REVIEW: Wait For It by M. O’Keefe
Dear M. O’Keefe:
I started this series after Janine’s two very positive reviews of Everything I Left Unsaid and The Truth About Him; if I didn’t find the books quite as compelling as she did, they were interesting enough that I was eager to read the third book, Burn Down the Night, which Janine and I reviewed together. My enthusiasm going into the third book (and Janine’s as well, if I can speak for her) had a lot to do with the heroine, Joan, who had been a tough and enigmatic character in the first two books of the series. This time, Janine was slightly less enamored and particularly had issues with the way Joan’s character seemed to change in her own book. However, we both agreed that we were interested in the fourth book, which apparently would feature Tiffany and Blake. Tiffany was another tough character from the first two books that I wanted to know more about; Blake was an utter asshole but I was hoping he’d at least have to grovel at some point. (As Janine said in the Burn Down the Night review, “I hope to see Tiffany bring him to his knees”).
Wait for It opens with a scene that I believe first occurred in The Truth About Him, except now it’s from Blake’s perspective (instead of, I think, Annie’s – she’s the heroine of the first two books). He has come to the trailer park where Tiffany lives with her three young kids. He’s found out that Tiffany is (or claims to be) married to his ne’er-do-well brother Phil, and that the children are (supposedly) products of that marriage. Blake is skeptical, and has decided that the easiest way to control the situation and protect his mother is to pay Tiffany off. He offers her $10,000 to go away and stay away. Tiffany bargains him up to $20,000, and the deal is struck.
A year later, Tiffany interrupts a Christmas party at Annie and Dylan’s house, seeking help. Phil has found her – not for the first time since she’s left him – and trashed her apartment. She has her kids in the car and she’s scared and worn out. She’s decided to accept Annie’s previous offer of assistance; she wants to get a lawyer to permanently separate her from Phil and find a way to keep him away from her and the kids.
Unfortunately, Blake is at the party, and he and Tiffany clash immediately, before she even gets in the front door. When Blake realizes that Tiffany’s afraid of him, though, and that she is trying to protect her kids, his stance changes.
After anticipating with some dread how much of a jerk Blake was going to be in Wait for It, I found myself perversely disappointed by how quickly he folded. It’s perhaps similar to Janine’s issue with Joan in Burn Down the Night, though I think Joan maintained her toughness better in that book. Blake still has issues, but the bulk of distrust between Tiffany and him throughout the book is all on Tiffany’s side. I hadn’t expected that and wasn’t entirely happy about it.
Tiffany met and married Phil young, and didn’t really know what she was doing. She learned, and the last seven years have hardened her and made her fairly cynical, especially about men, especially about men with the last name Edwards. (Yes, his name is Blake Edwards. Am I the only one old enough to find that weird and startling?) She is just trying to get by and do the best she can by her kids, but Phil’s regular intrusions into their lives mean that chaos and fear are never far away.
Tiffany’s backstory was a little sketchy – she grew up at least upper-middle-class, from the sounds of it. She has disapproving parents who cut her off when she got involved with Phil, and a sister whom she’s reconnected with and who does provide her with some emotional support. I wouldn’t have minded a better understanding of just how Tiffany’s childhood was so unhappy – it seems like her father was the main villain and her mother more or less went along with her father (her mother does make some overtures in the course of the book, at least). But the specifics of her early life remain vague, and I think more detail would have illuminated how and why she ended up with a loser like Phil in the first place.
Blake also seems to have a lot of trauma in his past, but his issues are even less clear. He has a loving mother; his father appears to have been tough but present and not abusive. He has a sister with whom he has a good relationship, and then there’s Phil. Phil was apparently always a rotten apple and a lot of Blake’s life has been spent cleaning up Phil’s messes and trying to protect his family from Phil’s mistakes and misdeeds.
But if Tiffany’s angst can be sort of explained by a cold childhood and a really bad, abusive marriage, I really didn’t understand why Blake was so tortured. Because he had a crappy brother? Sure, that’s not great, but Blake is presented as so closed off that he’s been incapable of romantic relationships (he frequents prostitutes) and so angry that he regularly boxes with the goal of getting the shit beat out of him (somehow this makes him feel better, at least temporarily).
There’s just not enough in the story to justify the level of screwed-upness that Blake exhibits, so he ends of coming off to me as one of those tortured, brooding heroes that are tortured and brooding just because. I don’t like those heroes.
There’s not a lot of external story in Wait for It. There’s the hunt for Phil and the need to resolve the threat he presents. There’s the decision that Tiffany has to make about whether she wants Blake’s family (specifically, his mother Margaret) in her kids’ lives. There’s some minor conflict between Blake and Dylan, his business partner/friend and the hero of the first two books. (It mostly seems to boil down to the fact that Dylan, having had his HEA, is happy, and Blake can’t stand to be around happy people.)
But most of the story is the dance between Blake and Tiffany as they face their attraction to each other and try to decide what to do about it. (An aside: it’s at least a little skeevy that they are brother-and-sister-in-law, right? I mean, I didn’t care *that* much, but the book barely addresses it at all.) The focus on their relationship worked for me at times and didn’t at others. A lot of that just has to do with the sex and specifically the way the sex is written, which is a little…grubby for me? I don’t think of myself as someone who favors euphemistic, hearts-and-flowers sex scenes, but blowjobs on dirty boxing ring floors bring out the latent Howard-Hughesesque-germaphobe in me. Often I didn’t find the sex sexy (that’s true, to a greater or lesser degree, of the other books in the series, as well).
There are moments of insight into the characters that I liked, especially in the case of Tiffany. This resonated with me:
At school, while picking up the kids, I almost told the principal that the kids’ father was a psychopath and might very well be on the rampage after having just been served with a restraining order. I imagined the words coming out of my mouth and felt – somehow – nothing but responsibility and shame.
So I kept my mouth shut.
A moment like this makes Tiffany feel very real and relatable to me (even as I judge her slightly for putting her pride above her kids’ safety).
In the end, I wish Tiffany and particularly Blake had been more relatable overall, or that at least I could understand why they were so damn tortured all the time. As it was, the lack of motivation (again, mostly on Blake’s side, plus his abrupt about-face on Tiffany) brought the story down a notch for me. Wait for It gets a B-.