.

Athena Smith fell in love with Drew Clayworth and he with her. When his parents died in the Fastnet sailing race, Athena was there for him. Drew felt that Athena had betrayed him and their relationship ended. With hurtful words, Drew drove Athena away and they have remained separated for fifteen years.

Despite the way in which their lives have been intertwined, Drew and Athena have had no real contact with each other until Athena is given the opportunity to do provenance for four vintage gowns owned by a Clayworth matriarch. Unfortunately when she goes to inspect the gowns, Athena is exposed to some kind of neurotoxin that acts as a truth serum. Athena claims that she has the requisite expertise to hunt these gowns down because only she knows the dedicated collectors in Chicago. This places Drew and Athena together for the first time in fifteen years. Yes, I find this to be implausible, but the entire story is kind of thin and ridiculous so what’s a few plot holes?

The mystery of the neurotoxin is never resolved. Everyone who comes into contact with the dress confesses their true feelings of love and this leads four lovely reconciliations (am being a bit sarcastic here) or five if you count Drew and Athena. Apparently the neurotoxin affects you only if you touch the dress, but not if you are near it. Athena becomes an expert in handling biohazardous gowns (plastic bags and gloves folks!).

This is a very fluffy story. There is no character growth. The plot is thinner than tissue and the excuses that have kept the two apart is embarrassingly simplistic. We end up getting a ton of details about things that have little to do with advancing the story and a lot to do with the city of Chicago and the history of the Clayworths. If only a tiny portion of that time was spent making Drew and Athena three dimensional. The story relies heavily on the quirkiness factor but even quirky stories need some substance.

The ultimate reveal of the betrayal was such a let down. This “thing” that drove Drew and Athena apart when they were teenagers was a totally immature event and Drew’s hanging on to this and failing to understand Athena’s reasoning is a joke. These sorts of statement in retrospect sounded ridiculous “Trying like he had a hundred times before to understand why she’d betrayed his trust.” Drew must be the stupidest man alive. At least he is lacking the requisite intelligence to run a major business.

I think the story is supposed to be written in an over the top farcical way but there wasn’t anything humorous about the writing. I would say I found the characters to be dull but that presumes I’m shown anything about the characters, which I am not. Other than they are stupid.

Is there conflict? Not really. The two don’t really fight their feelings for each other despite the purported betrayal. I’ve seen more drama and conflict in the diorama of barbies. The one good thing I can say about this non story is that it is short. It is only 226 pages long. D

Best regards,

Jane

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This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free.

REVIEW: Worth Fighting For by Molly O’Keefe

REVIEW: Worth Fighting For by Molly O’Keefe

Beware, there are spoilers for the series in the review itself so if you want to read The Mitchells of Riverview Inn without being spoiled one iota, please don’t read this review:

Worth Fighting for Cover ImageDear Ms. O’Keefe:

Worth Fighting For brings together the loose plot threads involving Iris and Patrick, the mother and father of Gabe, Max, and yes, Jonah. The complicated backstory to Iris and Patrick goes something like this. Thirty years ago, Iris left Patrick. She suffered from severe post partum depression. It became unsafe for the children to be around her so she left. It broke Patrick’s heart but he managed to raise his two boys. In the early days, Iris wrote twice to come back and Patrick refused. He was hurt, afraid, and thought that perhaps they were all better off without Iris. Iris was pregnant when she left and never told Patrick of his third son, Jonah.

Iris wants to reconnect with her sons she left behind, and perhaps, even Patrick, from whom she has never divorced. Jonah would do anything for his mother including spending a few days in the Catskills meeting his father and unknown brothers even though he loathes them, sight unseen.

Daphne Larson is the local divorced mother of one precocious girl. Gabe and Daphne dated briefly in Baby Makes Three. She wants to be remarried and she wants to have more children but she and her husband just fell out of love. He was a little irresponsible but mostly they didn’t work as a couple anymore. The first time Daphne lays eyes on Jonah, her hormones go into overdrive. Upon second look, however, she recognizes Jonah as “The Dirty Developer.” To say that the two get off on the wrong foot is an understatement. Daphne is an organic farmer and she’s personally affronted by a man who builds houses for families on dirty land. She cares for the Mitchells and just knows instinctively that Jonah is a man who will hurt them all.

Jonah comes to the Catskills because he promised himself he would never say “no” to his mother. He loves her too much and she asks for so little. Befriending the Mitchells, however, is something that he refuses to do and he flat out tells Patrick this:

"Listen-Patrick," Jonah said, his voice cutting him like a knife. "I’m not here for a family reunion. I’m here because my mother asked me to be here. And-’" his voice grew slightly meaner, mocking "-’you probably don’t remember this about my mom but she doesn’t ask for much. So, I’m here for her. I don’t care about your sons-’"

"They are your brothers," Patrick insisted.

"They are no one," Jonah said. "You are all strangers and you’re going to stay that way."

I appreciated the hostility rather than the instant connection, even between the brothers. Gabe, for example, has always been very resistant to his mother’s re-entry into their lives and he’s very protective of his father. As Patrick noted, Jonah and Iris were a unit to which he wasn’t vital. He and his sons were a unit. The melding of the units, particularly when it involved hurt feelings, big egos, and very protective feelings was not going to be smooth. Gabe wanted to smash Jonah’s face in and Jonah wanted to return the favor. Jonah is feeling particularly vulnerable:

He felt himself strain and push against that promise he’d made. He’d never guessed, being so young and so suddenly on top of the world, that his mother would ever ask for something he didn’t want to give. The one thing, actually, that he didn’t want to give her.

"Were you unhappy?" he asked, blurting out the question that had been churning in his brain since he saw her smile at Max and Gabe. "All those years with me-did you wish we were with them?"

I actually thought Jonah’s attraction to Daphne would have made more sense in the context of it being a way for him to escape from the personal drama and maybe that is what it was intended to be but I would have liked a verbal cue. Jonah seemed fairly self aware and it would have been consistent for him to internally recognize that thinking about, lusting for Daphne was a release.

Daphne is torn between how hot Jonah is and how bad he is for the land. Of course, finding out that he isn’t the dirty developer that papers made him out to be makes it easier to just focus on how hot he is. But then Jonah, like all the men in Daphne’s life, doesn’t have much staying power. He is in the Catskills for a short time and even if he does seem to like her and her daughter, Daphne tends to be the type of woman who men leave.

I thought Daphne’s own personal conflict seemed forced. Her feelings toward her ex husband didn’t seem consistent with how they were portrayed in Baby Makes Three. I wasn’t sure what Jonah’s initial attraction toward Daphne was. I liked her, but he didn’t know her at all, other than that she was an organic farmer who thought he was a dirty developer.

Jonah falls for Daphne, but he can’t make the commitment to be with her because that would mean giving up all the anger, resentment, and hate he had for his father. How was it possible that it took more courage to choose to be happy?

As always, the prose was excellent and the characters were full bodied. I also enjoyed seeing Iris and Patrick reconnect after years of heartache, mistakes, and misunderstandings between them. The main problem with this book is that I think it is hard to have read in isolation. Much of the plot and character arc depends upon a reader’s intimacy with the first two books in the Riverview Inn series. I think it’s a well done series and I don’t regret a minute I spent reading the three books, but others might find it difficult to start with this one. B

Best regards,

Jane

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I believe I purchased this book but I can’t actually recall. It may have been provided by the publisher. The Amazon Affiliate link earns us a 6-7% affiliate fee if you purchase a book through the link (or anything for that matter) and the Sony link is in conjunction with the sponsorship deal we made for the year of 2009. We do not earn an affiliate fee from Sony through the book link.